Key Stage 3 and 4 Curriculum

Swindon Academy strives to achieve a seamless and personalised provision for every student, using the best facilities, resourcing and staffing. We have strong partnerships to support our curriculum with local businesses.  We also work closely with local feeder primary schools to share facilities and teaching. This will enable all children in the area to benefit from a 2 – 19 provision.

Our curriculum extends beyond the day to a full programme of out of hours learning and community learning. The academy is organised into 9 faculties, each led by a Curriculum Leader. Full details of the topics covered in each subject area are available in the subject pages. 

We also offer the full range of courses for our students including the traditional A’ Levels and GCSEs plus extensive vocational qualifications.  

Across the academy there is a 30 period week, with six 55 minute lessons each day. In addition, there are three taught tutor periods each week, each lasting 25 minutes and there are two 25 minute assemblies. 

Mastery Curriculum

Why we teach a mastery curriculum.

1.  Ensure that all students gain a mastery of knowledge by developing their memory skills.  Our knowledge of Cognitive Science is continuously developing.

A question which is commonly heard in school staffrooms across the country is: ‘Why don’t our students remember what they’ve been taught?  How come when it comes to the exam, they seem to forget so much?’  We also wonder why our students don’t use and apply the basic rules of spelling and grammar we have taught them – especially when they are writing in subjects other than English.  We have considered two models of memory and the mind, the first from Daniel Willingham and the second from Robert Bjork’s work on learning and forgetting.

2.  Memory, revision and retention is vital for the new qualifications our students will take in the future.

The new specification GCSEs and A’ Levels have less coursework, and more emphasis on terminal examinations, we will need to ensure that pupils are able to master, learn and remember the knowledge and skills needed for their GCSE and A’ Level examinations. Strategies for this are embedded into Key Stage 3 through the curriculum and Rosenshine. Students are taught how to learn and retain knowledge over a longer period of time so that they are able to pass examinations.

What is a mastery curriculum?

  • A mastery curriculum can be contrasted with other approaches, such as a spiral curriculum which requires pupils to move through the curriculum at a pre-determined pace, often changing units after four weeks or half a term because it is time to move on, rather than because the students have understood the content contained within the module.
  • A mastery curriculum breaks the key knowledge relating to each subject area into units with clearly specified objectives which are pursued until they are achieved. Learners work through each block of content in a series of sequential steps. Students must demonstrate a high level of success on tests. Typically, about 80% of students are expected to have mastered the threshold concepts before progressing to new content. Retention of this knowledge is then assessed in future testing and gaps which emerge are addressed.
  • When using a mastery curriculum, teachers seek to avoid unnecessary repetition across years by regularly assessing knowledge and skills. Those students who do not reach the required level are provided with additional tuition, peer support, small group discussions, or homework so that they can reach the expected level. Students who arrive at a school with more advanced levels of knowledge or who acquire the knowledge covered within a unit more rapidly are required to apply the relevant knowledge in more challenging tasks which demand higher order thinking skills or work on similar tasks using a broader range of knowledge.
  • The mastery curriculum has been implemented over the last five years throughout the Academy drawing upon these principles, and on the continued developments in our understanding of cognitive science and its implications for classroom practice.

At Swindon Academy, we operate a mastery curriculum based on four underlying principles:

  • We clearly define the threshold concepts and learning objectives first in our curriculum planning. We map out learning in our curriculum maps and schemes of learning so it is clear to students what they need to learn.
  • We start with the belief that all students can learn all of the important knowledge for each of the subjects to a level of excellence regardless of starting point.
  • We set high levels of challenge and the use clear explanations, modelling, question and feedback effectively to support students.
  • We follow a cycle of teaching and assessment where learning is class paced rather than unit paced.
  • We use data effectively to plan correctives and ensure all students achieve a level of excellence.

Learning is central to the teaching and learning model and through this we:

ENSURE STUDENTS BROADEN THEIR KNOWLEDGE: We plan, explain, model, direct, make connections to what students know already. We direct and name the steps, expect students to make excellent notes and practice to achieve excellence in class and for homework. We question to check their knowledge and provide feedback to let them know how close to 100% they are.

ENSURE STUDENTS DEEPEN THEIR UNDERSTANDING: We guide students to make new discoveries, expect them to give full answers and stretch their answers with further questions. We ask students how and why, give them wait time to think effectively, share students’ answers to explore their effectiveness. We expect students to devise questions of their own and debate and explore complex concepts

ENSURE STUDENTS’ COMMUNICATION OF LEARNIG IS OF AN EXCELLENT STANDARD: We coach students, challenge them and provide them with tutorials. We demand that they move towards professionalism, expecting them to write and speak fluently. We plan opportunities for self-reflection and improvement, opening up new questions. We increasingly expect independence, setting up open ended tasks and we assess their work to identify how they could produce something even better next time.

Curriculum Design

Well-defined threshold concepts


Threshold concepts are built into the curriculum to define potentially powerful transformative points in the student’s learning experience. They are the ‘jewels in the curriculum’ because they identify key areas that need mastery. “A focus on these jewels” write Land et al), “allows for richer and more complex insights into aspects of the subjects students are studying; it plays a diagnostic role in alerting teachers to areas of the curriculum where students are likely to encounter troublesome knowledge and experience conceptual difficulty”. The first design principle, then, is to explore (through careful monitoring and QLA) what appear to be the threshold concepts in need of mastery.  Teachers are comfortable with students that are struggling and recognise that encouraging students to share their fears lead to a growth mind-set within the learning environment.

Knowledge based

The curriculum has firm foundations and builds on what students already know.  Teachers have a high level of subject knowledge.  Recent research has shown that knowledge frees up the capability for thinking, the brain works at different speeds depending on if we are relying on working memory (new learning) this highlights the importance of knowledge.

We learn new things by linking them up.  The way in which the brain stores new information, and makes inferences and discoveries, is by connecting to existing stored knowledge. It is difficult to apply skills without knowledge, because you cannot evaluate something you do not know anything about. You also cannot come up with new ideas without jumping off existing ones.  Our curriculum is knowledge based and is designed to build on prior knowledge over time. We need to learn skills before we can apply them to the knowledge.

Class paced

Activities are planned that ensure that students are working at the required pace for them to learn effectively and participate fully in the lesson.  Teachers vary activities and students work towards timely objectives.  These include direct instruction, question-and-answer session, discussions with a partner, collaborative work, creation of brainstormed lists, estimating or calculating with a partner etc.

Therapies and correctives  

We use therapies with individuals and as a whole group.  Once diagnosis has gained through questioning, quizzing, marking and formal testing, teachers skilfully plan to address the gaps in knowledge as a whole class or as individual.  Mid –term planning is adjusted to re-teach content that has not been mastered.  Prep work can be helpful in ensuring that students practice applying knowledge and skills.  Individual or group intervention sessions are organised to support students with particular gaps in knowledge.  These therapies are followed by re-testing.

Interleaved content  

Our Interleaved curriculum identifies core elements of the subject, these are used to drive the curriculum over the key stage.  A consistent thread of knowledge that builds and links to prior learning allows students to mastery topics by freeing the working memory and allowing higher levels and speeds of thinking.

Regular low-stakes quizzing is used to measure recall, this is shown to have an impact on retention.  Core elements are revisited regularly throughout.

Mapped prep work  

Prep work is completed by all students, this is mapped alongside the curriculum to  so that students are introduced to the learning material before class, with classroom time then being used to deepen understanding through discussion with peers and problem-solving activities facilitated.  Prep work can also be used for students to practice skills and the application of knowledge.  Students used knowledge organisers to gain the required knowledge relating to the current topic they are learning in the classroom.

Teach Like a Champion and Rosenshine

At Swindon Academy we subscribe to the principles of Teach Like a Champion and Rosenshine when designing our curriculum. 

Curriculum Aims

To Develop:

  1. Successful students who enjoy learning; make good progress and are determined to achieve excellence.
  2. Confident individuals who are able to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives.
  3. Responsible citizens who can make a positive contribution to society.

It is essential that the curriculum is organised in such a way that it provides students with the opportunity to learn expected behaviours and attributes, be successful in their learning so that they can achieve their full potential.

Strategic Intent:

To develop a curriculum which:

  1. Delivers rigour and challenge.
  2. Takes into account individual needs.
  3. Allows everyone to achieve success.
  4. Fosters independent, creative and resilient learners.
  5. Raises standards of attainment and progress.

Curriculum Principles:

  1. Curriculum Planning shows clear progress
  2. Topics are carefully sequenced to ensure that any new learning is built on secure prior knowledge.
  3. Interleaving of topics to acquire new knowledge and skills and improve the retention and mastery of existing knowledge.
  4. Regular low stakes quizzing to aid retention of knowledge and identify knowledge gaps.
  5. Additional time is given to English and Mathematics to ensure that students develop the essential skills needed for life and to access the full curriculum.
  6. Targeted support and additional challenge to ensure that all students make progress in line with national expectations.
  7. SMSC and Career aspirations.
  8. Support for the induction of secondary students into year 7.
  9. Additional time will be offered for sports, arts, catch-up and master classes through our extra-curricular programme.

The Curriculum Model

The Curriculum model is broad and balanced consisting of subjects that meet all the national curriculum requirements.  The curriculum is taught across 30 hours of contact time each week.

KS3: Year 7 - 9 Subjects

Mainstream Grammar Stream
Subject Lessons Subject Lessons
English 5 English 4
Maths 5 Maths 4
Science 4 Physics 2
Humanities 5 Chemistry 2
Languages 3 Biology 2
Sport 2 History 2
Design Technology 2 Geography 2
Art 1 RE 1
Music 1 Art 1
Performing Arts 1 Music 1
PSHE 1 Latin/Classical Civilisations 2
  Spanish 2
Sport 2
Design Technology 2

Main Stream and Grammar Stream students are taught together for sport, PSHE and their tutor period.

  • For students who are behind in their chronological reading age, additional support is provided through Direct Instruction to enable them to rapidly catch up.
  • For students that are well below expected progress in maths, additional support is provided through Direct Instruction to enable them to rapidly catch up.
  • Personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) is delivered through all curriculum areas as well as 1 period per week of curriculum time and supported through a programme of assemblies, tutorial sessions, national and cultural days.

KS4: Year 10 – 11 Subjects:

In year 10 students specialise to provide them with the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the subjects they have chosen to study.

Subject Year 10 Year 11
English and English Literature 5 5
Maths 5 5
Science 5 5
PE 2 1
Exam Practice - 1
Option A 3 3
Option B 3 3
Option C 3 3
Option D 3 3
PSHE 1 1

If you have any queries relating to the curriculum at key stage 3 or key stage 4 please contact Mrs Wright.


Key Stage 4 Options 2019

All students will study four of the following – option classes will be determined by pathway of study.

Art Business Studies Spanish Engineering
Textiles Computer Science Music Sport
Food Geography RE Creative IMedia
Photography History Product Design  
Travel and Tourism Performing Art - Dance Health and Social Care Peforming Arts - Drama


KS4 Pathways

There are three pathways that students at Swindon Academy can follow.  These are designed to meet the individual needs of our students.

  1. Ebacc – Combined Science, History or Geography and Spanish
  2. Progress 8 – Combined Science and one of (History, Geography or Spanish)
  3. Progress 8+ - Combined Science and Humanities (resulting in GCSE geography)

Additional GCSEs or equivalents

Year 10 will be completing AQA level 2 certificate in further mathematics.

  • For students who are behind in their chronological reading age, additional support is provided to enable them to rapidly catch up.
  • For students that are well below expected progress in maths and English, additional support is provided to enable them to rapidly catch up.
  • Personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) is delivered through all curriculum areas as well as 1 period per week of curriculum time and supported through a programme of assemblies, tutorial sessions, national and cultural days.

Below you will find links to information regarding option choices for students before they commence key stage 4. This includes a brief overview of the options process and additional  information for all subjects from which students are able to chose.

GS Options Booklet 2020

EBACC Options Booklet 2020

Progress 8 Options Booklet 2020

Progress 8+ Options Booklet 2020

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