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Pocklington Prep School launches innovative, future focused curriculum
Leanne Maycock

Pocklington Prep School is preparing to launch an innovative new curriculum in September 2021, 'The Curiosity Project'.

Pocklington Prep teacher and 3 pupils stood in school corridor

Pocklington Prep School is launching an innovative new curriculum ‘The Curiosity Project’, designed to develop vital skills such as independent thinking, critical analysis and teamwork.  The new curriculum will prepare pupils not only for their next steps in education but for their futures as innovators, collaborators, leaders and more.

Each half term pupils will work together on a broad conceptual question such as ‘can people change?’ or ‘what does it mean to be free?’. Pupils seek to answer this question by delving down into subject-specific skills and knowledge to develop their thoughts and ideas.  

This innovative process of ‘enquiry sequence’ is not all pre-planned by the teacher. Rather than being told what they will be studying, pupils learn and make discoveries as they realise they need to know about them, to help them answer their conceptual question. The teacher facilitates the process and has a clear set of concepts, skills and knowledge they aim for the pupils to cover but is flexible in their approach and is open to risk-taking and to worthwhile ‘diversions’ in the learning. 

The conceptual questions are carefully mapped out across each academic year and all require discovery, enquiry and analysis. Puzzles and new points for development are introduced to cause pupils to question and enhance their ideas as they work towards an answer, utilising new and traditional subject areas of, for example, history or science, in a different way.

The usual ‘timetabling’ of subjects across a week will change as pupils’ learning may take them into week-long scientific investigation or a full day of researching and writing reports.  Every classroom will feature a ‘timeline display’ mapping out the ‘enquiry sequence’, which pupils will add to as their work progresses throughout the half term.  The final answer the pupils arrive at can then be presented in any number of formats, such as a filmed news report, a play or a colourfully illustrated magazine. 

Mrs Cath Sweeting, Head of Curriculum at Pocklington Prep School, developed ‘The Curiosity Project’ drawing on her 16 years' experience as a teacher since graduating from Exeter College, Oxford. Her belief is that a pupil’s learning journey should comprise the core elements of subject knowledge and subject skills, plus the ability to debate, analyse and communicate.  Cath also took inspiration from the works of many education specialists, including likeminded Jonathan Lear of 'Guerilla Education' who argues that children should be actively involved rather than being passive recipients of a teacher’s creativity.

Head of Pocklington Prep and 4 pupils sat working on a floor project

Cath said: “As a Prep School, we take the word ‘prep’ seriously; we want to prepare children with the enthusiasm, knowledge and experience to enable them to thrive. As well as subject skills that are taught, practised and developed year on year, this new curriculum ensures that the learning has direction, purpose and encourages independent thinking. It puts pupils at its centre, instilling within them an enquiring mind, the confidence to ask questions, explain their findings and provides a fantastic springboard for their futures.”

Maths and Modern Foreign Languages will continue to be taught by specialist teachers alongside the new curriculum, as will sport, art and music.  Opportunities to apply skills and ideas from all these areas will be used in helping to answer the conceptual questions as appropriate and will help illustrate the inter-connectedness of different disciplines.  Outside speakers will also be invited in every half term to help pupils develop their learning as they seek to answer the big questions they’ve been challenged with.

Suzy Ward, Head of Pocklington Prep School said: “This curriculum is a turning point for our Prep School and our staff have been thrilled to be a part of something so innovative and challenging. The use of an enquiry model to inspire students’ curiosity will set the tone for a way of learning that is markedly different from what they will have experienced before. Our children will be able to feel the joy of pursuit and enquiry first hand, solving problems with a degree of independence not experienced before. They will move through the school gaining knowledge and answers, but when they leave, we hope they have more questions and ideas than ever before!

Curiosity is what has pushed humans forward to achieve greater and greater things, and our pupils will be equipped to be at the forefront of future achievements as they grow into adulthood. We are very much looking forward to running a pilot for the new curriculum in the Summer Term, in preparation for its official launch in September 2021.” 

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