The Curriculum at Ark Putney Academy



Through our curriculum we aim to give all learners, particularly the most disadvantaged, the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life and to enable them to be a pillar of any community.

The curriculum through all phases of the school is designed to incorporate our four values which are driven by our six pillars:

1 An appreciation and curiosity for life and learning

The foundation of this is our broad and balanced curriculum. In conjunction the core disciplines of English, mathematics, science, humanities and languages all students study a wide range of supplementary subjects (design technology, music, drama art and PE) with the additional opportunity to study a musical instrument.  Within each discipline we use our planning cycle to ensure that our values come to life through the taught curriculum by critically evaluating what topics are to be taught and why whilst promoting deep thinking at every opportunity


2 The courage and ambition to unlock their full potential

We want our staff to teach consistently outstanding lessons that instil a love of learning and drive progress. In this context, all subject areas prepare students for future study within their discipline, with mastery of core and foundation subjects ensuring students have choice later on in their education; as they specialise in key areas of study.  The curriculum in each subject area has been designed backwards from university study, through A-Level and GCSE to ensure students can reach their fullest potential.  Our careers programme complements the curriculum to ensure that students can access a range of work- related experiences which motivate and inspire them. Our Ks3 curriculum deliberately creates opportunities for students to experience and excel at talent and creative based subjects which creates a diverse experience. Our vision for our students is that they enjoy their learning experience at APA because of the range of subjects they are exposed to which are threaded through all Key Stages. Our curriculum is driven by our teaching and learning vision which is based on the six principles of learning:

1.Memory matters! Learning is a change in long-term memory. If nothing has been remembered, nothing has been learned!

2.Working memory is weak. In order to remember things, we have to process knowledge in working memory, which is weak and easily overloaded. In order to learn complex new skills, we need to break them down into small chunks of knowledge that do not overload working memory.

3.Knowledge is a pathway to skill. Skilful mastery is the result of the gradual memorisation of hundreds of discrete items of knowledge over time, which will enable our pupils to think critically, creatively, and collaboratively to solve new problems.

4. Memory is the residue of thought, so it’s important that we ensure students are doing tasks that have them thinking about and remembering the right things.

5. Deliberate Practice is essential to closing the knowing-doing gap. Deliberate practice focusses on mastering the ‘small steps’ of a complex task, so that recall and transfer become automatic.

6. Effective Feedback makes the right memories. Responsive teaching helps pupils avoid misconceptions. When learning is new, feedback needs to be particularly frequent.


3 A desire to contribute to society in a positive way

Our ambition for all students is that they are academically challenged from their first day at school, meaning that there is a clear focus on the core concepts within each subject which in turn gives structure to the deep knowledge and skills required to be able to creatively and critically. We build and tailor our curriculum to ensure rigorous academic stretch for all students and to provide those who need it with the additional support to meet functional literacy and numeracy needs. We prioritise depth over breadth and provide opportunities to explore concepts fully. Within this context we focus on learnt knowledge to increase cultural capital and social mobility. This is driven by a knowledge rich curriculum in which recall is regarded as an essential part of every student’s toolkit and is in turn personified in our ‘Stickability Seven’ techniques.


4 A sense of self -awareness combined with integrity to be compassionate towards others

Our ambition is to encourage ethical, respectful learners with a strong moral purpose. We want student to leave APA as fluent readers who are able to make inferences and judgements from a variety of texts. In addition to this we want our students to be confident speakers who can speak confidently and fluently to a variety of audiences and have the ability to listen and learn from others.  We also create opportunities for students to write extended pieces which are cogent and well-argued thus ensuring that our students leave us as self- aware and emotionally intelligent individuals.   At APA we believe that students need to access knowledge and skills outside of individual academic disciplines. At the core of this is our Six Pillars which firstly are harnessed in lessons to intentionally coach students in academic skills. Secondly, are utilised beyond lessons to build character through the house system and extra -curricular programme in conjunction with PSCHE, careers and current affairs.  Students are encouraged in all lessons to utilise the pillars to achieve the best possible outcomes for themselves.

  • EffortShow a willingness to work hard; focus hard on learning and complete everything to the best of your ability.
  • Enthusiasm - Be enthused by the learning opportunities; contribute ideas and ask questions.
  • Independence Have self-discipline; use your initiative to successfully work alone and complete all homework.
  • Team work Learn effectively with others; communicate clearly and work efficiently in pairs or groups.
  • CommitmentBe committed to your progress; finish everything you start and work diligently towards reaching your potential.
  • Community – Make a positive contribution to everyone’s learning; support and encourage others in the classroom.



A broad curriculum that is planned backwards

  • At key stage 3 we offer a broad curriculum: approximately half the timetable is devoted to English, maths and science to ensure that students can meet base standards in KS4.  All students in KS3 also study French/Spanish, history, geography, PE, art, music, drama, DT reading, PSCHE, reading and a group musical instrument lesson
  • Students who are identified as having a high level of need or are working well below national expectations are placed in a small nurture group, which has a bespoke programme which gives them additional opportunities to improve their literacy skills and receive specialist tuition. These student access all of the supplementary subjects but are taught by a singular teacher for English, literacy, MFL and humanities.
  • In addition to this, students who are working below expectations in English also have access to literacy programmes taught outside of the regular timetable such as phonics
  • At key stage 4, the vast majority of students’ study 8 subjects. This is a deliberate curriculum decision to enable students to access the required teaching time to enable them to be successful in their GCSEs.  We encourage students, where appropriate, to follow the English Baccalaureate as this will help them secure access to the best universities and future employment. However, we firmly believe that the EBacc is not appropriate for every child and students should be encouraged to make their own choices at GCSE in subjects that they are interested in and will excel in. 
  • At Key stage 5 we offer the full range of facilitating A Level subjects which are required as entrance criteria by the best universities. This is supported by a range of additional subjects such as psychology, media and sociology as well as a Level 3 Business Studies Extended Diploma.
  • In both Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 we offer targeted intervention through both years of the key stage to ensure that all students meet their minimum expected grades.  In Key Stage 4 English and Maths are our highest priority to ensure that students can progress to level 3 courses in our Sixth Form or elsewhere.
  • As a whole, the curriculum is rigorous in its design and is planned from end points. Each Head of Department has a LTP which incorporates a five year overview. This document is used collaboratively by departments to formulate strategic Medium Term Plans which include the bigger picture, lesson objectives, sequenced activities designed to have the highest leverage and defined points to consolidate learning and check for understanding.


C0-Planning and Professional Development to Ensure Quality Teaching

Quality Professional Development is crucial in ensuring that our Curriculum Intention is implemented. A key part of this is Co-planning, where staff engage in a variety of activities such as backwards planning, subject/pedagogical development and strategic medium planning etc. – This is directed by the HOD and are regularly discussed with SLT line managers in order to ensure use of this time is continually reviewed and maximised. 

In addition to this we have focused on the most effective pedagogical tools at any teachers’ disposal and tried to embed these well, rather than introduce too many tools that staff then implement inconsistently. Our whole-school strategies including; cold call questioning, Think-Pair-Share, mini-whiteboards, visualisers, summarising and quizzing

This year, the key pedagogical tool that we are developing in classrooms is ‘Intentional Monitoring’. Intentional monitoring means that you should see teachers circulating the class with a purpose, gathering data about student work, followed immediately by the teacher responding to the information gathered. Staff development of this began from the very first INSET day, starting with ‘Intentional Monitoring for Compliance’ and will progress in its complexity/impact throughout the year. 50% of staff have already moved forwards and during the first twilight had training on ‘Intentional Monitoring for Academic Outcomes’.

CPD is differentiated for staff to ensure that all staff are being developed but at the same time ensures that as a team we are ‘flying in formation’ so that we can consistently quality assure our classroom practice. As part of this process we have adopted the Ark Great Teacher Rubric. The GTR document is a holistic tool used to enable goal setting for teachers to get to the next level. It divides into four levels of proficiency; Attempting, Foundational, Proficient, Exemplary. It then describes the thinking, actions and influence of a teacher at these different stages using five strands of a teacher’s practice, Climate for Learning, Planning and Preparation, Teaching and Learning, Assessing and Responding and Professionalism.


Carefully defined Student Groupings and Settings

We believe that students perform best when working with peers of a similar ability in core and foundation subjects. Students are baseline tested on entry to the academy and as such from key stage 3 our classes are set, with opportunities for students to change classes according to the progress they are making after key assessment points.  Students who have lower starting points benefit from being placed our nurture group or smaller lower sets where they are supported with an expert teacher and additional support, following an adjusted curriculum.  However, our houses and tutor groups are mixed ability, facilitating collaborative work across all abilities reflecting our inclusive ethos.


Assessment, Revision/Stickability and Marking for Progress

Assessment plays a key role at Ark Putney and is intrinsically linked to both curriculum and teaching and learning. Our curriculum is organised into three cycles, and formal examinations take place bi-annually.  These summative assessments allow students and staff opportunity to measure progress against national standards and inform our interventions to support students in reaching their full potential.

In order for staff to provide effective feedback and engage with responsive teaching, we have a whole school policy that allows teachers to give specific, constructive and personal feedback to every student throughout the year. We want students to feel reassured that, in every subject, their work will be marked regularly and consistently, formative feedback will be provided, and they will have the opportunity to act upon this in order to close the gap in their progress. The whole school approach to marking and feedback is in then realised/delivered by each department in a way that suits their curriculum requirements

KS3 and KS4 students will have an assessment portfolio for every subject that they will keep throughout their key stage. These portfolios will contain all assessed work, with teacher feedback and evidence of student progress as a result. Marking and feedback will include; Formative marking and feedback every 2-3 weeks, marking and feedback comments on green stickers for all extended writing/exam, literacy marking code on all extended writing/exams and student green pen actions (corrections and improvements) in response to all marking and feedback

At KS5, students will have a folder for each subject they take and this folder must be with them and out on their desk in every lesson. All marked work, including big writes, in-class assessments and mock exams, should be kept in a separate section within the student folder. This section should be clearly labelled.  An extended piece of student work should be marked at least once every three weeks, in line with the on/above/below data entry. This could be an essay or series of exam style questions.

In order for staff to embed the principles of learning in their teaching practice and to effectively prepare students for examinations we developed our ‘Stickability’ initiative - our whole-school strategy to support students with the shift to linear learning and subsequent knowledge retention in all subjects  with the launch of ‘The Stickability Seven’. This is a comprehensive set of revision tasks used by teachers to inform all planning, to set homework, to strategically re-cap content throughout the year and to create revision lessons before assessment weeks. They are also used by students independently, following direct instruction in assemblies and tutor times with the intention of improving student preparation and performance in their cumulative assessments.


Enrichment and Careers

To complement our curriculum offer we ensure that students have the opportunity to widen their experiences through a range of different activities during enrichment. Core enrichment means that all KS3 students and sixth formers attend at least one extra -curricular club on a weekly basis and that all year 11 students attend at least 2 after school interventions.  The basic entitlement of all students is of four trips per year to deepen their cultural experience.

Students also benefit from our career’s destination journey, which maps out how each year group at APA benefits from our core entitlement and is fully aligned to the Gatsby benchmarks of best practice in careers education:

  • All students have at least one session of 1-to-1 career advice as they approach the end of key stage 4;
  • All students in years 7-10 participate in an annual whole cohort workshop with business volunteers (in conjunction with Young Enterprise) focussed on professional communication (Year 7), entrepreneurial skills (Year 8), career pathways (Year 9) and CV and interview techniques (Year 10);
  • All students participate in “Career of the Term” activities (focussed on growth employment sectors) through assemblies, talks, competitions and tutor led activities;
  • All students plan, attend and reflect on their encounters with employers at an annual careers fair.
  • All students in KS4 and KS5 undertake 2-5 days of meaningful work experience;
  • Targeted groups of students are selected for various intensive courses and activities run with partner organisations such as:
    • 40 predominantly less engaged high prior attainers recently graduated from our Urban Scholars programme in partnership with Brunel University;
    • 12 underachieving year 10 students graduated from an Outward-Bound programme focussed on resilience and motivation;
    • 25 female students, predominantly from a BAME background, participated in a series of business breakfasts with local entrepreneurs.
  • This is all underpinned by careers education within the curriculum and strong, and growing links, with multiple employers associated with specific subjects.



  • Our academic outcomes at both KS4 and KS5 demonstrate consistency in surpassing national expectations:
    • At KS5 our value added for A-levels has placed us in the top 25% of all providers (ALPs score of 1-3) for each of the past three years:

Grade Distribution






No. entries












% A*-B


















% Achieving 3A*-B (A-levels)






% Achieving 3A*-C (A-levels)






% Achieving 3A*-B (including equivalents)






% Achieving 3A*-C (including equivalents)






L3VA (academic)






ALPS (A-level)






    • At KS4 our value added for GCSEs has placed us well above average in each year of the new measures and in the top quartile for two of the past three years:





En/ma 9-4




En/ma 9-5




En/ma 9-7




Average Attainment




Progress 8




EBACC % entry













  • The curriculum is ambitious and succeeds in stretching the most able.  In 2019 12 students with prior attainment data succeeded in attaining an average GCSE grade of 6 or above despite only 2 students meeting that threshold at KS2.
  • Our most recent OFSTED inspection accords with this view noting that the school is “putting in place effective strategies to stretch and challenge the most able” and that there is an emphasis on “critical thinking and evaluation skills” and observations show “that this is working well”.
  • Students in nurture make above expected progress: The first group to have completed the nurture programme arrived with an expected attainment grade of 2.2 at GCSE. At the end of Year 9 their predicted grade had risen to 3.1 demonstrating exceptional progress and closing the gap by almost 1 entire grade over the three year programme.
  • The curriculum is consistently adapted to meet individual needs and all staff are aware of the individual needs of their students.  This was commented upon in the latest OFSTED report: “teachers know the pupils well as individuals…and use this information to adapt their planning”.
  • The focus on English and Maths pays significant dividends:
    • In Y11 (18/19) only 26 of the 68 students with KS2 data had an expected A8 score of greater than 4.  In their GCSEs 52 achieved a 4+ in English and 38 achieved a 4+ in maths.
    • In Y10 (18/19) only 35 of the 78 students with KS2 data had an expected A8 score of greater than 4.  However, 64 are predicted a 4+ in English and 50 are predicted a 4+ in maths
    • In Y9 (18/19) students undertook a standardised GL test and achieved an average level of 4.73 in English and 4.81 in Maths despite prior attainment at KS2 of only 4.00.
  • The Sixth Form Curriculum is well regarded.  The most recent feedback from students suggested that:
    • “Most teachers are extremely passionate about their subjects and students find their enthusiasm infectious.”
    • Students believe that teachers at APA go above and beyond to help their students.
    • Students feel that they are made to think hard in most subjects most of the time. 
    • Students felt that the quantity and quality of formal assessment was appropriate and appreciated the opportunity to reflect on their assessments. 


Full details of our curriculum can be found here.