- Curriculum Overview
The Didcot Girls’ School curriculum is broad and ambitious, knowledge rich and inclusive and it seeks to promote resilience and creativity in our students. It reflects the values of the school: inclusion, respect and high expectations.
We want our students to learn the essential ideas, facts, stories and concepts required to have a deep understanding of each subject and to develop the critical thinking and independent learning skills which can be transferred across subjects. We are focused on building rich webs of knowledge for each pupil.
Our 5-year curriculum is rich in knowledge and ambitious in its intent, providing challenge for all. The curriculum has been very carefully planned and sequenced. Departments have identified threshold concepts and important core components and considered how these are structured to ensure ambitious end points. Subject leaders have designed the curriculum carefully so that knowledge is built upon, and core concepts returned to.
Assessment is used carefully and appropriately so that misconceptions are identified and addressed and each subject has structures in place to ensure knowledge is securely learned, for example there is a specific and deliberate focus on retrieval practice. A core principle is that there is no denial of knowledge for any student and that ambition and challenge is reflected regardless of prior attainment.
We ensure excellent curriculum progression, with the majority of subjects on offer all the way from 11 to 18.
High quality careers experiences, education, information, advice and guidance is built into each key stage to support students with their next steps.
The curriculum builds students’ cultural capital through a strong emphasis on reading, building vocabulary and a broad range of cultural visits and extra-curricular activities which extend students’ horizons. Programmes of study have been carefully chosen to ensure they are rich in cultural capital for example the Gothic and Shakespeare units in Year 7 English and going beyond the National Curriculum to look in depth at sustainability and globalisation in Geography.
Didcot Girls’ School operates a two-week timetable with 50 hours of taught lessons throughout week A and week B. This constitutes a 32.5 hour school week.
The wider curriculum
The wider curriculum is similarly carefully sequenced and structured to ensure young people have the character and skills they need to be successful, well-rounded citizens who make a positive contribution to society.
Personal Development and Citizenship
We recognise the importance of these subjects and as such they are taught through discrete, timetabled lessons all the way through Years 7-11.
Students follow a broad and well-planned curriculum which covers topics such as Relationships, Health and Sex Education including issues such as sexual harassment and image based sexual abuse, online safety, careers, mental health and wellbeing and life in modern Britain. Careers provision is a strength of the school, and we meet all the Gatsby Benchmarks. The school careers provision has been recognised by the Careers & Enterprise Company with an award for the promotion of challenging work experience placements. The school also has extensive careers links with the wider community including a well-established careers mentoring scheme.
Student Guidance Time
Students benefit from extended student guidance time throughout their time at Didcot Girls’ School. From 8.45am-9.15am, students in Years 7-10 complete a planned programme of ethos activities, extra-curricular Music, guided reading of challenging texts, study skills, discussion work and assemblies all of which link to our core school values of respect, inclusivity and high expectations. This time is also used to facilitate access for all students to enrichment activities such as the school orchestra and Young Voices.
In Year 11, this time is used for careers education, a dedicated personal development programme and to deepen independent learning skills in preparation for Key Stage 5.
Students of all ages also frequently use this time to take part in subject specific interventions or to benefit from the Advanced Learner programme, a specific curriculum designed to stretch and challenge the most able.
The Leadership Ladder is an entitlement for Year 7 to Year 10 students, and we expect every student to undertake this exciting leadership journey with us. The ladder itself is based on the values and behaviours we privilege and cherish; from resilience and courage to creativity, compassion, and teamwork. From these values we create a full range of eclectic opportunities for young people to embrace and enjoy.
There are over 40 clubs and activities each term on offer. This includes an award-winning STEM club with close links with Harwell and Culham Science Parks, an extensive range of sporting opportunities, creative and performing arts and a dedicated Patron of Reading to inspire students to engage with literature.
We recognise that quality first teaching will have the greatest impact on all students and most especially students with additional needs or those who are disadvantaged. We use a range of strategies such as those listed below to ensure all students are challenged and supported to achieve their potential.
Highly intentional processes in each subject which identify the most effective ways to teach threshold concepts in each unit
Careful use of retrieval to interrupt the forgetting and ensure concepts can be retaught
Students, regardless of ability or need, are supported to be working hard and thinking hard in all lessons
Deliberate modelling and gradual release
Targeted questioning to check for understanding, often using no hands up
Chunking information to reduce cognitive load
Dual coding, using images to reinforce text
Discrete and deliberate teaching and in class practice of Tier 2 and 3 vocabulary
Reading material is carefully considered and is appropriately ambitious and the text is read aloud when appropriate
Assessment is carefully designed and well-timed to ensure learning sticks
Targeted approaches will also be in place for some vulnerable learners such as deliberately tilting systems and structures in their favour e.g. hands-down questioning, careful seating arrangements, marking books and intervention
Bespoke approaches are also in place for a small number of students with additional needs where more individualised curriculum adaptations may be required.
Within the classroom we ensure that our “Brilliant Basics” provide a structure which ensures a calm and purposeful learning environment to ensure every student experiences an exceptional learning environment
The impact of our curriculum is quality assured and assessed in a variety of ways which include:
Learning walks and Department reviews
Calendared curriculum conversations with subject leaders
Uptake at Key Stage 4 and 5 and Key stage 5 destination tracking
Extra-curricular attendance and Leadership Ladder data
Student engagement (attitude to learning tracking through snapshot data)
Monitoring and tracking of SEND and Disadvantaged student progress through Raising Achievement Panels
The impact of our curriculum is extremely strong, as evidenced by Students who embody the values of the school community
Excellent outcomes at GCSE and A level for all groups of students
Outstanding behaviour for learning in all lessons
Strong engagement in the wider curriculum as seen through our Leadership Ladder
Excellent destinations data at Key Stage 5
Excellent uptake of Ebacc subjects such as Humanities and MFL and flourishing Arts provision as seen through extra-curricular engagement and subject uptake data.