At William Murdoch Primary School, we are passionate about providing all of our pupils with a broad and balanced ‘knowledge-rich’ curriculum, which gives them access to the very best of what has been thought and said. We have a strong focus on providing pupils with the knowledge they need to be able to analyse the world around them and contribute meaningfully to society and therefore ultimately succeed in life. Indeed our school motto is ‘Scientia Mentem Luminat’ which translates as ‘Knowledge Lights Up the Mind’. 

The rationale behind knowledge-rich curricula is embedded in cognitive science which contests that having strong knowledge frees up the brain’s capacity for thinking (leading to increased creativity and innovation) and that new learning will be embedded more easily if it can be connected to what has already been learnt. There is also a strong focus on teaching subjects as discreet academic disciplines, direct instruction by the teacher, vocabulary acquisition, retrieval practice and the use of knowledge organisers.

Our knowledge-rich curriculum has been carefully developed by our curriculum specialists with the support of the Knowledge Schools Trust and their Primary Knowledge Curriculum. It has been carefully designed to allow pupils to consistently build upon what they already know, which develops powerful schema in their brains and in turn facilitates future learning. Our curriculum also draws upon our local context, with Handsworth and the wider Birmingham area featuring prominently throughout History and Geography units in particular, giving pupils a robust understanding of where they live and how the society they live in has developed over time.

There are five key concepts which run horizontally, vertically and diagonally through our knowledge-rich curriculum: These key concepts permeate through all of the units we teach as they are principles and values which we want all of our pupils to have a strong sense and knowledge of. Additionally, having these ‘threads’ through the curriculum allows pupils to make purposeful connections between subjects and learning, which helps all of that knowledge stick together in their minds. 

Our knowledge-rich curriculum is supported by knowledge organisers, which contain all of the key vocabulary, dates, facts and information pupils will need to learn in each unit they study. Pupils are given their knowledge organisers at the start of each new unit and are directed to learn certain sections of it as part of their homework each week. They are then tested on those sections in the next appropriate lesson, which helps embed the learning. Pupils will also refer to their knowledge organisers in lessons to support their learning and independent work.

Lessons always begin with a prior learning task, which helps to activate what pupils have previously learnt and prepare them for the new learning they will encounter. This retrieval practice is often done using knowledge organisers or multiple-choice quizzes. The key vocabulary for the lesson is then shared and discussed with pupils before teachers begin their main input, which is given in small chunks to avoid cognitive overload. This direct instruction is broken up with a talk task, whereby pupils will discuss, debate and feedback around a question asked by the teacher. Pupils will then complete a challenging independent task which gives them the opportunity to apply what they have learnt. At the end of each unit of work there is an assessment lesson, in which pupils may for example write an essay outlining the knowledge they have picked up during their study. This in turn gives the school a strong insight into the success of the curriculum and how well pupils are learning and retaining the knowledge they are given.