Curriculum and Learning at Park Vale Academy


“Schools must develop a modern, world-class curriculum that will inspire and challenge all learners and prepare them for the future.” (Mick Waters)

We define the curriculum as everything which happens in school; everything which is taught and learned by the young people who attend our school. In that sense, it is not just about the knowledge and skills delivered in lessons but also the vast array of opportunities and experiences we offer to our students outside the classroom through such things as: participation in extra-curricular provision, going on school trips and visits, taking on specific leadership roles, and other types of involvement in the broader life of the academy and the community which it serves.

Some specific examples include:

  • School Trips, Visits, Residentials such as Hagg Farm with Year 7
  • Performing Arts events
  • Sports Teams
  • The Trust Games events
  • Lunchtime or after school clubs and societies
  • Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme
  • Involvement in School Charities
  • Positions of responsibility and leadership available to students such as Sports Leaders, Performing Arts Captains.
  • Inter-House activities and competitions
  • International Links
  • Targeted assemblies and guest-speakers
  • School Memorials and acts of Remembrance
  • Foreign Exchanges
  • Careers Guidance and Work Experience

In addition to the main curriculum at Key Stage 3 and 4, all students at Park Vale Academy also study Career Education, PSHE, Citizenship and SMSC (Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Education). These important aspects of our students’ education take place during tutor time, assemblies, enrichment activities and during special events during the school year

Key Stage 3

In terms of the taught curriculum we offer the maximum breadth possible at Key Stage 3 (Years 7 and 8) so that students are able to experience as many different subjects as possible before narrowing down their choices in Key Stage 4. So typically, as well as the core of English, Maths and Science, students will have the opportunity to study all 3 Humanities subjects (Geography, History and RE), alongside at least one modern foreign language. We are also committed to ensuring that students are given the opportunity to develop as confident performers with Music and Drama compulsory for all as well as regular lessons in Physical Education. Finally, in order to prepare our young people for the challenges of a rapidly changing world, we have a strong focus on STEM with all schools offering students experience of IT and Design and Technology.

In year 8, our more able students are given the opprtunity to learn French in addition to Spanish.

A separate, small and select, target group of students in years 7 and 8 are withdrawn from some spanish lessons to provide additional time for them to undertake extra lessons in English and maths.

Key Stage 4

With an intensive programme of guidance and support for students, they are then expected to make their option choices at the end of Year 8 in readiness for the start of our 3-year Key Stage 4. We believe strongly that the increased knowledge content of the new GCSE exams combined with the vast number of separate papers each student will have to take at the end of Year 11 require a longer period of study than the traditional two-year course was able to provide. By stretching our programmes of study over a 3 year period, students are able to interrogate topics in greater depth and reinforce key skills that then provide accelerated progress over time. However, many subjects choose to use Year 9 as a “Foundation” year in which students develop the necessary key skills required to tackle the requirements of the actual GCSE course from Year 10 onwards.

All students in Key Stage 4 study a core curriculum of:

  • GCSE English
  • GCSE English Literature
  • Maths
  • Combined or Triple Sciences
  • RE
  • PE

In addition to this, students are able to select other subjects from the broad offer they have experienced in Key Stage 3 to compliment the core and tailor their own timetable to their particular aptitudes and interests. However, all students must ensure that one of their choices is either a Language and/ or a Humanities subject. 

Option subjects offered at Keystage 4:

  • Triple Science
  • French
  • Business and Enterprise
  • Ethics and Religion
  • Music
  • Design Technology
  • Dance
  • PE [GCSE]
  • Photography
  • Computer Science
  • I Media
  • Geography
  • History
  • Spanish
  • Art
  • Health & Social Care / Child Development
  • Food
  • Performing Arts
  • Foundation Learning

The English Baccalaureate

We believe that for the vast majority of students, the addition of a modern foreign language and either Geography or History to the core offer is entirely appropriate and necessary in order to provide them with a balanced but challenging experience at Key Stage 4. For this reason, we guide the choices of students so that as many of them as possible are directed to study the full suite of EBACC subjects in Key Stage 4.

However, we also acknowledge that for a minority of students the full EBACC is not appropriate either due to ability or because their skills and interests lie in other areas. As an academy which values some of the more practical subjects on offer and the world of performing arts, we believe it is reasonable and proper that some students are allowed to choose those subjects which play to their particular strengths and skills.

Further Information

Further information on the National Curriculum can be found on the Department of Education Website following the links below:

National Curriculum in England: Secondary Curriculum

National Currriculum in England: Framewrk for Key Stages 1 - 4