At the very heart of our work is the principle of a personalised curriculum. We emphatically do not believe that exactly the same programme is right for all of our students. One size most definitely does not fit all. As a small school we are able to work closely with students and parents to decide on the very best way to work with each individual student to boost their progress. Through our personalised transition arrangements, our unique individual mentoring programme and our ground-breaking student-led review days, we maintain an ongoing conversation to choose the very best programme for everyone. Every half term, we track each individual’s progress across all the subjects they take so that we can be certain that the route they are following is the right one for them.
Students who join us in Year 7 who have not reached the expected levels in primary school can join our special transition group. This gives them the opportunity to catch up quickly by spending almost half of their week with a specialist literacy teacher. Other students in Years 7 and 8 study Maths and English in mixed age teaching groups so that the level of their work can be matched exactly to their needs. This means we can accelerate the progress of our most gifted Year 7 students by enabling them to work straight away alongside their most talented Year 8 peers while also giving our other students exactly the teaching they need to achieve as rapidly as possible.
Our students can begin GCSE programmes at exactly the time they are ready. For many, this will mean that they begin their first GCSE courses in Year 9; for others it will mean taking specially designed courses in Year 9 to prepare them for GCSE courses in future years. Our GCSE option courses are taught in just one year. Students work in mixed aged classes for double the time normally allocated. This innovative approach to the GCSE curriculum has many benefits. It allows students to focus on a reduced number of subjects each year. It enables them to choose from a much wider variety of courses. It provides them with greater flexibility; they can re-plan their future curriculum each year as their plans and aspirations change. Most importantly, it enables them to specialise, and often achieve exceptional grades, in their strongest subjects as early as Year 9.
Our flexible approach to timetabling, coupled with our use of ‘twilight’ sessions and our innovative enrichment programme, mean that we can provide customised programmes for individual students whose choices might not otherwise fit within a conventional timetable. Our ASPIRE centre and our student support facilities enable us to make special arrangements for any student whose individual circumstances mean that they need more than the conventional curriculum can offer. Our enrichment programme has enabled us to offer additional subjects such as Astronomy and Mandarin for students looking to add ‘something kind of different’ to their own diet.
Taken together, these highly distinctive features of our personalised curriculum have enabled us to maximise the progress for all of our students so that in 2015 our value added score (which measures the progress made by all the students in a school across all of their subjects) was the highest in the whole of Cheshire East.