Curriculum Uniqueness

Our intent in English is, firstly, to engage before we educate and then, to foster, if not a love of language, at least an appreciation of its capacity to empower and enable our students in their future lives. Our focus is on the child in front of us and so flexibility in planning and delivery is key. We have a large number of disadvantaged children on our roll, with less cultural capital than many in a mainstream setting, and so we personalise subject content to maximise this as far as possible.

Whilst English across the school is planned thematically, content is tailored to meet the needs of small KS3 and KS4 groups, and sometimes individuals, as we strive to maintain appropriacy of material as well as engagement of students. We offer a breadth of literature texts to extend learning whilst also augmenting students’ experiences. Staff work to long-term KS3 and KS4 plans which have GCSE teaching and syllabus as their underlying impetus. However, as each student arrives with us at a different time of year, and with a different bank of knowledge, these plans may need to be adapted according to the child’s needs and circumstances. We are also aware that, since children may return to mainstream school at any point, they need to be prepared for re-joining another curriculum and so the route of their learning, whilst they are at Danesgate, is evident in their workbooks. Parents and carers are kept aware of, and involved in, curriculum planning and coverage through scheduled review days, which include individualised feedback from teachers and keyworkers, as well as extra review meetings as necessary.

Our demographic (in line with the city) is largely white British, but the subject offers literature from other cultures, and staff members have the experience to teach these texts thoughtfully and effectively. SMSC values are embedded within the nature of our English Language and Literature offering.  Each staff member undertakes training regarding Prevent, which includes British Values and how they should be implemented; each staff member upholds and promotes these in English lessons.


Curriculum Implementation

Ours is a close knit and supportive team of staff who sing very much from the same page and who meet regularly to keep ourselves updated as to subject developments and the needs of our students. The team is made up of well-experienced, specialist teachers, each one of whom brings particular qualities and skills to the table. Staff have continual CPD opportunities throughout the year, including specialist ADHD, Autism, Behaviour Management courses.  In addition, many English staff have taken on additional CPD through AQA and Ofqual, enabling them to share knowledge with staff as well as students. The quality of teaching within our team is exceptional and is evident in our students’ engagement, progress and results, as well as in parental feedback.

The learning process for Danesgate students begins with screening tests which will determine reading ages, along with other individual needs. Following screening, all new students undertake baseline assessments in both English and Maths which show them, their parents/carers and staff where they are and where they should aim to be at the end of KS4. This information helps to form the foundation of a child’s English experience with us, as teachers develop individual plans, within the long term curriculum plan, to meet students’ needs and potential. In lessons, staff will utilize the assistance of dedicated and consistent support staff to focus on engagement, questioning and modelling, assessment, and to ensure access for SEND learners, with a view to improving independent working,

As we are fortunate enough to be able to work so closely with individual students, assessment is largely verbal so we are able to be supportive of them as they work. Students also have the opportunity to ‘show off’ what they have learned in scheduled Controlled Assessments at the end of every half term. KS4 English staff are confident assessors and have the benefit of a clear and accessible assessment scheme defined by the GCSE syllabus, but they are also confident in cross-marking with colleagues to determine a standardised mark. This allows them to begin the next half term by reflecting, along with their students, on how to build skills moving forward. KS3 staff collaborate with the subject leader to standardise assessment in lieu of a comprehensive assessment scheme which is in progress.

Due to the nature of our population, our extensive resources are generally in-house and have been designed, created, revised, edited and developed over many years with the particular needs of individuals and cohorts in mind. Resources designed by English staff are routinely stored on and shared via our Server and staff regularly refer to each other’s experience and advice in using or adapting them for students’ specific needs.


Curriculum Impact

It is clear that the English curriculum – robustly taught throughout Danesgate – has a considerable impact on our students. Despite teenagers’ initial, and inevitable, trepidation – and because of our particular approach to teaching them – Shakespeare and Poetry usually engage students more successfully than they had expected, and they will often express how much more they enjoy the subject (to their own surprise!) than they did in their previous school. Parental feedback too, is very positive and supportive in our setting. Given the close working relationships between parents/carers and Danesgate staff, we are able to celebrate the engagement and achievements of our young people on a regular basis so that they and their parents are very aware of the esteem in which students are held and they too can be proud of themselves.

Learning is reinforced in every lesson – embedded through further strategies in cases where SEMH and SEN needs require it – and is demonstrated in half termly assessments. These assessments are used by staff and students to track progress, plan appropriately and to adjust targets if necessary, and also offer regular opportunities for students to practise what they have learned to deepen and solidify their understanding in the subject.