Curriculum Intent and Implementation

Curriculum Intent

Our aim is to provide all our children with an engaging, exciting and empowering curriculum that equips them with the skills for success both now and in the future.

The development of our curriculum is based on the following key principles to meet the needs of the children in our community:

  • To provide opportunities for all pupils to progress in their learning
  • To promote spiritual, moral, social and cultural development
  • To develop positive characteristics in our pupils with an emphasis on resilience for learning
  • To provide pupils with a sense of place but to also widen their outlook to the world beyond.
  • To give all pupils, particular disadvantaged pupils, experiences and essential knowledge that broaden their opportunities in life.

Most of the children start their learning journey at Porthleven School in our Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). It is the most important stage of a child’s school life as it covers the development of children from the age of three to end of the Reception year age 5. During this time, children learn to adapt from their home environment to the new experiences and challenges of school. For more information on how we implement learning in the foundation stage through the ‘Seven areas of Learning' please see our EYFS page.

At Porthleven School we follow the statutory requirements of the National Curriculum for literacy and maths (Please see here for more information).  Science and our foundation subjects are based upon the Chris Quigley’s Essential Curriculum that not only meets the requirements of the National Curriculum but also exceeds it in many areas. Using the Essential Curriculum provides an excellent framework to grow our curriculum and shape it to our requirements. The breadth of study in these areas can be found here.

The intent for each individual subject is to ensure the students develop the ‘Essential Characteristics’ that underpin the learning in each of the subject areas. A list of the essential characteristics for each subject can be found in this 'Learning' section of our website.


Curriculum Implementation

Porthleven School’s thematic approach to the curriculum enables cross-curricular links to be made that provides a meaningful and engaging context in its approach to delivering the curriculum. Following the ‘Essentials Curriculum’ our curriculum is split into three elements: Threshold concepts, Breadth of Contexts and Milestones for progress.


Threshold concepts

Threshold concepts are the ‘big ideas’ that shape students’ thinking within each subject. The same threshold concepts will be explored in every year group and students will gradually increase their understanding of them. Each subject begins with an overview of the essential characteristics students should develop and these form the basis for the threshold concepts.

An example of one of the threshold concepts in history is “evidence tells us about the past”. This, of course, cannot be taught in isolation: it would be abstract and meaningless to students. The concept must be explored within a breadth of different contexts so that it has tangibility and meaning.


Breadth of contexts

Breadth provides the contexts for exploring the threshold concepts. It has two roles:

1)     Knowledge (skills and meaningful facts). Concepts need knowledge to make sense. Contexts give students subject specific knowledge with which to think about the concepts. For example, students will use the context of the Great Fire of London to explore the concept ‘evidence tells us about the past’. They will be shown extracts of Samuel Pepys diary and will explore how an historical account gives us the knowledge of the cause and spread of the fire. The more knowledge students have, the better their understanding of the concepts becomes. Another benefit of knowledge is that it helps pupils reading comprehension. A student with a greater knowledge of the world will infer more from a text than one with little knowledge, no matter how good his or her decoding skills may be. 


2)     Transference. Whilst it is only possible to explore a concept within a context, this also causes a problem for students: their understanding is context bound. They find it very difficult to transfer the concept to another situation. By providing a breadth of contexts, students begin to transfer the concepts. They do this by comparing the new context knowledge to previously learned knowledge, the bridge being the concept. For example, if students explore the concept ‘evidence tells us about the past’ through the context of The Great Fire of London they learn that a vital piece of evidence is that Samuel Pepys kept a diary. They then later explore the same concept in the context of The Ancient Egyptians, in which they learn that the Rosetta Stone gives us evidence of the meaning of hieroglyphics.


Milestones for progress

Because the threshold concepts are repeated in each year group it is important that students progress in their understanding of them. The Essentials Curriculum sets out this progression in the form of three ‘Milestones’. Each Milestone contains a range of descriptors which give more detail to be discovered within the concept. Over a two year period students will become more and more familiar with these details by exploring them in a breadth of contexts. These descriptors are not exhaustive and should only be used as a guide for teachers. They should not be ‘ticked off’ as each one is covered: they should be repeated in as many different contexts as possible. [1]



[1] Introduction to Essentials Curriculum© 2019 Chris Quigley Education