Our Curriculum at PCSA

We are very proud of the broad and enriching curriculum that we offer at PCSA. Our curriculum is the heart beat of our academy’s ethos and supports all students to be highly successful young people and effective independent young adults with a genuine passion for life-long learning – in-line with our ‘students first’ motto.

Our dedicated and committed staff strive to deliver inspiring and engaging lessons, leading to excellent progress and enriching experience for all students and a genuine passion for learning and taking opportunities to improve themselves.  Our curriculum values with enrichment and personal development creates young people with a range of transferable skills, who are rounded, caring and highly motivated to succeed, ready for the world of college or work post-16. We offer a totally inclusive programme of qualifications, from entry level and vocational subjects to more traditional GCSE subjects. The wide choice of subjects allows for a tailored programme for individual students and one which allows all of our students to succeed and to prepare for the next stage of their studies.

Here at PCSA, we have rationalised our curriculum design in terms of intent, implementation and impact.


Cognitive science has shed fresh light on long-running debated about whether a school curriculum should focus more on ‘knowledge’ or ‘skills’. Research has shown that knowledge and skills are partners, and that attempts to teach skills without knowledge will fail because they run counter to the way our brains work. This cognitive science has formed the background to the new, more ambitious curriculum that PCSA has introduced since 2017.

It sets out a core body of knowledge in a format designed to maximise pupil understanding and minimise confusion, giving teachers professional autonomy over how to teach, assess and intervene. We will continue to equip all curriculum areas to embed a knowledge rich-based curriculum as the cornerstone of an excellent, academically rigorous education to age 16. Our new curriculum is forward looking and equips students with core knowledge about the best that has been thought and written: balancing four Shakespeare plays and the study of a broad sweep of British history; achieving mastery in mathematics and ICT; giving opportunities for creative excellence in art, drama and music; contributing to healthy and responsible citizens through PE and PSHE.

As you can see from the image to the right, we have created a knowledge-based curriculum. Knowledge is the “fuel” of excellence and achievement that will determine students’ future progress.  In previous models of Bloom’s taxonomy, knowledge was always at the bottom of the pyramid, always considered the least important.  WRONG! Without knowledge, skills are not enough and often insufficient.



In order to achieve the desired mastery, our curriculum is implemented in a modular design of four cycles per year.  These instructional cycles are similar in format and often repetitive. These sequential cycles are incremental in nature, with knowledge being built up from one cycle to the next. Each cycle focused on a single instructional objective or part of an overall objective.  Each cycle is complemented by regular homework, knowledge organisers and assessment.  At the end of each cycle a knowledge test assesses the knowledge acquired by the students and informs future planning and intervention. Therefore, the PCSA curriculum is designed on a holistic approach of 19 cycles from Year 7 to 11, rather than year to year approach.

Our bottom up approach is building our curriculum on the assumption on what students already know and can do and how they can improve from that point.  We do not distinguish our curriculum in terms of distinct Key Stages, instead we insist on a planning on a five-year journey based on knowledge, continuity and learning progression.

Therefore, Week 1 of Learning Cycle 2 is key to our students. By the end of lesson one students need to know the following:

  • What is the module all about? How does it fit within the 19-cycle journey?

  • What will they be learning throughout the module?

  • How are they going to be assessed?

  • Have they got their homework booklet? Is it relevant to their everyday learning? Does it complement the core principles of the cycle?

  • Are students aware of core knowledge/ideas and vocabulary?

Ideally, this should be evident in a module front sheet that all students should have in their books, always available as a reminder.


Obviously, when a curriculum has been built on the intent of knowledge, its impact needs to be measure on the students’ ability to learn and recall this knowledge.  Our idea of teach, test, repeat, is based on memory research and especially the Multi Store Model.  The suggestion that repetition can store knowledge in the students’ long term memory, saved forever, is a belief that we have based our curriculum and assessment design upon.  By regularly revisiting the newly acquired knowledge, questioning, assessments and tests, will help it not to decay but instead being preserved and restored when students need it, e.g. exams or in later stages of their lives.  Therefore, the impact and achievement of our curriculum is based on our students’ ability to recall knowledge, which in turn will help them with the development of their critical thinking and skills, essential for their future success and well-being.   

Mr R Uffendell

Vice Principal

The Academic Curriculum: Outline

Years 10-11: Exploring GCSEs in depth

We offer a very broad and balanced curriculum, which ensures all students continue a humanities subject and most a language throughout their time at Priory. We offer a very wide range of GCSE options, including the full range of Arts subjects. We believe a two-year preparation for GCSE allows students to be well-prepared and specialise in subjects and topics for the demands of the qualifications, whilst not being taught solely to the examination. Students would have more knowledge and experiences from the three-year KS3 experience to make a more informed choice on the qualifications best suited to help them achieve their goals.

What does the curriculum look like in practice?

We use a learning cycle system to structure our curriculum. There are four cycles per year group, except in Year 11 where there are three due to final exams. The learning cycles show what students will be learning in their subjects and how the components and composites of learning within each subject builds on knowledge and extends knowledge for understanding.

KS3 – Years 7, 8 & 9
All students follow a broad ranging curriculum which provides a firm foundation for their chosen KS4 options. As with all year groups, Year 7 – 9 students are continually assessed throughout the Key Stage. Areas of study currently include Art, Design & Technology (D & T), drama, English, geography, history, computing, mathematics, LGU (French, Spanish and German), music, PE, RE, science and others.

Students also have the opportunity to take part in field trips, and alternative and extra – curricular activities throughout the year.

The general pattern is for students to be taught in mixed ability groups in most subjects. In English, mathematics, science, and LGU, in some year groups students are taught in groups of similar ability (called sets).

It is hoped that KS3 will lay sufficient foundations for the students to choose a sensible, informed and suitable course of study for Years 10 & 11. Heads of faculties are always willing to discuss any point of philosophy or detail of the courses they offer.

KS4 – Years 10 & 11
Students in KS4 will continue to study subjects in the National Curriculum. These are: English, mathematics, science and PE.  The majority will also have the opportunity to study up to four subjects.

At the end of KS4 the majority of students will take public examinations for GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education)  in the subjects they study. There may also be a small number of students who will study for Entry Level Qualification in some subjects.

Our Curriculum…

  • Is HIGHLY PERSONALISED. Students have great scope to tailor the curriculum to their learning needs and interests. Students have significant choices about the curriculum they follow. These choices are always supported by Individual Advice and Guidance.

  • Encourages students to develop POSITIVE ATTITUDES and a sense of responsibility towards themselves, other people in the community and other cultures.

  • Allows outstanding ACHIEVEMENT. Students have every opportunity to gain the qualifications needed to maximise their life chances beyond PCSA.

  • Promotes the acquisition of LIFE SKILLS, including Personal, Learning and Thinking Skills (PLTS) and Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL). Furthermore, students develop key skills of communication, ICT, Number and Word. Through this approach PCSA students are well prepared for life and work in the 21st Century.

  • Is INSPIRATIONAL, ENGAGING AND RELEVANT for all students. Through high quality, enjoyable, memorable and rich learning experiences students develop a lifelong love of learning.

  • ALLOWS PROGRESSION. At all stages students follow courses and programmes of study that will leave them qualified and well-equipped for the next level of learning: at PCSA, in post-16 education and in the world of work.

  • Promotes HIGH ASPIRATIONS. All students will be encouraged to strive to fulfill their potential and their achievements will be recognised, valued and celebrated.

Year 11 Information Guide for Parents/Carers

Click below for an information guide for parents/carers on how to help you child achieve their full potential in Y11.

Y11 Information Booklet 2018/19

Year 9 Options

Please find below the learning pathways options booklet for 2019 - 2021.

The Curriculum and Careers

To learn more about careers relating to specific subjects, please look here - https://www.careerpilot.org.uk/job-sectors/subjects

In addition to the careers work delivered in class, the school offers a wide range of careers related events and activities throughout the year including:

  • Themed assemblies including visits from colleges, universities, apprenticeships, employers and previous students to explore career pathways

  • Collapsed curriculum days - college and university taster days to help our students plan their studies beyond school

  • Collapsed curriculum days - the maths team support students with a day of money management classes and the English team support with CV writing and interview skills

  • Mock interviews for Years 7, 9 and 10 to build confidence and employability skills

  • Guest speakers and tutor time drop-ins to meet employers, education providers, previous students and representatives from other organisations in an informal setting

  • Work experience week to help our Year 10 students build their confidence, their employability skills and their work awareness

  • Job of the week information delivered in tutor time to encourage students to explore different career pathways and the skills and qualifications required

  • College, Sixth Form and University open evenings to help students and their families explore options beyond school

  • And plenty more!

The Careers Office is open from 8.00am - 4.00pm Monday to Friday and until 7.00pm on Parents’ Evenings and is available for students to visit and talk through their ideas. Specific one to ones can be booked with parents/carers too if requested, but students are welcome to drop in at any time.

The Careers Office is based in the centre of the school next door to splash world. You can contact Mr Wilmot and Miss Silmon by phone on 01934 511411 or by e-mail: james.wilmot@pcsa.org.uk / jodie.silmon@pcsa.org.uk