Curriculum Overview

Ashlawn’s Curriculum Intent

At Ashlawn we recognise that every young person journeys from ‘novice’ to ‘expert’ learner. Over time, learning is therefore a transformational experience, and this engages students in a commitment to lifelong learning. This journey is enabled through the acquisition, assimilation and application of a knowledge-rich curriculum where ‘remembering’ is an essential component to that learning process.
Our goal is for students to acquire ‘powerful’ knowledge drawing on a rich cultural capital, where literacy, reading, oracy, numeracy and careers guidance enables knowledge to be used flexibly, powerfully and procedurally. This knowledge is structured and sequenced into foundational, core, developmental and complex knowledge through traditional academic domains which provide a broad, balanced, academic curriculum appropriate for our community of learners; as such it is rigorous, rooted in intellectual challenge and pace, and is underpinned by an appreciation of British values which develops students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural experience.
The school’s curriculum develops from the KS2 National Curriculum, and follows the KS3 National Curriculum programmes of study. As such, teaching starts with prior learning and takes account of the needs of all our students; this is supported by our preferred pedagogy, which draws on Barak Rosenshine’s ‘Principles of Effective Instruction’. The curriculum at Ashlawn is therefore designed to provide continuity and progression between and within key stages and has a sharp focus on transition, and the transfer and development of knowledge and skills to be applied creatively. The curriculum is built on the principle of ‘progression’ and provides a range of opportunities for all our students.


Curriculum Structure

Students at Key Stage 3 enjoy a three year learning experience. Typically, the curriculum seeks to secure learning at the beginning of a key stage (Year 7, 10 and 12) before consolidating in the middle and then deepening at the end of the key stage. Students in the Year 9 cohort will choose their options in Year 9 and will then begin a 2-year GCSE.
Students at Key Stage 4 are able to study science as a combined subject discipline or across three specialist areas. For those students who study this later series of subjects, one of these subjects will operate in effect as an option subject.
At Key Stage 5 students typically study three Level 3 qualifications (or equivalents) over two years.


Overview of Curriculum Provision

Ashlawn School’s curriculum has been designed and constructed to ensure full compliance with duties outlined in the Equality Act 2010 and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014, by ensuring that all students with disabilities and/or special educational needs can access the curriculum. This is achieved through the specialist support and enhancement programmes provided by LDD; provision underpinned by the subjects, standards and aims as set out in the National Curriculum (secondary); the very wide range of additional subjects, qualifications and experiences from which students may select; the focus in curriculum schemes of learning which identify the necessary levels of knowledge whereby all students can make progress. In addition, learners are supported through the PSHE/Life Skills and pastoral curricula to understand how difference, diversity, equity and need are at the heart of a compassionate and just society and culture.


Key Stage 3 (Years 7,8 AND 9)

All students study the sciences, English, maths, at least one language, geography, history, PE, RE, life skills, art, drama, music, reading and computing. All Key Stage 3 students follow a DT curriculum which offers a ‘taste’ of the range of DT subjects available in Key Stage 4. Students also experience a rotation through an extended Arts curriculum, and this operates in the same manner. In Year 7 students experience the first term as they rotate through a choice of three language subjects before they select their preference for continued study from the Spring Term of Year 7.
Two slightly different curricula are available at Ashlawn School with one for students who join us through selection whilst the other curriculum is available to students who have not chosen the selective route. All students follow the curriculum above whilst selective students have the opportunity to study two languages, additional qualifications in mathematics and the separate sciences.
We believe that literacy and reading are essential for students to fully access the curriculum and to achieve at the highest level. In Year 7 and 8, all students will develop their reading comprehension skills by a timetabled weekly reading programme designed to extend and enhance their vocabulary, levels of comprehension and knowledge of reading. Students entering Ashlawn with low prior attainment are offered an intensive programme of literacy and/or numeracy support in sessions which are tailored to their individual needs.


Key Stage 4 (Years 10 and 11)

All students follow a curriculum programme which includes 9 GCSEs (including the same compulsory core subjects). As an academic curriculum the majority of students will study the EBacc subjects (English, maths, science, a language, and a humanity subject) plus a number of high value option subjects. It is possible for students to study more than one foreign language and more than one humanities subject.
The option blocks are organised after the students in Year 9 have indicated their preferences for GCSE subjects and are designed, within timetabling and staffing constraints, to fit the optimum number of student choices for subject combinations.
Mathematics, English and science are taught in sets according to ability and, where timetabling makes this possible, modern languages and humanities may be set. The language chosen (French, German or Spanish) has been studied since Year 7 (unless a student is bilingual), although the opportunity for able linguists to start a new language is available if there is sufficient interest.
Where possible, students are encouraged to study the separate sciences.
In addition to the examination courses the curriculum includes PE and a programme of personal, social and health education, RE, sex education and careers experience.


Key Stage 4 Courses for Study:

Subject Level Awarding Body
English Language GCSE AQA
English Literature GCSE AQA
Mathematics GCSE AQA
Combined Science GCSE EDEXCEL
Art and Design GCSE AQA
Business Studies GCSE OCR
Computer Science GCSE OCR
Dance GCSE/Level 2 Equivalent AQA / RSL
Design and Technology GCSE AQA
Engineering Cambridge National Level 2 Equivalent OCR
Food Preparation and Nutrition GCSE AQA
Further Mathematics GCSE AQA
Geography GCSE AQA
Health and Social Care Cambridge National Level 2 Equivalent OCR
Media Studies GCSE EDUQAS
Photography GCSE AQA
Physical Education GCSE AQA
Psychology GCSE OCR


Key Stage 5 (Years 12, 13 AND 14)

Ashlawn Sixth Form provides a range of opportunities, including the study of academic and vocational subjects, and beyond that, the support to progress to university study, into a high quality apprenticeship or employment. This provision is achieved by offering a wide range of course options with specialised teachers providing personalised learning experiences. This approach enables students to receive individualised support so that they can better realise their potential.
The current pattern of post-16 is based on linear A levels or Level 3 equivalents. Students typically study 3 subjects over the two years. All Year 12 and 13 students without a GCSE Level 4 for maths and English are compelled to attend lessons for GCSE maths and English until a level 4 is achieved.
The option blocks are organised after Year 11 students have indicated their preferences for A Level subjects and these blocks designed, within timetabling and staffing constraints, to fit the optimum number of student choices for subject combinations.
Students can access post-16 courses through a number of pathways depending upon their performance at GCSE and capacity to meet each subject’s entrance requirements. Pathway 1 is for students who typically attain 9 GCSEs at Level 5a and will include facilitating A Level subjects; Pathway 2 is for students who typically attain 9 GCSEs at Level 4 including English and Mathematics.
Ashlawn Sixth Form prides itself on the wide range of activities offered and we encourage students to participate in as many as possible:

  • Sixth Form Student Council: The democratically elected Sixth Form Committee is made up of 16 sixth formers who meet every 2 or 3 weeks to discuss issues raised by either sixth form students or staff
  • Sixth Form Leadership: There are a number of leadership opportunities open to Sixth Form students which contribute to the life of the school
  • Volunteering: For those students who have a little more non-contact time because of the nature of their chosen course of study, there is an opportunity to support students and staff in lessons either at Ashlawn or in one of the local primary schools or nurseries
  • Educational Visits: Educational visits are an integral part of many advanced level subjects and these include residential trips
  • Work-Related Learning and Activities: Students gain experience of work in their chosen subject or discipline in preparation for post-18 choices and destinations
  • World Challenge: An opportunity for an extended expedition to a developing country to participate in volunteer and charity work


Post-16 Courses for Study:

Subject Level Awarding Body
Art and Design A Level AQA
Biology A (H420) A Level OCR
Business Studies BTEC Level 3 Equivalent EDEXCEL
Business Studies A Level EDEXCEL
Chemistry A Level OCR
Criminology A Level EDUQAS
Drama & Theatre Studies A Level OCR
Economics A Level EDEXCEL
Engineering Cambridge Technical Level 3 (Extended Certificate) OCR
English Language A Level AQA
English Language and Literature A Level AQA
English Language GCSE (post-16) AQA
English Literature A Level AQA
Extended Project AS Level EDEXCEL
French A Level AQA
Geography A Level AQA
German A Level AQA
Government and Politics A Level EDEXCEL
Health and Social Care OCR Technical Level 3 Diploma OCR
Health and Social Care OCR Technical Level 3 Extended Certificate OCR
History A Level EDEXCEL
Law A Level AQA
Mathematics (Core) Level 3 AQA
Further Mathematics A Level (A2) EDEXCEL
Mathematics GCSE (post-16) AQA
Mathematics A2 EDEXCEL
Media Studies A Level EDUQAS
Music A Level OCR
Performing Arts BTEC Level 3 National Extended Certificate EDEXCEL
Performing Arts BTEC Level 3 Foundation Diploma EDEXCEL
Photography A Level AQA
Physical Education A Level OCR
Physics A Level AQA
Psychology A Level AQA
Science BTEC Level 3 National Diploma EDEXCEL
Sociology A Level AQA
Sport BTEC Level 3 National Diploma EDEXCEL
Sport BTEC Level 3 Extended Certificate EDEXCEL

Levels of Knowledge:

In order to ensure that Ashlawn’s curriculum is aspirational, accessible and inclusive, each domain subject area has identified different layers or levels of knowledge.  Sequencing and structuring knowledge into levels ensures that learners can make deliberate progress over time. Whilst it is a given that some knowledge is more accessible and easier to process, and some knowledge is more challenging and therefore more difficult to understand, it is important to recognise that there are levels of knowledge in between these two binaries. By clearly identifying the different levels of knowledge, curriculum leaders and practitioners can ensure that all learners can make deliberate progress across each of the units of learning that are being studied. Clearly, the identification of these layers or levels of knowledge will always be relative to the nature of the subject material and the age of the learner. However, a guiding principle here is that over time, all learners should be supported to experience all the layers of knowledge across each scheme of learning.

Broadly, the different levels or layers of knowledge have been characterised as follows:

Foundational Knowledge

This type of knowledge is required and necessary for learners to access the subject material. It is knowledge which can be described as basic and straight-forward, it is easily acquired and assimilated, and may include assumptions that a practitioner would make about knowledge that might already have been taught or learnt.

Core Knowledge

This type of knowledge is typically cumulative or contextual in nature. It includes the main or central features or key points of reference, and covers the ideas and concepts of the area of learning being studied. Learners will need to acquire and assimilate the core knowledge in each unit of learning in order to successfully complete their study and meet age-related expectations.

Developmental Knowledge

As learners make progress, they will encounter knowledge which helps them to make better connections between ideas (sometimes referred to as proximal). This type of knowledge, while still being substantive and concrete in nature, will help them to draw conclusions; perform operations with greater confidence and understanding; may involve the drawing together of multiple ideas; and could involve conceptual reasoning which leads to greater breadth and depth.

Complex Knowledge

As learners approach mastery of the subject material, they will encounter knowledge which is more abstract in nature. This type of knowledge could be more theoretical and synthetic, therefore requiring learners to draw from a wide range of contexts and prior learning experiences. In some cases, this knowledge will lead to more advanced applications and could be beyond age-related expectations.

Knowledge Organisers

At Ashlawn, we believe that knowledge organisers can assist students in the acquisition, assimilation and application of knowledge across each of the specific domain areas studied over Key Stages 3-5. This knowledge can be understood both in terms of its levels of difficulty and its capacity to widen and deepen learning; as such, we sometimes refer to foundational, core, development and complex knowledge. Typically, we use knowledge organisers to support foundational knowledge acquisition and development.
We understand that not all learners learn in the same way, and we also appreciate that different curriculum domains or subjects will need to organise subject knowledge differently at different levels of the learning journey. For this reason, we do not require a singular approach or style of knowledge organiser across the school. Instead we embrace the idea that knowledge organisers can look different and be used differently in different contexts. However, we do recognise that knowledge organisers are typically more effective when they have the following characteristics:

  • They are designed to help students structure and sequence foundational knowledge into ideas which connect together to assist their understanding and comprehension of subject material
  • Provide opportunities for students to practise organising or applying their knowledge by the inclusion of learning activities
  • Have a strong focus on developing and securing vocabulary
  • Promote opportunities for students to widen their reading about the subject, for example through links to other available material
  • Can be deliberately and explicitly used and referred to during lessons so that they become an integrated part of teachers’ practice and students’ learning habits
  • Support students in their independent and home learning


Specialist support within the curriculum

Ashlawn values all students equally and is proud of its commitment to an inclusive mainstream education. Partner teachers, specialist staff and Teaching Assistants from the Learning Development Department (SEN) work with subject teachers in lessons across the curriculum, age and ability range. Some students may be withdrawn from lessons for individual and small group teaching and learning, if this is considered to be the most effective way to meet their individual needs. A wide range of support is offered within the department itself including spelling groups, handwriting club and additional reading. All students have access to homework and coursework support which is available during lunchtime and after school. This range of support means that we expect our students to perform not only to expectations from their primary school predictions but also to comfortably exceed expectations as many of our students do year after year.



Ashlawn School offers students a full range of enrichment opportunities and experiences including competitive sport, sports-coaching, oratory, leadership, as well as cultural development and academic support and enhancement.
For students wishing to extend their learning in subject areas not offered as part of the school’s main curriculum there are opportunities to study twilight Level 2 and 3 qualifications in areas such as photography and the performing arts.
Sports are well catered for with competitive sport and fixtures offered at all levels in addition to sports clubs. This is supplemented by bi-annual sports tours (typically to America) and annual skiing trips on the continent.
An annual ‘immersion’ residential to France and Germany are offered for students who wish to deepen their practice of a foreign language and this is supplemented by close links with our partner school in France.
We understand that students learn differently in different contexts; we therefore encourage all students in Year 8 to experience a 3 day residential developing skills of survival, bush-craft and independence. Similarly, students in the sixth form are also encouraged to undertake work experience, voluntary work or community work throughout their course of study.