- Our Curriculum Philosophy
Our Curriculum Philosophy
Our curriculum is underpinned by the mantra ‘knowing more, remembering more and doing more’. Through ambitious, coherently planned and well-sequenced programmes of study, the curriculum enables students to gain cumulatively sufficient knowledge and skills for future learning and employment.
Each subject is required to complete a student-friendly curriculum map outlining the building blocks of knowledge for each key stage, a one year long-term plan which is published on the School’s website, and unit medium term plans for internal use. These outline topics, enrichment opportunities, key knowledge points and teaching methods in greater detail for each unit of study. The key stage three curriculum is in-line with the National Curriculum and key stage four and five all follow individual exam board specifications. Schemes for Learning are continually reviewed by Heads of Department and are supplemented by department resources. All subject curriculum plans highlight the School’s approach to operating a curriculum which promotes diversity, equality and inclusivity.
The ‘Ricky Way’ of teaching and learning outlines the fundamental aspects of curriculum implementation at Rickmansworth School. Our pedagogical approach is underpinned by the Ricky R’s in the classroom. Ricky Learners are highly successful students. Teachers encourage students to become Ricky Learners by:
- Reflective - We value assessment and feedback, reflecting on students knowing more and remembering more.
- Relationships - We engage students and value relationships.
- Resilience - We develop resilience and personalise learning.
- Resourceful - We endorse innovation, broaden resourceful thinking & problem solving.
- Respect - We uphold routines and respect our community.
- Responsibility - We promote challenge, encouraging students to be responsible and independent.
Languages: The Curriculum Approach
In recognition of the high status afforded to Modern Foreign Languages by universities and employers, most students will study a language in addition to the core curriculum until the end of Key Stage Four.
Modern Foreign Languages form part of the EBacc which is a suite of subjects at GCSE that keeps young people's options open for further careers, not just study. There is further information regarding the School’s approach to languages in the Year 9 Options Booklet.
The majority (currently 80%) of students at Rickmansworth continue with their preferred language choice which they select in the summer term of Year 7.
Please see below some of the reasons which highlight the importance of languages.
- Languages are a life skill.
- Knowledge of a foreign language is a concrete and demonstrable life skill, like being able to drive a car or touch-type, and it is a skill highly valued by employers.
- Languages teach you communication skills and adaptability.
- Learning how to interact with speakers of other languages means you are less likely to be stuck in one mode of thinking. It can help you see things from a range of perspectives, develop your problem-solving skills, and make you more adaptable, resourceful and creative.
- Languages teach you cultural awareness.
- The ability to operate cross-culturally is becoming just as valued by employers as straight language skills.
- Languages give you a sense of achievement.
- Learning a language combines the intellectual with the practical as no other subject does. You need to be able to think on your feet, but when you can find exactly the right foreign word or phrase, you get a real sense of achievement.
- Languages are a social skill
- Languages are very sociable. If you enjoy being with people and communicating with them, the chances are you’ll enjoy being able to do this in a foreign language too.
- Languages give you the edge in the job market.
- Today there is a global market for jobs. It is not necessary to be completely fluent in a foreign language to be an asset to any potential employer. Knowing how to meet and greet people from other countries and cultures is a valued skill.
- Learning languages gives you greater opportunities to travel and work abroad.
- There are many opportunities to travel or work with organisations abroad where some knowledge of a foreign language is a clear advantage.
- Languages combine well with virtually any subject for further study.
- The range of combined degrees and further education courses involving a language is limitless – from Accountancy with Russian to Theatre Studies with Italian. Many universities even offer funding for students to continue or extend their language knowledge by travelling or working abroad during the vacations.
There are wider cognitive benefits of learning a language as well. The skills learnt in language lessons transfer to other curriculum subjects and can improve overall academic performance. One of the most obvious of these is memory. Language learning is a great way for training memory. Good memory skills are so essential for other subjects and as a life skill.
Key Stage 3: The Curriculum Approach
In English students are taught in mixed ability ‘subject’ groups which are different from their mixed ability form groups. The information gained from a baseline test and summative assessment in half term one, as well as teacher professional judgement, is used to ensure an even spread of ability across all English groups.
In science, students are taught in their mixed ability form groups in Year 7. In Year 8 and 9 they move to mixed ability subject groups. The information gained from year 7, as well as teacher professional judgement, is used to ensure an even spread of ability across all science groups.
In mathematics, students are placed in sets based on their mathematical ability from joining in Year 7. There are four sets on each side of the year group. Set judgements are based on assessments and teacher knowledge of students. By Year 9, the curriculum develops to support students in their preparation for the GCSE qualification. They follow two pathways; higher and foundation. The ‘higher’ pathway is available to students in sets one, two and three. Students in set one also cover the OCR additional mathematics course. Students in set three are considered for both the higher and foundation pathway whereas students in set four (and set five for year groups admitted in years 2021 and 2022) follow an alternative programme of study for the foundation pathway. All sets are fluid with a restructure point taking place every half term and changes communicated to students and parents in advance.
In PE, students are grouped within sets from week three in Year 7. The two houses on each side are mixed to create four sets: two sets of girls (sets 1 and 2) and two sets of boys (sets 1 and 2). The PE department assesses student’s skills, fitness, leadership and attitude towards learning to make an informed judgement regarding sets.
From September 2023, Year 7 students will study German in addition to either French or Spanish. They will be asked by the summer term of Year 7 to select their preferred language to continue to study in Years 8 and 9. Students are able to select to study two languages, with their second language being taught as a twilight option for two hours per fortnight. In recognition of the high status afforded to Modern Foreign Languages by universities and employers, most students will study a language in addition to the core curriculum until the end of Key Stage Four.
For innovation and design, students from two form groups (60 students) are split into three separate groups of twenty students in order to study three topics in a carousel: innovation and design, food and nutrition and computer science.
Key Stage 4: The Curriculum Approach
The English Baccalaureate
The government’s ambition is to see 75% of students studying the EBacc subject combination at GCSE by 2022, and 90% by 2025. On average, over 70% of students complete the full EBacc suite of subjects at Rickmansworth School and 85% of students continue to study history or geography.
As most students will continue to study a Modern Foreign Language, they are recommended to continue with their study of history and/or geography, which will enable them to attain the EBacc.
While the EBacc is a government ambition for all, we recognise the value of subjects not represented in this measure, therefore, the study of the full suite of EBacc subjects is recommended but not compulsory at Rickmansworth School.
Broad and Balanced Curriculum
Each option subject comprises five hours of lesson time per fortnight apart from GCSE Astronomy which is taught for three hours per fortnight as a twilight option. All option and non-examined subjects are taught in mixed ability groups, apart from games; students are taught in ‘set’ groups.
In recognition of the high status afforded to modern foreign languages by universities and employers, most students will study French or German in addition to the core curriculum. As a result, the majority of students will have three subject choices.
For a small number of students who are not recommended to study a modern foreign language, they will have an additional subject option choice. These decisions will be based on academic prior attainment in consultation with the modern foreign languages department and the Year 9 Director of Learning, taking into account relevant personal student information. This will be discussed with students during their one to one meetings with the Senior Leadership Team and decisions will be communicated via the personalised letter to students on 03 February.
Students are also able to select to study a Community Language if they have parental support to facilitate teaching at home in order for students to acquire an additional GCSE. The School will provide twilight support to help students with the necessary examination requirements. Students must be proficient in all four skills in this language: reading, writing, speaking and listening.
Many students will be guided towards studying separate science: GCSE Biology, GCSE Chemistry and GCSE Physics, which are three separate GCSE qualifications. For those students, these replace GCSE Combined Science (two GCSEs) and will take up one subject option choice (one GCSE), leaving students with two remaining choices.
In addition to the core curriculum of compulsory subjects, all students will be required to have at least one EBacc subject as one of their options from: computer science, French, geography, German, history and separate science in order to maintain academic breadth of study. Most students will therefore be working towards nine GCSEs.
For some students it may be necessary to personalise their curriculum programme further by offering additional support as one of their option choices. The School’s SEND department will work with students and families post-receipt of their option choices to decide how we can provide tailored support for specific students.
The School will endeavour to provide all the courses offered, but this depends on a sufficient number of students applying and staff availability. We do not operate a system of 'blocking columns' when organising the school timetable whereby all students are required to select a language, a humanity and an arts subject, for example. This enables us to provide students with a personalised timetable based around their interests. For example, should a student be interested in the arts, they could study 2 of these subjects. In some rare cases, the timetable might not be able to accommodate all combinations of subjects.
We aim to support students to make realistic and informed decisions about their future, and provide impartial information and guidance. Students are encouraged to speak to Ms Witherall in the careers office to help them make a smooth transition to the next phase of their education.
Key Stage 5: The Curriculum Approach
Our Sixth Form comprises approximately 300 students. Students follow a two-year programme of study consisting of either three or four A level subjects in addition to non-examined PSHE and an Enrichment Programme. There is also the opportunity to take the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) in Year 12.
Students are able to select a suite of subjects dependent on their results at GCSE: 42 points from the student's best 8 subjects at GCSE enables a student to study three subjects, whereas students with 54 or more points may be able to study four subjects (September 2023 entry). The majority of subjects require at least a grade 6. The exceptions are mathematics (grade 7) further mathematics (grade 8), RS (grade 5) and sociology (grade 5 in English). All subjects are taught in mixed ability groups apart from Mathematics who chose to teach in ‘set’ groups.
Students also have three hours of directed study per fortnight which requires them to be in school accessing the silent studying area for supervised independent study.
Through our enrichment programme, students are able to select a suite of interest modules on a termly basis. Enrichment operates every Wednesday during period 5 for one hour and consists of: Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), Eco-Schools, a variety of sports, Beginner Languages and cooking for university. There are 9 options in Year 12 and 9 for Year 13. In addition, students participate in the paired reading programme, mentor students and provide one hour a week of lesson support which involves them working with younger students within the school community. Games is compulsory in Years 12 and 13, with students given the opportunity to choose between a wide variety of sports and physical activities.
To engage with the local area, students also volunteer to carry out service with local community organisations. To provide help and support to our high achieving students who wish to make applications to Oxbridge, medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses, students are invited on to our High Flyers Programme.
To find out more about entry requirements and course details, please view our Sixth Form Prospectus.