Bowerhill Primary School Learning & Education

Topic Work and the Learning Challenge Curriculum

An Exciting Curriculum - Designed for our Children

It is our intention that the curriculum provided at Bowerhill School teaches the knowledge and skills required by the National Curriculum, but presents the learning in ways which draws on, and build upon, the interests and experiences of our children.

Whenever you visit Bowerhill Primary School, you will find that each classroom features a display about an area of study which combines work in several subject areas. The area of study, or ‘topic’, will be rooted in a specific subject, which we call the ‘driver’ (eg history or geography), and have a question as a title. We call this question the ‘Learning Challenge’ – it describes the overall line of enquiry (eg ‘How can we re-discover the wonders of Ancient Egypt?’). The ‘challenge’ is to answer the question.

The concept of the ‘Learning Challenge Curriculum’ was devised by Focus Education. Following initial training from Focus, we have adopted (and adapted) the concept in a way which suits Bowerhill School. Our subscription to Focus Education provides a framework for skills progression in the foundation subjects, together with a library of topic examples for imaginative approaches to cross-curricular work.

The Importance of First Hand Experience

Each topic study will feature a stimulating first-hand experience for the children. This ‘wow’ serves to launch the work and excite the children about the learning ahead. The ‘wow’ is often an educational visit or a special visitor to the class. We build on the play-based learning of our Early Years children by offering first-hand experiences throughout their time at Bowerhill School to inspire engagement and an enthusiasm to learn. The residential visits we offer in Years 5 and 6 are perhaps the most elaborate examples of these experiences, but our children will have had three or more such experiences each year.

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The Organisation of Learning Challenges

Aspects of History and Geography, as specified in the National Curriculum, form the basis for most Learning Challenge topic studies.

The teachers begin to plan a Learning Challenge topic by deciding how the History or Geography knowledge and skills will be taught. A detailed programme of study shows teachers which knowledge and skills need to be taught in each year of school.

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Asking the children

Before the work begins, usually in the preceding term, the teacher will discuss the Learning Challenge with the class. The teacher will find out what the children already know about the topic and ask them for suggestions for questions they would like to answer when the study starts. The teacher then adapts the topic plan to take account of the curiosity and interests of the class.

The topic study becomes a combination of knowledge and skills that the teacher wants to cover and the areas which have captured the interests of the children. The questions raised by the children are added to the display and form an important part of the ‘Learning Journey’.

Art and Design Technology : - Using the Learning Challenge Topic

With the History or Geography planned around the core Learning Challenge question, the teacher will then consider which art and design technology units to teach using this topic as a theme.

Our Art and Design Technology (DT) work is organised into specific projects to be tackled by children in each year group. The emphasis for each project is on the development of skills working with a range of different media and materials.

Although each Art or DT project is based around the production of a particular artefact or art work, our expectation is that the teacher will change the artefact to be made to support the main topic, whilst using the same skills. For example, the Year 4 Art unit about producing greetings cards could be covered as part of the Learning Challenge about Victorians by relating it to early Christmas cards.

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English - Using the Learning Challenge Topic

Our English (Reading and Writing) Policy and schemes of work describe in detail the skills and teaching approaches to be used with children of different ages. However, the context or subject matter of what the children read or write can be selected to support the Learning Challenge topic. This is particularly true of the texts chosen to teach aspects of reading or writing.

This will give greater relevance and purpose to the work, as children draw on their learning in other subjects, making connections and using specialised vocabulary in their work.

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Mathematics – Using the Learning Challenge Topic

Our Mathematics Policy and schemes of work describe in detail the skills, progression and teaching approaches to be used across the school. However, our Intent and Implementation statement for Maths states that children will

Solve problems by applying their mathematics to a variety of problems with increasing sophistication, including in unfamiliar contexts and to model real-life scenarios.

This is where the Learning Challenge topic can provide a context for the application of mathematical learning, especially in problem solving or investigation scenarios.

Science - Using the Learning Challenge Topic

Our Science Policy describes how we follow the Science Bug scheme of work for this core area of the curriculum. This scheme is progressive in terms of skills and knowledge to be learnt as children move through the school. The teachers in each year group will plan their year’s science teaching so that, where possible, science learning compliments their Learning Challenge topics. However, there are instances in some year groups where the science topic may form the main learning challenge question and overall topic driver.

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Computing – Using the Learning Challenge Curriculum

Our Computing Scheme of Work ensures that children are taught programing skills and Digital Literacy (applications for IT in the 21st Century). However, each unit of Computing work contains an element called ‘Multimedia Skills’. This is where children apply their learning within a cross-curricular context. We expect the teacher to plan these aspects of teaching computing into their Learning Challenge topic.

Reflection and Review

As the Learning Challenge topic draws to a close, the teachers will undertake a review with the children to decide whether they have answered the questions posted at the start of the study, including the overarching Learning Challenge question.

The teacher will decide how to celebrate and share the learning from the topic. This may take the form of a special assembly for parents and other classes. Alternatively, the teacher may help the children organise an exhibition in the classroom to which parents are invited. The teacher will certainly ensure that work form the study has been displayed in the classroom and around the school. There will also have been articles in the school newletters or on the website.

Subject Leaders will gather evidence of work in their subject which has arisen from Learning Challenge topics.

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