Our nurturing environment and broad and innovative Creative Curriculum engender in the girls a spirit of positive thinking and purpose, compassion and high aspirations, through which worlds of endless possibility, wonder and joy are opened up.
Early years (age four to five)
Our Early Years curriculum is tailored to each child to provide an active learning experience. This first stage of schooling lays important foundations for establishing routines that are conducive to learning, while providing opportunities to develop key skills through practice, discussion and reflection. We encourage girls to grow in independence, self-discipline and responsibility in readiness for their future.
Girls are introduced to school routines such as lunch in the dining room, assembly and House meetings from an early age. Through these experiences, we help to develop positive social traits such as sharing and treating others well.
Pre-prep (age five to seven)
Our girls enjoy a varied timetable that helps to develop creativity and independent thinking. A strong emphasis is placed on English and Mathematics, Science and Computer Science balanced with Art, Geography, History, World Religions and Religious Education (RE) and Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE).
Girls in the Pre-prep are actively involved in all aspects of school life, including a Pre-prep performance choir, class assemblies for parents and the rest of the school, House meetings and the School Council.
Prep (age seven to 11)
We work hard to ensure that the transition into Prep is smooth and continues to build upon the valuable skills learnt in Early Years and Pre-prep. English, Mathematics, Science and Computer Science remain the girls’ core subjects, which are carefully linked with other areas of study in order to help the girls begin to develop individual approaches to learning.
The girls’ proactive contribution to the Junior School community continues with increased opportunities for responsibility. Year 6 pupils become House Family Leaders which requires them to: look after younger family members and encourage their participation in a wide range of House activities; lead assemblies; and come up with events for the inter-house charity fund raising initiative. Year 6 girls are also given other positions of responsibility in the school including acting as monitors, prefects, reading buddies, Pre-prep helpers and readers in services and concerts.
We advocate our Creative Curriculum with conviction! It merges traditional elements of learning with creativity, challenge, independence and discovery. The practical and cross-curricular approach integrates different study disciplines – such as Science, Art, Geography, and Music – under one unifying topic, to ensure girls see the relevance of each discipline in context. For instance, a topic such as The Titanic will lead to reflections on the lives of the individuals at the time (History and English), designing and building boats (Engineering), and investigating floating – and sinking (Science).
This ‘joined up’ approach to teaching and learning encourages the girls to become more inquisitive about related areas of investigation as they begin to understand how different parts combine to form a whole. The girls develop creative, critical and reflective thinking, and become excited and enthusiastic learners.
The Creative Curriculum incorporates:
- Essentials for learning and life – literacy and communication, numeracy, Computer Science, learning and thinking skills, and personal, social and emotional skills
- Areas of learning – aspects of historical, geographical, artistic or social investigation, which form the basis for the half term topic
- Religious Education – spiritual , ethical or moral understanding
- Languages – exposure to all aspects of a language including vocabulary and grammatical structures as well as the culture, traditions and history of countries speaking those languages
- Physical Education, Health and Well-being – games which build tactical skill, an understanding of fair play, team work and healthy competition, decision making, rules and the link to healthy life-styles
- Music – aspects of creative music making, theory and composition
A common thread throughout the Junior School curriculum is our commitment to welcoming speakers into school to hold a range of workshops – from local illustrators and authors, to representatives from global pharmaceutical companies. We also like to use our distinctive outdoor areas on site wherever possible to enrich the learning experience beyond the classroom. Off-site education is a highlight for the girls and includes cultural or historical activities, environmental studies, sports fixtures and residential trips. We visit the local University of Cambridge museums regularly, and venture further afield to enhance various aspects of the curriculum, recognising the invaluable contribution that these experiences make to children’s education.
Junior School assessment
Whilst we are careful not to create pressure for the girls and concern for their parents, assessment of pupil progress is an important method by which to ensure the girls’ understanding is being nurtured and their needs are being met.
Assessment occurs at the end of every topic or half term and takes a variety of forms including informal questioning and discussion, self-evaluation, peer feedback, and teacher review of the girls’ work. We use Non-Verbal Reasoning (NVR), Verbal Reasoning (VR), Progress in English (long version) and Progress in Maths tests to provide baseline assessment against which to monitor individual pupil progress. The York Reading Test is also used to generate reading ages and comprehension.
A core commitment of the school, from Reception to Sixth Form, is that learners of all ages are encouraged to explore the relationship between global issues and their own everyday lives and it is through the Junior School’s Creative Curriculum that Development Education is initiated.
The values that underpin this moral and social philosophy are very much in line with those of our foundress, Mary Ward, and are translated through the curriculum into opportunities for the girls to learn and, more importantly, engage with the world around them. Issues such as poverty and hunger, unequal distribution of wealth and opportunity, environmental degradation and diminishing resources are some of the challenges that the girls confront, investigate and ultimately act upon.
Development Education is an approach to learning that leads to a greater understanding of global inequalities, why they exist, and what can be done to improve (or develop) the situation. Imparting this strand of thinking to our girls may seem highly aspirational given their age, but we strive to sow seeds of discernment as early as possible, and to equip the girls with the age-appropriate knowledge and skills they will need to make sound decisions for a just and sustainable world.
Individual learning is nurtured through our structured enrichment programme, which further enables our brightest girls to investigate a broader series of challenges – from topics such as active citizenship, rights and responsibilities, community engagement and health and lifestyle. The enrichment programme takes place during a 30 minute session once a week and the challenges link to modern social justice issues, offering our most able pupils the chance to develop critical and philosophical thinking, independent research skills, and a habit of reflection. The girls develop political, media, environmental and cultural awareness – important attributes on which to build beyond the Junior School gates.
Pre-prep (Reception, Year 1 and Year 2) pupils participate in the newest version of our programme, which began in September 2015. This programme introduces the values of Mary Ward, the school’s foundress, at a basic level while also encouraging independence and creativity amongst our youngest girls.
In Year 3 and Year 4 the girls complete a number of challenges relating specifically to the Mary Ward values, which are at the core of our school’s ethos.
In Year 5 and Year 6, the girls use their knowledge and experience of enrichment gained in their earlier years to choose their own challenges, from a choice of over 40, to create enrichment portfolios.
The girls can approach each challenge in various ways; there is a ‘thinking point’, an ‘argument point’, and ‘creative’ or ‘investigative’ tasks. To guide the girls in their personal development and the development of their portfolios they are assigned a mentor with whom they meet once per term to discuss their progress and future work.
As part of this enrichment programme your daughter will be given a number of activities that she can complete in her own time at school or at home. Girls are encouraged to keep a record of these activities by placing examples of their work into a portfolio. This folder remains with your daughter throughout her Junior School years as a record of the development of her self-learning skills and is passed on to the Senior School as part of the seamless transition from Year 6 to Year 7.