Curriculum and Learning at Park Vale Academy

Introduction

“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 and Residentials 
  • 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 Careers 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. Students are also encouraged to adhere to the school ethos through the “Vale-ues” framework identified by the acronym DRIVE: Democracy, Responsibility, Independence, Valuing others and Equality.

Years 7 and 8

In terms of the taught curriculum we offer the maximum breadth possible at Years 7 and 8 so that students are able to experience as many different subjects as possible before narrowing down their choices. 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 opportunity 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.

Years 9 - 11

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, Year 9 is seen as a "Transition Year" in which students are given the opportunity to develop the basic skills required to tackle the requirements of the actual GCSE course from the start of Year 10.

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 Curriculum in England: Framework for Key Stages 1 - 4

How is the Curriculum organised?

Year 7 and Year 8

Students study for 25 hours per week. This is comprised of 5 one hour lessons each day. The table below shows how many hours per week are allocated in each subject area: 

Subject [25 hrs/week]

Year 7 / hours per week

Year 8 / hours per week

English

4

4

Maths

4

4

Science

3

3

History

2

2

Geography

2

2

Religious Education

1

1

Spanish

Design Technology

1

1

ICT

1

1

Art

1

1

Drama

1

1

Music

1

1

PE

2

2

 

The curriculum is further enhanced by DEAR time [Drop Everything and Read] and literacy continues to be a whole school priority. The wider curriculum is accessed within tutor time, assembly and other deeper learning opportunities throughout the year.

Stretch and challenge is provided to our more-able students [ the top set in both bands] who study French as an additional language to Spanish in Year 8.  The academy is actively widening reading intervention in line with Trust policy in that all students who are reading below their below chronological age can access intervention.

All year 7 students, with a significantly low reading age compared to their chronological age, receive two hours extra of reading/ English lessons a week replacing their Spanish lessons. Extra-curricular activities allow these students to study Spanish should they wish to do so.  In addition, our less able students in Year 8 are also given an extra hour to help them be successful with a literacy focus replacing one of their two Spanish lessons each week.

Years 9-11

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. As at KS3 we have made great efforts to increase the breadth of our offer at KS4 and ensure that students have as wide a variety of subjects as possible to choose from. With this in mind, we are also increasing the number of option subjects students are able to study from 3 to 4 for the current Year 8 cohort and subsequent years.

The list of subjects students can choose from are as follows: 

 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 & Care
  • Food
  • Performing Arts
  • Foundation Learning

 [Some courses are dependent on student uptake]

Option Booklet

The table below shows how many hours a week are allocated to each subject area in our curriculum. 

Subjects 

 Year 9 

 Year 10 

 Year 11 

English

 5

 *4/5

 *4/5

Maths

 4

 4

 5

Science

 5

 5/6*

 5/6*

Religious Education

 1

 1

  -

Physical Education

 1

 1

 1

Option 1

 3

 3

 3

Option 2

 3

 3

 3

Option 3

 3

 3

 3


* Dependent on whether studying Triple Science