Organisation – Key Stage 3
At Key Stage 3, we deliver the National Curriculum. This provides all students with a firm foundation across a wide range of disciplines and ensures that students have a secure grounding in all curriculum subjects before selecting their options. We have carefully balanced the curriculum provision so that all students make excellent progress in the core subjects whilst having ample time to develop their talents in the arts, humanities and languages. This ensures that all students have the opportunity to progress to the English Baccalaureate qualification at Key Stage 4.
In Years 7-9 we set the most able students into a top group. The remaining students are placed into mixed ability teaching groups. This gives the option of challenging the most able whilst still ensuring all students are appropriately supported. These groups are reviewed regularly to ensure that all students are correctly placed. There is research to support setting across all students and there is research to support mixed ability classes. We believe that mixed ability provides more benefit for the majority of our students. This enables teachers to organise groups around a range of criteria such as behaviour, a balance of gender, a balance of academic ability and friendship groups. This creates harmonious groups and the most important factor, there is never a ‘sink’ group. We believe children learn from each other, therefore the brightest students learn from ‘teaching’ and sharing their knowledge to others and less academic students learn from their peers to support the learning gained from their teachers. Fogelman and Kerchoff showed that “students in remedial classes performed especially poorly compared to ungrouped students” (Gamoran, 1992), concluding that setting has a negative impact both on academic performance among middle and lower attaining students and a significant impact on equity of education. For this reason, teachers and Subject Directors also consider the factors outlined in Dunne et al’s study, 2007, including student behaviour, gender ratios and friendships. In summary, our mixed approach allows us to cater to those students who benefit from being in a top set, but also those who would find this stressful. Those students allow us to have mixed ability classes that include the full range of abilities which in turn brings maximum benefit to middle and lower ability students.
Table 1 shows the planned Key Stage 3 Curriculum from September 2019. Years 7 and 8 will complete Key Stage 3 over 3 years, making their option choices in Year 9. Current Year 9 students took their options during Year 8 so will follow our legacy curriculum, completing their GCSEs between Years 9-11. Lessons are typically of 50 minutes’ duration, although most subjects have several double lessons of 100 minutes. In the tables above and below, one period equates to 50 minutes. Students in years 7, 8, 9 and 10 have 30 periods per week. Students in years 11 have 33 periods per week. Students taking triple science have an additional period per week to ensure all content is covered.
Organisation – Key Stage 4
The intention of the KS4 curriculum is to develop a deep understanding of the core curriculum and the subjects of personal interest to each student which in turn will prepare students for external examinations. KS4 provides the ‘keys’ that will open doors in a child’s future. KS4 life at Harris Morden will focus on developing each student’s academic, pastoral and moral well-being to ensure they are able to select any ‘door’ to open in the future to follow their hopes, desires and dreams.
Students continue with their core subjects in Key Stage 4 and select 3 options.
We are in the process of moving from a 2-year to a 3-year Key Stage 3 and therefore we have a transitional curriculum model in place for Key Stage 4 – see the table below.
Table 2 shows our transitional Key Stage 4 model for 2019-20. These are the last year groups completing a three-year Key Stage 4, having taken their options in Year 8. At Key Stage 4, all students continue with a core curriculum of English Language and Literature, maths, science, PE and citizenship. In addition they study 3 option subjects. Each year we review the option subjects offered, but typically, in addition to the National Curriculum subjects, students are given the opportunity to choose GCSE Psychology or a vocational option such as Graphic Design or Sport Studies. All students study humanities and we encourage as many students as possible to take a language and achieve the Ebacc. When our students choose their GCSEs we emphasise that they are taking their first step on the path to university and a career. We guide them to make good decisions about their education and understand what they need to do in order to achieve their ambitions and aspirations. We fully prepare our students to be able to begin A Level courses by Year 12 as strong, independent learners.
We are very aware of the levels of stress placed on young people during their GCSE years. Quite apart from the increased amount of content in the newer GCSE syllabi, the modern world of social media and the internet causes many young people to be anxious and they are called upon to be very resilient at this important time. We address this in a number of ways
- By ensuring students focus on an appropriate range of qualifications without being over-stretched by too many qualifications or conversely held back by a narrow curriculum
- By extending the school day in KS4. Currently Year 11 have an additional 150 minutes of curriculum time to ensure they can cover all their content
- By structuring revision. Courses aim to finish their content by Christmas of year 11, providing time to review, revise practice examination techniques and gain confidence
- By giving students additional access to teaching and support through the twilight programme. These after-school sessions ensure students are guided in their revision and have an appropriate, structured place to study.
- By providing excellent pastoral support. We offer a wealth of guidance through assemblies, mentoring programmes, online revision and tutoring, inspirational speakers and mindfulness sessions for those who need them.
Our model provides more time for students to learn the content in greater depth. The model provides time for intellectual discussion and challenge for the highest ability students whilst at the same time, slows the pace of learning to a more manageable one for students who require more time and patience (but equally have aspirations and potential to do well).