At Longbenton High School our vision is that students ‘Evolve, Create, Discover, Perform and Achieve’. Hence our curriculum needs to provide children with the academic and cultural capital – alongside exceptional pastoral support - that enables them to compete at the highest level with students from selective or independent schools across the country. What is distinctive about our curriculum experience for students is the emphasis and value we place on creative subjects - music, drama, art, technology – which enable many of our more vulnerable and disadvantaged learners to experience real success. As a school we recognise the moral purpose in the development of cultural capital and these subjects enable us to do this in many ways: theatre performance, exposure to musical genres and healthy eating to name a few.
A powerful and impactful curriculum depends on excellent subject specialist teachers, and so we place emphasis on the recruitment, training, well-being, and retention of staff. The school employs highly qualified graduate teachers with a passion for their subject who can share that passion through excellent subject teaching and engage and inspire their students through their wealth of knowledge. We trust our middle leaders to be the authors of the developments in their own curriculum areas; our school policies for teaching and learning establish principles (based on Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction), but we intentionally do not impose a house style approach to lesson delivery and departments are given the autonomy and flexibility to operate in ways that work best for them, both in terms of curriculum and pedagogy. All curriculum areas have 5-7 year progression models in place which ensure that skills are interleaved throughout the study of the subject. Half-termly outlines of learning are linked to ‘Big Questions’ which are essential to the development of skills and knowledge. Regular assessment, taking into account retrieval / spaced practice, takes place within a PIXL ‘DTT’ model which allows students to know the next steps needed for their learning.
The vocabulary gap is the disadvantaged gap in our school and we are on a curriculum journey to close this. We are excited to be involved in two exciting long-term projects which are enabling us to do this: firstly as a ‘pathfinder school’ for the National Literacy Trust’s Literacy for Learning project and secondly working with Voice 21 on ‘Talk through Transition’. As outlined above, we know that the best way to develop literacy is through a disciplinary literacy approach, so whilst we have whole-school strategies and approaches for the explicit teaching of vocabulary and writing, this is very much led by middle leaders. Our school focus on vocabulary supports reading in all areas of the curriculum.
Our pastoral leadership team, safeguarding leads and support staff are the bedrock of support for all of our students at Longbenton. We have a strong and determined emphasis on good attendance and our ‘6 Ps’ model of expectations. All students have 20 minutes of registration every day; this is important in developing year group identities but also provides a positive, settled, start to the day; this is particularly valuable for some of our students for whom home life can be dysfunctional. It is a time when skills such as oracy and debate are developed; current affairs are regularly discussed, increasing our students’ awareness of the world around them. Our school council, LBGTQ+ group (we are a Stonewall accredited school) and trained student mentor team provide opportunities to celebrate our school community, giving students a voice and promoting responsibility. Our staff wellbeing policy reflects our commitment to building good mental health and positive relationships for all. Opportunities include counselling sessions, support from external agencies such as the NUFC Foundation, The Girls Network, and local community projects.
The school’s curriculum offer is broad and shows the value placed on all areas of learning; we have a 3-year KS3 / 2-year KS4 model, which enables students to access the full National Curriculum. We offer an options process between Y8 and Y9 in order to provide students with the opportunity to have additional curriculum time in a creative subject; this enables them to develop the skills and experiences required for GCSE study, particularly where they may not have had much exposure in KS2. It also affords students a better learning experience in Year 9 as they are more engaged and motivated in their area of study.
The curriculum decisions and the quality of provision at Key Stage 3 is reflected in students’ option choices as they move up to GCSE. Nine GCSE/BTEC subjects are studied in total. This allows students to keep a rich and balanced curriculum throughout their Key Stage 4. The impact of this is that, whilst most ‘English Baccalaureate’ subjects have high rates of entry, so too do Art, Music, Drama, PE, Business, CACHE, Photography and Computing/ICT. All areas of learning thrive and are valued. This is a school where almost every student chooses at least one Humanities subject; significant improvements over time in the delivery of MFL have led to a much better learner experience and a burgeoning uptake in KS4. This, in time, will lead to rising numbers of students choosing an Ebacc suite of qualifications. Creative subjects thrive: Art can still run multiple groups in each year; nearly 90% engage in the study of at least one creative subject or discipline. We believe that choice supports engagement and success, with choice underpinned by excellent information and CEIAG for both parents and students so that all involved are supported to understand the importance and impact of their choices. Our KS4 offer provides challenge for more able students – Triple Science and Further Maths – alongside more practical subjects such as Construction and Photography – to ensure an inclusive curriculum is in place where all can succeed.
PSE is delivered as distinct lessons throughout KS3 and KS4; CEIAG forms part of this curriculum but is also delivered within subjects and assemblies as well as specific events. This learning is focused around developing students’ understanding of local and national job markets as well as raising aspirations and providing the knowledge and skills to enable students to progress on their chosen pathway.
This rich curriculum offer continues post-16; we are able to offer a broad range of opportunities through our shared KS5 provision with George Stephenson High School. There is an impressive list of subject choices at A Level and we are able to support minority subjects like Politics, Philosophy, Photography, Music and Theatre Studies alongside larger numbers following subjects such as Maths and Science. Most students study 3 A Levels; this is complemented with an enrichment programme that provides students with the opportunity to explore an area of interest such as work shadowing or volunteering. Although numbers are historically we also provide additional teaching time to those students who need to English or Mathematics.
Students make excellent progress and achieve exam success at Longbenton High School, but we do not see the curriculum as being synonymous with specifications; learning takes place everywhere and inspirational extra-curricular opportunities are a feature of our provision. Each year we stage ambitious school productions - performed on a professional stage at Whitley Bay Playhouse - which involve students in both performance and technical support. Students have access to 1:1 music tuition and LAMDA drama classes. Our staff lead outstanding extra-curricular opportunities for students in all subject areas with clubs including Chess Club and Guitar Legends. We want our extra-curricular provision to be inclusive and open to all, as well as nurturing particular talents; for example, our lunch time PE schedule is very popular and involves everything from table tennis to dance. We have extra-curricular PE clubs in a wide range of individual and team sports, competing in a wide range of local, district and national competitions. Our trips and visits programme is also ambitious and broad, including an annual ski trip to Italy.