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Charles Darwin School


Curriculum Aims

Our key purpose

Charles Darwin School is committed to creating and maintaining a caring community in which students are enabled to confidently meet the challenges of the wider world and where educational excellence is encouraged and fostered purposefully.

Specifically, we will endeavour to:

  1. Enable each student to develop personally, social and intellectually through engaging in a broad range of learning experiences.
  2. Enable all students to make the most of their intellectual ability through the attainment of high academic standards.
  3. Enable students to develop into independent and responsible citizens ready to contribute positively to an ever-changing world.
  4. Provide a secure moral framework where pupils can develop values congruent with civilised society.
  5. Prepare students to play an active part in building a caring community.
  6. Ensure that each student develops a positive sense of self-worth which will contribute to a self–disciplined, determined approach to the pursuit of their goals.

In order to achieve these broad aims, it is our belief, that the curriculum be able to provide all students with the opportunity to learn through engaging in a broad range of academic and practical subjects, in a well determined programme that:

  • Creates an aspirational culture
  • Considers fully individual student needs.
  • Allows everyone to experience success
  • Raises overall standards of achievement
  • Fosters the acquisition of good behaviours and attitudes.
  • Enables students to live safe and happy lives.

At Charles Darwin School we currently operate a curriculum model that incorporates a three year Key stage 4. Pupils make all their option choices at the end of year 8. This way of working has been in place at the school for over 10 years and in that time it has benefited students in many ways.

Benefits of a three year GCSE course include:

  • Additional time to complete course content and explore the subject more fully – not just teaching to examination specification
  • Prepare for exams more thoroughly with time for guided revision.
  • Time for extra-curricular opportunities.
  •  Opportunity to explore higher level content over longer period of time –enabling better student success.
  • Meets the needs of all learners better  – more able, SEND,
  • Removes some of the pressure earlier – students feel better prepared when they have studied subjects over a longer period of time.
  • Students stress levels are mitigated and confidence improved – they are calmer and more confident for exams.
  •  Gives us flexibility within the curriculum to run year group activities - such as visiting speakers, workshops, master classes etc… with less impact on other subjects.
  • Gives Year 8 a focus and drive. Stimulates engagement during a year that research has shown to sometimes be problematic. 
  • Pupils to become engaged at earlier stage on reflections about their strengths, interests and aspirations.

There are disadvantages of a three year KS4, these include.

  • Narrowing of the curriculum at an early stage
  • The risk of skewed choices made by pupils who are a bit immature at the end of year 8 to engage fully in the options process.
  • The need to modify options if the choices are not fully though through.

  Overall our experience is that the advantages of studying some subjects for a year longer in a conventional three year key stage 3; before encountering the options process are significantly outweighed by the advantages offered by a 3 year key stage 4, in terms of student motivation, engagement and eventual achievement, especially if precautions are put in place to ensure broad and balanced options choices.

However, In light of the new Ofsted framework we plan to reconsider our options process to ensure that we are not narrowing the curriculum studied by our students prematurely whilst also mainlining the proven benefits of the three year key stage 4

Key Stage 3 -Years 7 and 8

All pupils start by following a common curriculum of English, Maths, Science, Art, Drama, Foreign Language, Geography, History, Computing (ICT), Music, Physical Education, Religious Education and Design and Technology.

In addition, a very small group of children, who have very low prior attainment and have special learning and literacy needs, are taught for a good proportion of their time in a small group setting (LIP group). Students in this group benefit from additional learning support to assist them with the quicker acquisition of literacy and essential learning skills.  This group do not study a foreign language but instead use this time to focus on improving their literacy. 

For students whose reading age is behind their chronological age additional support is also provided through an intervention programme that includes in class support as well as withdrawal.

Key Stage 4 -Years 9-11

In year 9 students have the opportunity to study subjects that they have chosen to study to GCSE level. The common core curriculum studied by all students includes:

English (Language and Literature),


Physics, Chemistry and Biology or Double science,

Physical Education

RE (in year 9 only)

Students are encouraged to make their GCSE choices from a broad range of subjects. These include GCSE and equivalent and applied vocational subjects

History, Geography, French, German, Computing, Music, Drama, Dance, Art , Film Studies, Media Studies, Sport Studies, GCSE Physical Education Graphic Products, or Btec Sport Business studies, Btec music, Btec ICT and  BTec Art and design.

Obviously, the choices that students make for GCSE study are very important, it is imperative that students study a broad and balanced group of subjects and that they study the EBAC subjects wherever possible. Consequently, we devote time and energy into providing good guidance to all students and their families. In addition to an options evening we schedule personalised meetings for families with tutors for all students undergoing this choice process. The aim being to ensure that students are challenged academically and are motivated by their choices, studying subjects that are likely to ensure long term success.     

Social Disadvantage  

We are fully aware of the impact that social disadvantage can have on the achievement of some students. We therefore intend to undertake the following as afr as resources allow.

  1. Ensure that provision for children who enrol with low reading ages is robust, enabling students to make progress with their reading as quickly as possible. We are fully aware that any poor prior reading skill will have an undue impact on children’s overall progress so addressing this through intervention and class focus is important.
  2. We will endeavour to ensure that the LIP group in years 7 and 8 is kept to a small size, thus enabling more targeted 1-1 support for those who need it. 
  3. In core subjects of English and Maths we will endeavour in years 10 and 11 to provide small group support, particularly for those that are from disadvantaged backgrounds to boost their progress.
  4. Where there are financial hindrances to a disadvantaged pupil’s progress, such as no access to ICT, need of books, revision guides etc. we will seek to assist as far is reasonable.
  5. From time to time we will fund out of school broader educational experiences such as university visits, theatre trips, field trips.