Inspiring Curriculum at Hillstone School

Curriculum statement The pillars Explore our curriculum

At Hillstone, we offer a broad, active inspiring curriculum.

How it works

  • This does not just take place in discrete lessons, but is everything that happens through the day; after schools clubs, residential experiences, lunchtimes etc.
  • At its core, it is the National Curriculum in England – but it is so much more than that.
  • Our curriculum promotes the spiritual, moral cultural, mental; and physical development of pupils and prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.

We believe Hillstone Life Skills,

often known as PSHE in many schools, are crucial to helping are children to become active engaged and responsible citizens.

How it has developed

  •  The content of the Hillstone Life skills was devised by asking children and parents what they wanted to learn alongside a recommended PSHE scheme.
  • As time has passed we have added additional useful content that we feel important to our pupils’ growth.
  • These included lessons from the No Outsiders schemes, which helps children learn about the equalities act and lessons about growth mind set, providing them with resilience in their learning and development.

Underpinning our curriculum are five pillars:

The arts, sports, outdoor education, food education and international work. These aspects run not only throughout the projects that the children undertake but can be found in all aspects of Hillstone life. They help equip our pupils with the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.

Why were those pillars chosen?

Arts education

This gives children the opportunity to explore the world around them, to learn about and appreciate their cultural heritage, to collaborate, be creative and express themselves. We want all our children to have the opportunity to be creators, participants, audience members and leaders.

Physical education

This provides cognitive content and instruction designed to develop motor skills, knowledge, and behaviours for physical activity and physical fitness, providing pupils with the desire, ability and confidence to be physically active for a lifetime.

Outdoor Education

Children have less opportunity today to be outdoors but the benefit of outdoor education is immense. Just being outside is known to be beneficial for mental health. Combined with stimulating activities our children learn how to manage risk, to collaborate, to gain independence, to solve problems. We benefit from extensive grounds and children and teachers regularly use the outdoor environment to enhance their teaching. In addition, we have regular Forest Schools lessons and clubs and all children are given the opportunity every year from Y2 to Y6 to participate in a residential experience.


National statistics show that there is an issue with levels of obesity around children. This will have a future impact on the health of the nation. We wanted our children to have a healthy attitude toward food. We therefore employ an award winning chef, who cooks meals which support the curriculum as well as running teaching sessions with the children. So that our children are able to make simple meals by the time they leave our school. They take an active part in decisions around school in the school and sit on the School Nutrition Action group and also act as waiters. It is not only important to know about what meals could be made but where food comes from. We have links with a farm, run our own allotment and have regular pop-up markets.

What if Food was a key pillar of learning in all schools?

Click below to learn more

The Food Foundation Blog

International work

is a pillar for us as teaching children about global issues and encouraging them to see the world through other eyes is of huge importance. In an increasingly interconnected world, today’s young generation need to learn be able to engage in communication with people from a wide range of different cultures and traditions. We have links with schools in Nigeria and Spain and currently embarking on a Commonwealth Connections project with the Bal Bharti School in New Delhi. All projects look for an international element where possible.


Subjects are taught largely in a cross- disciplinary way through projects. This connected curriculum ensures children see the world in a holistic manner. Although we are keen to ensure that tenuous links are not made and where appropriate some subjects are taught in a discrete manner.

The projects have all been carefully been chosen to provide breadth and relevance for our children.  For instance “Proud to be a Brummie” teaches the children about the history and geography of the city in which they live.  “Across the USA” in year 5 allows us to give a context to discuss the slave trade and lead on to the civil rights movement and the legacy  that the slave trade  has left including contemporary movements such as Black Lives Matter.

21st Century children

Subject leaders have followed research in cognitive science to ensure the content is taught in a logical progression and have used the tools of the online Cornerstones Scheme to allow them to create a map of their subject, so all teachers are clear of the end points and how learning is built up from the nursery to year 6.

We were conscious in designing our curriculum that we wanted something for 21st Century children. Every year one of the projects has a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) element. This is not just about ensuring those elements are included but a methodology that begins with a problem that children have to solve.

Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion is important to all our children. Projects and resources have all been designed with this in mind. Giving diversity a high priority helps to instil moral and social traits that will support children’s growth throughout their younger years and into adult life.

The Early Years

In the early years, we follow the Curiosity approach. The Curiosity Approach is a modern-day early childhood education method, driven by active learning and critical thinking, we aim to create a generation of thinkers, doers, and investigators. Children are encouraged to explore, experiment, and create, using engaging resources modelled by passionate facilitators. Their innate curiosity is awakened and sparked.

Delivering this exciting curriculum

How do we deliver this exciting curriculum?

Projects begin with the teacher sharing the purpose of the learning. Why we are studying this topic and asking the children what they already know and what they would like to find out. They usually have an exciting entry and exit point to which they are striving; this may be creating a guide book or putting on an exhibition. Most topics have a writing for real element. This provides the children with a purpose and audience and raises the quality of their writing. Sometimes these writing for real tasks are fantasy and sometimes they are real. An example of this is Farmer John from our linked farm who asks the children for help in learning more about the animals.

How it works

  • Where it fits we take the children on a visit or have a visitor in school to give them more practical hands on learning.
  • Teachers constantly assess children’s knowledge, skills and understanding: by conversations with pupils, or looking at their work in books. Children are encouraged to self- assess and record this on their pupil learning sheets. Where gaps are found in children’s learning, particularly in maths, reading and writing, teachers ensure that those gaps are filled either within the lesson or with specific tutoring time after the lesson. In this way we aim for children to keep up not have to catch up.
  • We have found that using drama has helped our children to have an empathy and understanding of a viewpoint which in turns improves the quality of their written work. We use an online programme called Now Press Play which allows the children to be immersed in a topic. We also have an actor in residence from the Birmingham Rep.

Reading and writing across the curriculum

Keen and fluent readers

Ensuring children become keen and fluent readers is one of our most important tasks at Hillstone. For this reason, and because reading unlocks access to a whole range of subjects and learning, we ensure that it is woven throughout our curriculum. In practice, this means that reading skills are taught and practised in both discrete reading lessons and in a range of other subjects.

Whole class reading lessons

Our whole class reading lessons draw on a range of texts that link to the children’s current topic. Not only does this enhance their engagement with – and understanding of – their current topic, but it also favourably impacts on their attitudes to reading: they are keen to learn more so reading is seen positively and it also helps instil a sense of reading being a highly purposeful activity. In addition, other lessons across the curriculum allow for children to practise both their word reading and comprehension skills, through activities such as note-taking and summarising a text.

‘Writing for Real’

Similarly, writing lessons also link to the topic and underpinned by what we refer to as ‘Writing for Real’: this means that there will be a reason why the children are writing (perhaps the local estate agents needs some promotional materials about the local area, or Coach wants to promote healthy behaviours throughout the school), such that they always have an audience and purpose for what they write.

Keen to write

These two factors ensure our children are keen to write and also minimise the amount of time needed to create or find content, thus maximising the time spent on learning and practising a whole plethora of writing skills. In turn, this approach helps ensure children are fully immersed in their topic. And just as with reading, a whole range of lessons other than discrete writing ones, allow for the practising of writing skills.

Any time, anywhere learning

Rich opportunities

Our curriculum is not just about what happens in lessons times though and there are rich opportunities for learning throughout the day from 8am breakfast club to a wide variety of lunch and after school clubs. These are validated for Birmingham Children’s University and children have their own log in in which to record their learning and aim toward a graduation ceremony.

When the Pandemic began, staff quickly mobilised to create our virtual school of which we are very proud.

How did we do it

  • We delivered a level of education for pupils unable to attend school that was a close as possible to actually being in the classroom.
  • High-quality video lessons that followed our usual timetable were available daily, not just in maths and English but keeping the breadth of our curriculum.
  • We also offered a number of clubs, assemblies and much more.
  • Parents and pupils could contact the teachers and feedback was given.
  • We ensured all families could access learning with loans of devices and dongles
  • Since all pupils have returned to school, we continue to run a virtual school, albeit a reduced version.