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Garth Hill College

Curriculum Development – Vision and Intent

Like other schools, Garth Hill College follows the National Curriculum, which forms part of our overall curriculum, and provides pupils with all of the essential core knowledge in every subject.  A curriculum is not just about the subjects that pupils study, but also about the wider opportunities that students experience to help them develop personally and prepare for life in the future. 

Over the last year, the college has done a great deal of work behind the scenes to develop the curriculum to help ensure all students can learn and progress well in their subjects, and benefit from an even better overall educational experience.  We think it is important to share the thinking that is underpinning this development work.

A Spiral Curriculum

Firstly, we are developing a spiral curriculum.  This is based on the cognitive theories of Jerome Bruner.  In a spiral curriculum, units of work are not separate, but connected building blocks of learning.  Students return cyclically to the same topic, concept or skill several times to both consolidate and build upon their knowledge in increasing depth & complexity.  In doing so, students are connecting new knowledge to what they know and understand already.  Learning is generative and re-visiting (or spiralling) helps new learning to stick.  What is key is re-visiting before new learning is forgotten. 

The Forgetting Curve

Memories weaken over time.  If we make no attempt to relearn new information or do something meaningful with it, our memory of this learning weakens as time goes on.  The steepest fall in memory retention happens soon after that new learning, sometimes within days or even hours.  However, there are things that can be done to combat this.  Making learning meaningful helps as it is easier to remember things that are meaningful.  Delivery is also vital in making learning memorable.  The spiral approach itself helps too and this is one of the main reasons why we are keen to develop a spiral curriculum at Garth Hill.

A Connected Curriculum

In addition to a spiral curriculum, we are also building connections between subjects and more widely.  Rich connections between subjects, for example between mathematics and science, further reinforce and build upon learning.  These learning connections are being mapped between subjects across the whole curriculum.  This includes making connections with the wider curriculum too, for example with our PSHE and Character and Culture programme.  Connections help create more meaningful experiences which also help to combat the ‘forgetting curve’

Why is the College Developing a Spiral Curriculum?

Research indicates that the spiral approach to curriculum planning and design will help support our pupils with their learning memory.  The spiral model works on the basis that students re-visit learning cyclically to consolidate and build upon their learning, and this helps commit learning to long term memory.  Furthermore, existing curriculum design fits well with the spiral model, so most subject areas are not having to design new curriculum schemes from scratch.  Much work has been done already, but this is a long-term project and our spiral and connected curriculum will evolve and develop over time. 

The College has produced a video explaining our curriculum vision and intent, including some of the thinking and theory, behind this.