St John's School was opened in 1856 and was charged with educating the children of Sparkhill. We hold to that principle today- our curriculum is designed to roundly educate children- not just train them to pass tests. This takes courage in the era of league tables, and it would be untrue to say that we do not push children academically- we do. But we want children to be widely educated: in the Arts, in critical thinking, in Citizenship, in mental health, and this means balancing our timetable to include these things too.
We are a Church School and we intend for all our children to experience an education that has values at its heart. Love for our neighbour, is at the heart of all that we do. We encourage every child to grow academically, socially, emotionally and spiritually. Our twelve values are the glue that cement the different strands of our school-life together.
We enable children to grow in, and reflect on, their own faith -no matter what that may be- and to respect the beliefs, opinions and lifestyles of others. We want them to grow into people with strong values that will enable them to make their communities better places in which to live and work. Our intention is for children to see the implications of living a life with values such as compassion and forgiveness, and the outcomes when people turn their backs on values such as justice and friendship. We hope for our children to leave St John’s as people with integrity, who value others and have a keen sense of right and wrong.
We intend for them to develop as good citizens: to appreciate equality, to develop a secure personal identity and to know that they belong and are valuable to society, just as those that are different to them are equally important. We mean for them to understand how they can make a positive difference in their community, to understand democracy and how to engage in it, and to appreciate the value of respect for all people.
We want children to leave our school excited about education; full of questions, a desire to find out more, and the skills to do so. We intend to develop children’s skills in critical thinking and problem-solving; for them to leave us able to question what they see and hear, and to challenge prejudice and bias. We intend for them to be independent, confident individuals, with resilience to deal with life’s ups and downs.
We intend for them to leave as physically and mentally healthy young people, having developed good habits in early life. We want our children to leave with high self-esteem and high aspirations; with the knowledge, skills and understanding to succeed in the next part of their school journey.
St John’s CE School has developed a curriculum that promotes equality for all sections of the community so that children leave the school happy and excited about living in a community full of difference and diversity. Children acquire knowledge through cross-curricular topics which are relevant and exciting; both rooted in the local area and designed to broaden pupils’ horizons.
Each topic allows children to become immersed in new learning, and to make links between subjects, thus developing their understanding of the world. Knowledge is built up sequentially, and opportunities are taken to reflect on previous learning to support children in making links between things. For example, when children learn about the Saxons, they begin by looking back at their learning about Roman Britain so that they can understand the losses to Britain when the Empire crumbled. They can then reflect on whether things always get better as time passes, or whether there are some eras in the past when life was better.
Skills within a subject are planned for sequentially, and opportunities are taken whenever possible to use skills from one subject, in another. For example, children may use a previously taught Maths skill in a Geography lesson, resulting in children having a chance to remember/practice the maths skill, and to understand its relevance to the real world.
Opportunities are planned for PSHE, SMSC, British Values and RE to be integral to all topics. Values are central to the curriculum, cementing the different aspects of school life together. Values link Collective Worship and RE to the topics and bring our ethos into all learning. Pupils consider the impact that values such as compassion and forgiveness have had on events on both the world stage (eg WW2), and at a personal level eg. the impact of bullying. Topics have been organized so that all children will be learning about the same two values at the same time. For example, all children will be learning about the values of Justice and Courage (in Collective Worship), working through an RE unit called “Fairness and Justice” (each year group looking at these values through different religious traditions) and working on topics such as “Heroes and Villains” (Y6), Avengers Assemble (Y4), “Superheroes” (Y2). This enables children to have a common theme in their learning life, even though they will be studying different subjects and topics; building cohesion across the school.
The curriculum has been carefully designed to meet the needs of all groups of pupils within the school. 82% of our pupils are EAL so we have designed a curriculum that gives many opportunities to build vocabulary and this is planned into each topic. The topics give the context for our reading and writing, and English is viewed as “the ultimate cross-curricular subject”. Staff are aware of the need to develop children’s acquisition of vocabulary, and oracy is a high priority in all areas of school life: during all lessons, chatting with children in the playground or in the dining hall.
Children with complex needs are well planned for within the classroom, but also receive English and Maths teaching in the Learning Hub with the SENDCo and Inclusion Support Assistants. The Hub sessions include opportunities for developing Speaking and Listening and Social Skills development, as well as visits to places like SafeSide to teach vital life skills.
Fourteen ethnicities are represented in our school and our curriculum has been designed to teach children that we are “all different and all special”. Opportunities for children to reflect on, and celebrate their identity have been planned into the curriculum, in topics such as Our Story (Y1) and Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution (Y6). Children also learn about a range of countries, including Australia, Mexico, Brazil, France and Spain. They also learn about life in Birmingham (now and in the past), and consider how different our lives can be, even when we live on the same street as somebody.
Children are taught to “love their neighbour” (in the widest sense), and to “treat others as they want to be treated”. The result is a respectful community of learners that understand that we can be confident and proud of our own identity and celebrate that of others’ too. Our topics include planned opportunities to consider human rights, and the fight for equality. Children learn about slavery (in the past and modern-day), women’s rights (in the past and now), the fight for equality between races in different countries, and modern-day racism. Our topics give children opportunities to be secure in understanding who they are, and what their family history has been. They learn that other people deserve the same rights that they would expect for themselves, and they look at how politicians and charities work towards building a better future for all.
Our curriculum includes a wide range of enrichment activities, for example: a residential trip, visits to the Birmingham City Council Chambers where pupils hold a debate, visits to the National Space Centre and Cadbury World. Children in Years 4-6 have Music provision from Birmingham Music Service and performance is highly valued. Art is given a high priority, and special art weeks in each year group enhance other work done throughout topics.