At Heanor Gate Spencer Academy we seek to offer a broad, balanced and inclusive curriculum to all students. Our curriculum doesn’t just include the 25 hours of taught lesson a student’s receives each week, it encompasses every experience our children engage with, from the minute they walk through our doors at 11 years old until the moment they leave at the age of 16 or 18.
Since 2015 the school has embarked on a journey of evolution and alongside new leadership has sought to drive forward a new culture of aspiration, both within the school and amongst the local community. Our true vision is to be a highly effective, fully inclusive 11-18 centre, which caters for all local students regardless of ability, need or socio economic status.
The town of Heanor ranks highly on the index for deprivation and the concept of social mobility is a key driver for what we are trying to achieve in the school. As such, the values of the school curriculum have been built to reflect the English Baccalaureate range of subjects meaning there is a strong emphasis on Modern Foreign Languages and the humanities subjects, therefore promoting the ideology that our students can compete with those from more privileged areas. We have forged strong links with local Russell Group universities, as well as a brilliant working relationship with various colleges at the University of Cambridge. Encouraging our students to realise they have the potential to compete at such prestigious institutions is a part of the vision we are committed to. .
Parents are involved in the rebranded ‘pathways process’ as early as Year 8 so that they are involved in their children’s decisions regarding guided choices. GCSE choices are staggered throughout the key stages with some being made at Year 8, some in Y9 and some as late as Y10, thus retaining an element of breadth to our students curriculum.
Alongside our strong academic core curriculum we offer the full range of arts, performing arts and sports based courses, as well as some unique vocational opportunities. A focus on STEM, computer science and creative technologies also means that we are encouraging our students to be ‘future proof’ and compete in the ever changing employment landscape.
These opportunities are fundamental to the success of some of our more vulnerable or less academic students. Our hair and beauty salon is a huge asset to our school community, as is our Combined Cadet Force. Both bring with them unique learning and enrichment opportunities of some of our students. Both of these courses also offer fantastic opportunities for some of our learners to continue onto Level 3 study in the sixth form, as well as providing opportunities for the school to engage with local community.
Outside of our taught curriculum, our enrichment offer is vast and spans a full range of areas. Our commitment to music and the arts is unquestionable and involves a multitude of opportunities to learn, practice and perform. Our engagement in sport and exercise is something to really celebrate, despite the lack of quality facilities. Participation rates in clubs and teams are hugely impressive and our performance in local and national competitions has been amazing. From the ‘Bookworm Squad’ reading club to the ‘Gardening Gang’, if our students are keen to be part of something, we will endeavour to create an opportunity for them to do so.
The Year 7 curriculum builds upon students’ knowledge, skills and understanding from Key Stage 2 yet provides appropriate levels of challenge and engagement for all students. English and maths groups are set, with pupils taught in mixed ability teaching groups for other subjects.
From Year 8 onwards the challenge is to provide a curriculum which offers breadth and relevance. Setting takes place across the curriculum. Students at the end of Year 8 will elect to study either geography or history in Year 9. At the end of Year 9, student preference is taken into account and students are able to makes choices about the subjects that they wish to study for their formal GCSE qualifications. However, the teaching of the GCSE content does begin in Key Stage 3 for most subjects in order to prepare students fully for the demands of the new linear qualifications.
Although setting is used across Year 7 to 11 ensuring that the work covered is appropriate for their ability, differentiated work is still provided in all classes to ensure that the needs of all students are met. Our new and innovative teaching and learning strategy also incorporates regular opportunities for both short term and long term retrieval, ensuring that we are equipping our students to be inquisitive and well-rounded learners who can thrive in the new linear qualifications
Increased time allocation to the core curriculum in Year 10 and 11 has ensured that our students have the best possible chance of achieving their ‘passport’ to the future, essentially giving more of our students the basic threshold for transition to future education, employment or training. Increased time to subjects at Post 16 has also ensured that our students are equipped for the new, more robust qualifications and well as studying the subject content in sufficient depth that they are prepared for further study at undergraduate or postgraduate level.
Opportunities for learning outside of the classroom happens right from the start of Year 7. Our STEM leaders and ambassadors have engaged with local and national initiatives and presented their findings at conventions nationwide. Our gifted Y9 disadvantaged students have the opportunity to work with the Brilliant Club Scholars programme to extend their understanding of academic research and writing. We have competed in national and international maths challenges and have had a record number of Year 11 and 12 students apply for places at Oxbridge summer schools.
To view the Curriculum Policy for Heanor Gate Spencer Academy please click here.