Curriculum at ATA
At Ashcroft Technology Academy (ATA) our staff are committed to ensuring that all of our students are prepared for working life in 21st century Britain. With rigorous behaviour and attendance policies, a well-planned inclusive curriculum, a culture of ambition and hard work and a careers programme that engages students from Year 7, we enable our students to learn effectively, to set and work towards ambitious goals and to appreciate the correlation that exists between excellent attendance, excellent behaviour, hard work, achievement and a successful career.
With this in mind, we place great importance on excellent attendance, excellent behaviour, good manners, hard work, personal responsibility and respect. We believe that good conduct forms the foundation of a safe, supportive, healthy and engaging learning environment in which students can give of their best at all times and in which success is celebrated.
The curriculum provides the means for this to happen, delivering the knowledge students require, across a broad range of subjects, meaningful opportunities for all students, regardless of their ability or background, driving standards and enabling students to achieve excellent results.
The curriculum at ATA reflects the Department for Education’s aim of students studying a strong academic programme (EBACC) that will give them access to the best Sixth Forms, universities and apprenticeship providers. We take pride in the fact that all of our students, regardless of their ability or background, receive the same unrestricted and broad curriculum, with the support to help them learn at their own rate, or in times when they face difficulties. This means that all students access to a knowledge rich curriculum, something that will necessarily help them to acquire new knowledge more easily in later life. This, we believe, enables our students (18% disadvantaged and 23% SEN) to achieve true social mobility. All students have equal access to Religious Education, Citizenship and Personal, Social and Education (CPSE) and a robust assembly programme through which we develop the desire to achieve resilience and cooperation with an unrelenting focus on literacy, numeracy and oracy.
ATA believes, and student voice confirms, that during Year 8 students are at a stage where they are able to make informed choices and are able to specialise, to an extent, and devote more time to the subjects they particularly enjoy and wish to pursue at a higher level. Key Stage 3 (KS3) offers Year 7 and 8 students the opportunities to develop knowledge and skills in a broad range of subjects. Extra school days in the academic year and the extended school day allow the flexibility to offer a broad and balanced curriculum, together with an unparalleled STEAM programme of study outside of lessons.
Key Stage 4 (KS4) runs from Year 9 to Year 11. All students are entitled to study English Language, English Literature, Mathematics (with the option of Further and Additional Mathematics for our most-able students), Combined Science (with the option of Triple Science for our most-able students), French, Geography or History and Religious Studies or Citizenship. In addition to core EBACC subjects, students are given the opportunity to study two further subjects. Again, extra school days in the academic year and the extended school day provides the flexibility to offer a broad and balanced curriculum. This means that students have access to 11 subjects, to study hall, to subject power hours and to the full range of extra-curricular activities on offer. As a result of this, students continue to have access to subjects such as Art, Computing, Drama, Design Technology and Music, even if they choose not to study these subjects at GCSE.
At Key Stage 5, students have the choice of two programmes of study: A-Levels or the International Baccalaureate, the latter of which is a broad and highly-regarded qualification, offered mainly in the independent sector. A-Level students typically study three subjects, with the option open to students who study Maths and Further Maths to study a fourth subject to maintain a good balance. In addition to their A-Level and IB courses, all Sixth Form students follow a weekly pastoral programme, which includes comprehensive guidance on UCAS preparation, career pathways, and support with their own personal and academic development and independent study skills. Furthermore, our extensive super-curricular programme in the Sixth Form provides supplementary opportunities and encouragement to our students who intend to apply to the most prestigious universities in the UK and abroad. This includes the opportunity to complete an Extended Project Qualification in a subject of a student’s choosing and to participate in our support programme for aspiring Medics and Oxbridge candidates.
Curriculum Subject Areas
English and Mathematics are crucial to the life chances of young people. If not mastered, they are a barrier to progress in other subjects and further education, training or the world of work. Consequently, we prioritise these subjects from Year 7 to Year 11. Literacy and problem solving are embedded into our English and Maths curricula across all Key Stages, providing all our students with opportunities to develop their vocabulary and imagination and to form strong links between concepts.
Science and Technology are important in 21st Century Britain and to the Academy’s commitment to providing a high quality technological education - and student voice indicates that there is a strong inclination amongst our students in each year group to pursue a career in the fields of Maths, Engineering, Science or Medicine. An expertise in Science enables the majority of our students to pursue the KS5 programmes they wish to follow. We offer the opportunity to study ICT and computing in KS3 and KS4. In our 6th Form, Maths and Sciences are our most popular subjects, with many students keen to pursue qualifications in Medicine and in Engineering at university. Through the Science and STEAM super-curricular programmes, annual events such as 6th Form Speed Networking and the 6th Form STEAM Ambassadors Programme facilitate informative careers guidance opportunities, playing a vital role in our students making informed choices when selecting their degree and career pathways, particularly in the STEM industries.
In a multi-cultural Britain, especially at this time politically, we believe that all students should study a language from Year 7 to Year 11. In addition to French, we offer a second modern language to students selecting their GCSE options. Students who speak a different language at home are encouraged to sit the GCSE and A2 exams in that language.
Our CPSE programme (delivered thematically in Drama and RS lessons to students in Years 7 and 8 and delivered in a discrete weekly lesson to students in Years 9, 10 and 11) deals with social and personal issues, rights and responsibilities and British values – and includes a strong emphasis on sex and relationships education. It fosters in our students an understanding of moral agency and of whom to speak to when they observe injustice or wrongdoing. It also develops confidence, mental and emotional well-being, public speaking and it encourages students to ‘break glass ceilings’ created by gender, class, ethnicity, disability and poverty. The curriculum offer includes History, Geography, Religious Studies, Citizenship and Psychology as discrete subjects, developing student’s awareness of the past and current contemporary issues and preparing them for their EBACC selection (Geography and History) for GCSE’s and ensuring they have the relevant knowledge to become contributing citizens in our society.
Our Physical Education programme of study exposes students to a wide range of sports and physical activities. There is an emphasis on physical literacy, physical fitness (which is an important part of developing resilience and a healthy lifestyle), team work and competition (both of which are developed further by our house system), and a life-long enjoyment of sport or a healthy, active lifestyle. Extra-curricular clubs and fixtures allow students to make more progress in their chosen sports.
The Arts are an important part of life and we are keen that all students experience and are encouraged to develop skills and knowledge in this area and also instil in them a love, respect and life-long interest in the Arts. The Arts are not necessarily celebrated in every student’s household and it is therefore incumbent on the Academy to celebrate and to provide equal access to the Arts. This is something that can help to develop character, an understanding of individual cultures, individual expression and confidence. The Arts are celebrated throughout the academic year in Arts Week, productions and exhibitions and all students study Art, Music and Drama at KS3. Dance is also taught via an extra-curricular club.
In order to provide our students with the most appropriate learning experience, our subject leaders, skilled in their respective disciplines and supported by teams of well-qualified subject specialists, have the necessary expertise and experience with which to determine the skills and knowledge students require at each stage of their learning. Curriculum Managers lead the design of coherent schemes of work and assessments and they direct the planning of individual lessons, in sequence, that enable students to acquire new knowledge, built on solid foundations, and develop the skills present in successful learners.
High quality instruction has the greatest impact on student achievement. Lessons are planned and delivered in a way that permit students to develop their understanding in each subject area and to revisit knowledge at regular intervals so that their learning is sustained and challenged over time. The curriculum in each subject area is under constant review and refinements are made in line with the latest educational research and context at the time. The curriculum is not static; it is an evolutionary process, informed by outcomes achieved in each end of term assessment, student understanding in each lesson and subject changes, which are made beyond the control of the Academy.
Staff are supported by a comprehensive professional learning programme, which is delivered weekly and subject-specific professional development delivered during departmental weekly meetings. This ensures staff are empowered and informed in the best classroom mechanisms so that every lesson is conducted to the highest quality.
The role that homework plays in the learning process cannot be ignored. It develops independence, resilience, and it allows students to practise taught material and techniques and to consolidate their learning in a quiet space in their own time. With set hours per week in each subject at each Key Stage, students necessarily experience more of the curriculum and develop the skills present in successful learners. Independent school ‘prep’ style homework clubs and study hall, along with our evening revision activities, subject-based ‘power hours’, are made available to students who perhaps don’t have access to a quiet space at home or who require extra subject support. Inclusive study support is also available in SEND Homework Clubs, as well as workshops that support students who have English as an Additional Language.
The assessment schedule within the Academy allows for a formative and diagnostic approach towards assessments, informing students what they need to do to improve but also enabling teachers to be reflective on areas that may need re-teaching or support. The four reporting windows enable teachers to assess what students have understood in a more formal setting. Alongside this, lessons feature regular and extensive checks for understanding. This creates an environment whereby assessment informs teachers and students on how to move their learning forward.
Alongside the demanding curriculum offer, students are encouraged to take up opportunities beyond the classroom. We place importance on students engaging in school life to ensure they are exposed to a variety of enrichment so that they are not disadvantaged when pursuing their future educational goals or employment aspirations. Overall, we are determined to create an environment whereby our offer for every student provides an equitable society whereby they have not missed out.
Our rich and diverse extra-curricular programme offers regular clubs that operate before, during and after the school day, academic and arts events, productions, Duke of Edinburgh and local and international visits and journeys. In addition to timetabled lessons, the Academy offers a strong STEAM programme, Performing Arts programme and Fitness and Sport programme outside of lesson time. An extended lunch break of an hour and 15 minutes, accommodates many of our curriculum enrichment opportunities.
Our extensive super curricular programme in the 6th Form provides the opportunities and the encouragement to our students to apply to the best universities. This includes, the opportunity to complete an EPQ and to participate in our support programme for aspiring Oxbridge candidates and Medics.
Our curriculum enabled our students in 2019 (the latest set of formal summer examinations) to achieve outstanding outcomes, 90% of the cohort achieved Level 4 or better in English and Maths, with 98% presented for the EBACC. 92% of all grades in our Sixth Form in the same year were A*-C, with 41% of grades awarded an A*or A. With many students then pursuing their degrees at prestigious establishments such as the University of Cambridge, Princeton University and the Russell Group.
Our Curriculum equips all of our students, no matter where their starting point, to leave the Academy afforded with the qualifications to pursue their ambitions and well-rounded in their extracurricular pursuits so that they can have the equity of choice in their future pathways.