Melton school to launch exciting new curriculum
The devastating impact on the education of young people caused by the coronavirus crisis has led a Melton secondary school to rethink its way of teaching.
Many of the more than 1,000 students at John Ferneley College were confined to home from March as part of the government’s restrictions to limit the spread of Covid-19.
They were denied the chance of taking exams and enjoying their final months with classmates before moving on to A-levels at sixth form college or heading out into the world of work.
Behind the scenes, the teaching team led by executive head Christine Stansfield were recalibrating the way lessons will be taught for future intakes.
The new curriculum, when students return next month, will include opportunities to go on exciting trips abroad, visits to important heritage sites and in-class strategies which will develop the long-term memory of students so they retain everything they learn.
Mrs Stansfield said her aim was to produce a level of education on a par with that provided in public and independent schools to give Melton teenagers the same opportunities in life as more privileged students get.
She told the Melton Times: “During lockdown a huge amount of work went on and there was quite a lot of thinking and focusing into how we want to support our students.
“We’ve come up with a curriculum packed with experiences, stories, facts and skills and it is something the whole teaching team have got behind.
“We believe that every student has the same potential and they are entitled to get the best possible education regardless of whether their families are paying for it or not.”
As well as a dramatic shift in teaching approach, the new curriculum will comprise what the school describe as an enrichment programme of opportunities, experiences and visits.
These will complement the whole school objective of enabling every student to achieve their potential and ultimately improve their lives and the lives of those around them.
Some of the planned opportunities up for grabs are likely to include trips to Iceland, New York and the NASA space centre in Florida, as well as some more closer to home.
As part of the drive to teach students how to retain essential core information and skills around each subject area, enrichment programme opportunities under consideration also include exploring the cultural heritage of Melton Mowbray and the local area, visits to the Holocaust Centre, Southwell Workhouse and The Galleries of Justice, as well as access to performances by visiting theatre companies and talks by authors.
There will also be a concerted effort to ensure students understand the impact of historic events on social history and develop the way they are able to debate them.
“We believe every student should know about the Holocaust and visit the Auschwitz museum so they understand the principles of social justice and prejudice,” explained Mrs Stansfield.
“They should also know about Martin Luther-King and the history which has led up to what is going on today with the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Staff at John Ferneley are looking at the texts, big ideas, knowledge, skills and strategies they would like to teach in order to create an inspirational curriculum they hope will transform students’ learning experiences.
The new teaching methods will focus on strategies to develop long-term memory, using the latest learning in cognitive science to support this aim.
The school hopes this will have lasting benefits for every student throughout their college career and beyond.
Mrs Stansfield said: “Every child is of equal worth and every child has the right to a world-class education.
“With this new approach, we have carefully selected the best skills and knowledge to shape our curriculum, the way we teach and how the students learn.
“Long-term memory is not constrained.
“It is capable of storing thousands of pieces of information.
“Studies have shown that when important facts and essential skills are committed to long-term memory, they become part of the students’ thinking apparatus, which they can draw on to help them solve problems in every aspect of their lives, for their entire lifetime.”
When the 1,150 students return to face-to-face teaching next month the school is also looking forward to continuing to strengthen their pastoral care arrangements and provision for students with special educational needs (SEN) to enable the most vulnerable and disadvantaged students to overcome social barriers and benefit equally from accessing the new knowledge-rich curriculum.
A ‘tough love’ approach to behaviour is also being adopted to ensure that students get the most from the new era.
Lockdown has had some positive spin-offs such as the closer relationships staff have nurtured with pupils and their families.
Mrs Stansfield explained: “This period has really brought us together, with staff delivering hampers and making home visits to ensure our students were coping.”
She added: “Our students have been so, so mature during this pandemic in what has been what will hopefully be a once in a lifetime experience in education.
“We gave all our students a medal enscribed with ‘Class of 2020’ because we all feel so privileged to have had them as students during these difficult times.”