In Years 1 and 2, the children broadly follow the Key Stage 1 (KS1) national curriculum, adapted and enhanced in order to provide the best possible education and prepare them for entry into their next schools. Play-based activities still feature but are increasingly phased out, completing the transition to more formal learning by the end of Year 2.
This entails greater emphasis on the core subjects of mathematics, English and science, without neglecting the whole child development. A key feature of our approach is that units of work are often integrated into cross-curricular topics.
For each term, we choose a school wide topic that each year group incorporates into their teaching across all areas for that term. We discuss these as a whole school and come up with interesting ‘super starts’ and ‘hooks’ throughout the term ending with an exciting finishing activity. For our whole school topic of ‘Into the Woods’, KS1 discovered in our woodland area a scroll attached to a dart board from Robin Hood, setting a range of challenges. At the end of the term, Robin Hood himself came into school to give out awards!
Our ‘topics approach’ enables us to cover a wide range of curriculum areas in an exciting and enjoyable manner and to nurture the children’s creativity, curiosity and interests. As a result of being fully engaged, they learn effortlessly across all domains of development, notably the crucial executive functions. This is also due to topics lending themselves ideally to mixing individual activities (e.g., to develop sustained concentration capacities, flexible problem solving, self-reflection, etc.) with partner and small team group activities (e.g., to foster social and collaborative skills).
In Year 2, we make a feature of the children becoming the ‘big’ children at the school, which carries many special roles and responsibilities and is a key reason for the special Herne Hill spark and confidence so often commented on when they move on.
Key Stage 1 – Core Subjects
We regard mathematics and analytical problem solving as crucial to the children’s overall educational development and have devised and tailored our own cumulative programme. It is based on a specialist scheme of work, enhanced by a range of bespoke activities to engage the children’s curiosity, enjoyment and confidence in mathematics. Teaching is supported by a variety of resources, such as apparatus like Numicon or Unifix, and interactive whiteboards, to help model abstract concepts. We like to involve parents in our teaching methods, enabling them to support their children’s learning at home and to help our pupils reach high levels of attainment.
We build on the strong reading skills developed through the synthetic phonic approach in Reception and follow several reading schemes to broaden the children’s reading experience. We regularly send home reading books and, on a daily basis, a contact book to keep parents fully informed of progress. We want all children to develop a love of reading and thus augment our schemes to include a range of genres to cater for all children’s preferences. Cursive handwriting is introduced in Year 1 with handwriting practised regularly, and the children are taught to write for a wide range of purposes. Beyond reading and writing, we focus on the children’s speaking and listening skills so that they become strong communicators.
Science is best learnt through practical activities, and therefore we provide many opportunities for pupils to carry out simple experiments. We introduce the concept of scientific procedure and encourage the children to make their own predictions, observe closely and draw conclusions. They learn to record their findings and develop investigation and problem solving skills. Our nature area provides a perfect safe outdoor environment in which the children can pursue their own explorations and scientific learning.