THE Burnt Mill Academy Trust (BMAT) is responsible for schools in Harlow and Stansted with a reputation for transforming standards and achievements.
After a year of research, the Trust is working to introduce a unique curriculum across its primary and secondary schools to prepare young people for the competitive world.
The curriculum will be tailored to the largely deprived communities the Trust serves, with a focus on improving the gaps in vocabulary, knowledge and aspiration.
Marios Solomonides, director of curriculum and assessment, has produced an extensive report outlining the ideal way forward to ensure students in these less affluent communities can have the same opportunities as others.
He said: “This is about creating a curriculum which flows from the age of three through to 18, taking into account GCSE specifications, but also ensuring when our students become adults they can take part in conversations and pick up on cultural references. It’s about being knowledge rich so they can feel confident in discussing their opinions.
“It’s not just all about exams. Of course, we want them to pass their exams, but what is more important is what they actually know.
“We believe every community deserves a curriculum which is right for them.”
Work is starting with the history faculty, with teachers from across the Trust already taking part in a planning day, with author Martin Robinson who said: “There’s an undercurrent nationally that young people do not know enough information and can’t express themselves as well as they should. Now, academies can write their own curriculum and don’t have to follow the national curriculum. They can design curriculums which stand the test of time, but are adaptable around the core principles.”
Mr Solomonides, who has spent a year reading, speaking with Trust staff and students, visiting free schools with knowledge-rich curriculums and looking at curriculums around the world, said: “We are going to rewrite the whole curriculum, but history is the best starting point as it links with so many other subjects. For example, students can only write about a text in English if they fully understand the period it was written in. So many periods of history are crucial to the next period so we want our students to learn a lot about key periods, not just a little about everything.”
With the Trust running both primary and secondary schools, work is being done to smooth the transition and ensure there are no gaps or overlap between the two.
By this time next year, the new history curriculum will be introduced across the Trust, with theology, classics and Latin introduced into Key Stage 2 and Mandarin introduced into Key Stage 3. Science will also be split into biology, chemistry and physics at primary level.
Mr Solomonides said: “During a trip to China with BMAT CEO Helena Mills, we saw how huge the Chinese market is. To give our children the biggest chance of working anywhere in the world, it’s not just about French, Spanish or German, it’s about looking beyond, otherwise that would not be an option for them.
“The whole curriculum will be driven by knowledge of the world, enterprise and aspirations, investigation and inquiry, as well as having local, national and global dimensions.”
With work going on around the country to produce new styles of curriculums, the Trust is keen to create something which is tailormade for the issues faced within its own communities.
Mr Solomonides said: “This year is about making sure our teachers understand the rationale behind the changes. The more I read, the more important I think this work is.”
Lee Bradbury is director of humanities for BMAT and therefore looks after history across its schools. He attended the planning day and said: “We want a curriculum that is harmonised so from primary to secondary there is a clear link. If you link the curriculum together, you can build in the knowledge at an earlier stage. Then we are offering a curriculum that’s challenging and world class.”
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