Our Curriculum

Our Curriculum

The aims of our art curriculum are: -

  • To enable children to record from first-hand experience and from imagination, and to select their own ideas to use in their work.
  • To develop creativity and imagination through a range of complex activities.
  • To improve the children’s ability to control materials, tools and techniques.
  • To increase their critical awareness of the roles and purposes of art and design in different times and cultures.
  • To develop increasing confidence in the use of visual and tactile elements and materials.
  • To foster enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts and a knowledge of artists and designers.

The aims of our Design Technology curriculum are:

  • To develop imaginative thinking in children and to enable them to talk about what they like and dislike when designing and making things.
  • To enable children to talk about how things work, and how to draw and model their ideas.
  • To encourage children to select appropriate tools and techniques for making a product, whilst following safe procedures.
  • To explore attitudes towards the ‘made’ world and how we live and work in it.
  • To develop and understanding of technological processes and products, their manufacture and their contribution to our society.
  • To foster enjoyment, satisfaction and purpose in designing and making things.

Curriculum work also offers each child the experience of directing their own work and some of the more technical aspects of theatre including lighting, staging, set, prop construction and sound.

Every child from Reception to Year 8 is taught drama as part of the curriculum. Productions at Downham aim to reach a new level of professionalism and spectacle, encouraging the children to excel in all aspects of the performing arts, including singing, acting and dancing.

From Reception, children take part in their first whole school musical production. Previous years’     productions have included: Bugsy Malone, Oliver, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Wizard of Oz, The Lion King and Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

The school uses its own structured Phonic Programme to teach spelling and reading. Pupils are taught to spell by following a programme which teaches and tests all the letter groups in the English language, plus lists of sight (irregular) words. Every week a new rule is learnt and incorporated into a dictation.    Dictation is used to test spelling ability.

This ensures that rules previously learnt are practised and not forgotten. It also teaches the pupils the correct use of punctuation, sentence construction, and grammar. When all the rules have been learnt and tested, lists of words compiled from the most common mistakes in exam papers are used to reinforce pupils’ knowledge of irregular spellings.

Independent reading is encouraged from Year R. Pupils learn to break down the word into its       component sounds. Each child has their own Reading Rules folder which they progress through at their own speed. This enables them to use their ‘word-attack’ skills to read words they have never seen before. Fluent readers read from many types of literature e.g. reference books, newspapers, speeches, plays, modern and classical novels and poetry. All pupils borrow a library book once a week.

Spoken language is developed in many ways. Pupils prepare a talk for the class on a chosen topic, which they research themselves. After the talk they answer questions from the class and teacher. Discussion and debate, defending a point logically (without becoming angry), expressing opinions on current events and interviewing each other, are some of the many ways that pupils learn to become articulate and express themselves appropriately.

Creative writing, and writing for information, are taught from Year R. Pupils start by writing a simple diary or story. Older children write informative articles, letters and factual accounts. They develop creative writing in many areas such as poetry, stories, letter writing and play scripts. Children edit their own writing and learn to reproduce it using a word processor.

Grammar and punctuation are taught in Year R with the use of capital letters, full stops, nouns and verbs. By Year 6 pupils have learnt all the Grammar and punctuation rules, as set out in the National Curriculum. Alphabetical order and the use of a dictionary are taught in the Infant Classes and the use of a Thesaurus in the Junior School. Years 7 and 8 follow the KS3 programme of study

Shakespeare is taught throughout Key stage 3 (Years 7 and 8).

Geography is taught by focusing on particular topics i.e. the Earth, Weather and Climate, Human Geography, Maps and Mapping, Africa, Rivers and individual projects on a place of a child’s choice. During class discussions children are encouraged to ask geographical questions and become familiar with the appropriate terms and vocabulary.

Practical work is carried out to teach children how make their own instruments for measuring aspects of weather. They make maps of imaginary and real places; visit a working farm, river, estuary and a quarry. They refer to the atlas and globe throughout the projects and become familiar with Britain, Europe and the World maps.

A project on the local area is carried out as a class, but in Year 5 the children carry out their own projects, employing their own choice of secondary sources to supply them with the information they need. I.T. is used throughout for gaining and processing information.

In Year 6 pupils are asked to develop their map skills, through accurate map reading and interpretation, including a study of the local area.

Geographical awareness is expanded through a study of lime scale scenery, why it is important ecologically and culturally, encouraging independent learning through decision-making exercises and individual research. Areas also covered are volcanoes and local coast lines.

History is taught in chronological order using a time-line. All programmes of Study listed in the National Curriculum Key Stages 1, 2 are covered. Periods of history not listed are covered briefly to ensure that pupils gain a true understanding of chronology and the order of major historical events.

Where possible, visits are made to a relevant site for each topic covered, and we take part in re-enactments and help out at a local archaeological dig. Boxes of artefacts for each main programme of study, videos, artefacts, posters, pictures etc. are provided.

Visits to museums to see displays of Ancient Greece, Roman and Egyptian historical items, as well as visits to museums with bygones displays occur regularly. In Key Stage 2 children are encouraged to research each topic using the library, reference books, the internet and local resources. Our aim is to bring the past to life and give children first-hand experience of how people lived long ago.

The school History Policy lays the foundation for Key Stage 3. Pupils learn to research a topic, to look at different sources, to assess their reliability and to draw their own conclusions based on the evidence found. Years 7 and 8 follow the Key Stage 3 Programme of study learning to evaluate sources of information and write their own thesis. 

The school has a well-equipped computer room with a variety of Information Technology equipment and software. The computers are networked and have filtered, secure access to the internet.

During the weekly I.T. lessons, pupils are taught to use and look after the I.T. equipment and software confidently. They learn to be discerning in their use of I.T. and to select information, sources and media for their suitability of purpose.

They are also given the opportunity to explore the use of computer systems and control technology in everyday life. Pupils learn how to write their own programs, design games, the application of coding and how to use the computer as a tool to enhance their studies in other areas of curriculum. Responsible pupils have unlimited, but supervised, access to I.T. equipment and software. All computers in media devices contain filters to ensure that the children can only access approved web sites.      

Dyslexic pupils use a separate computer with individual lesson plans and records. This identifies areas of difficulty with certain letter groups and sounds. Using a diagnostic print-out the teacher is able to modify the programme to meet each child’s needs and re-enforce class work.

Many classrooms have PC projectors, smart boards and Clevertouch LED screens. These are used, when appropriate, to enhance the learning experience of each child. Two sets of 20 tablet computers are used within the curriculum and regular staff Inset, on using ICT within the curriculum, ensures that every child experiences the latest advances in communication technology within each subject area.

Our Montessori teaching approach supports children in developing a deep understanding of Mathematical concepts. We have high expectations of the children at Downham Preparatory School but whilst ultimately the outcome is important, we also give consideration to the process and decision making that happens to achieve this. By collaborative working, discussing and explaining ideas, trying a range of strategies, overcoming and learning from mistakes, pupils are developing resilience and working towards a mastery of Maths. Years 7 and 8 follow the Key Stage 3 Programme of study.

Foreign language teaching policy - Spanish and French

Spanish: Classes 1 - 4                    French: Class 4– 8

In our school we teach Spanish to all children in Years 1 to 4 and French in Years 4 to 8 as part of the normal school curriculum. We believe that many children really enjoy learning to speak another language and that the earlier a child is exposed to a foreign language, the faster the language in question is acquired. We also believe that it is a good idea to introduce a new language to children when they are at primary school, as they tend to be less self-conscious about speaking aloud at this stage of their development. It is widely believed that the early acquisition of a foreign language facilitates the learning of other foreign languages later in life.

In Key Stage 1 we emphasise the listening and speaking skills over the reading and writing skills and we make the lessons as entertaining and enjoyable as possible, as we realise that this approach serves to develop a positive attitude in the children to the learning of modern foreign languages. We use a variety of techniques to encourage the children to engage actively in acquiring modern foreign languages: these include games, role-play and songs (particularly action songs).

In key Stages 2 and 3 the children write letters, descriptions of family, friends, hobbies, school life etc, using correct grammar and spelling.  

Music is an important part of life at DPSMN. Music lessons are taught in a very well equipped, specialist  room complete with 16 standalone keyboards, a set of 16 African djembe, a full Samba set, a digital drum kit, a wealth of recording and Music Technology equipment, a wide range of pitched and unpitched percussion instruments – both Western and non-Western, and a baby grand piano. The music curriculum covers many aspects of music and performance from Chinese and African through Western classical to modern day pop and rock.

Every curriculum music lesson from early years through to the end of Year 8 includes a practical session, whether it is the performance of pupil’s compositions to the performance of set works or songs.

The curriculum teaching is strengthened by a growing team of peripatetic music teachers who visit the school on a weekly basis to teach one-to-one and group lessons in orchestral, piano and vocal.

The school has a vibrant and healthy choir who meet weekly to rehearse. They perform regularly both within the school and in the wider community.  The choir performs at concerts to raise money for local charities. Last year we were able to donate £1,500 to the East Anglian Children’s Hospice appeal.

At Downham Preparatory School the teaching of Religious Education is according to the Agreed Syllabus, and approached via the following principles:

  • That no presumption shall be made as to the religious beliefs and values of the children and staff.
  • That the value of the religious background of all members of the school community be acknowledged and all encouraged to share their experiences freely with others.
  • All religions and their communities be treated with respect and sensitivity, and links between home, school and faith community be valued.
  • It is acknowledged that each religion studied can contribute to the education of all pupils.
  • That the syllabus is implemented by means of a sensory approach-children having the opportunity to look at and handle religious artefacts/hear religious music/taste food from a religious tradition.

The aims of teaching science at Downham Preparatory School are consistent with our school’s philosophy, and takes account of the National Curriculum Non-Statutory Guidance for Science.

The Aims of Science are:-

  • To enable children to develop their knowledge and understanding of the world they live in, through investigation of that world.
  • To provide a Science Curriculum that is broad, balanced, relevant and differentiated.
  • To fulfil the requirements of the National Curriculum for Science.
  • To ensure the progressive development of scientific concepts, knowledge, skills and attitudes.
  • To enable children to work scientifically in a range of appropriate contexts using a variety of materials and equipment.
  • To promote positive attitudes towards, and enthusiasm for, science in the everyday world.
  • To provide a balanced range of science activities as an integral part of the curriculum.
  • To ensure continuity and progression in science work from Year 1 to Year 8 by means of structural planning.
  • To incorporate opportunities to develop basic scientific skills, attitudes and knowledge appropriate to the development of the child.
  • To provide opportunities for children to acquire practise and develop scientific skills and strategies through an activity-based programme centred on investigations.
  • To provide flexible ways of working, including class, group and individual.

Pupils have access to high quality PE provision, with a range of sports taught within the school’s curriculum and a number of after school clubs that take place year round. There is a wide variety of resources to support the teaching of PE across the school ensuring that all abilities are catered for. PE and sport develops pupil’s knowledge, skills and understanding, so that they can perform with increasing competence and confidence in a range of physical activities. It also contributes to healthy and active lifestyles, as well as developing key leadership and social skills.

Swimming is taught from the start of year 2 and pupils have a lesson once a week throughout the year.  Pupils are put into a swimming class according to their ability.  Water confidence is quickly developed for beginners using fun games and activities, and soon they are able to progress to swimming on their front and back with confidence.  Pupils are taught water skills, breathing techniques, diving, survival skills, water safety, distance swimming and how develop their swimming strokes. The school uses the Swim England Water Skills Awards and also the Rainbow Distance Awards.  Our aim is to teach children to swim as soon as possible, to be confident in the water, to behave in a responsible manner and to observe safety precautions.  Swimming is an excellent aerobic exercise that children of any age, size or ability can take part in and is also accessible to children with physical disabilities. 

In Early Years and Year 1, sports lessons concentrate on moving with confidence, control and co-ordination.  Initial ball handling skills are introduced such as holding, rolling, throwing and catching, in addition to adapted skills from invasion games.  In Years 2 - 8 pupils are introduced to more formal invasion games.  The rules of different sports are taught e.g. football, rugby, hockey, netball, rounders, cricket and tennis. Pupils are taught to play as a team, to obey rules, to respect the umpire’s decision, to play their best, to accept defeat gracefully and to take pride in a match or game won. Music, Movement, and Dance are taught throughout the school and skills are demonstrated annually in the School Show.

The school is a member of the Downham Cluster School Sports Partnership and regularly participates in sporting festivals and events with local schools.  From these events there is the opportunity to progress to competitions in West Norfolk, and also county finals, in which some of our pupils have featured. In 2017 we became Tag Rugby County Champions, Sportshall Athletics and Kwik Cricket County Finalists and were represented by pupils in the County Swimming Gala and Cross-Country Finals. The school also arranges additional fixtures with other schools.  Sports Day is held every summer for all the pupils and each child is able to accrue points for their respective house team. There are plenty of races suited to a variety of skills, such as team races and obstacles courses meaning that all pupils have a chance to excel.