English and Literacy
In English at Key Stage 3 we teach English by exploring themes. We have a special focus on discussion whilst practising a variety of speaking and listening skills. We also build on reading and writing skills by basing tasks around our themes. We use the reading of poetry, making and reading diaries, reading and writing letters to provide variety and help pupils develop their understanding. We also like to use role play and drama to encourage enjoyment and a sense of fun in learning.
Pupils also read texts, both fiction and non-fiction, to give them an understanding of the enormous variety of literature and information available – we use the internet to help students extend their reading skills and be cautious about the information they can find there. Alongside this, they will develop spelling, punctuation and grammar skills through a variety of writing, speaking and listening tasks, some of which will be through the use of Information Technology.
In KS4 pupils work towards taking national exams. Currently, we are offering Entry level and Functional Skills qualifications as well as GCSEs in both Language and Literature.
The focus in KS4 is on developing our students’ ability to write in different ways for different audiences and purposes. They learn to identify and quote relevant information to support their arguments. We teach them how to be critical of information they are given. They learn how to analyse the way writers have put their work together and to identify how they have used language to make their work have as much impact as possible.
We try to make our lessons as practical, visual and fun as possible. We organize trips and theatre visits to further enhance students’ understanding on the curriculum. This year, students went to see ‘The Woman in Black’ which they loved, even though it was scary!
We have specialist support staff in English lessons. Students have 4 lessons of English per week. In addition to this there is time allocated to practise basic skills at the start of every school day.
Mathematics and Numeracy
The Maths department aims to:-
- Equip our pupils with the skills needed in life
- Develop their confidence in using maths
- To be able to use maths in other areas of the curriculum
- Enable every pupil to reach their potential in their understanding of mathematical knowledge
- Encourage pupils to work cooperatively and independently
- Encourage pupils to develop a range of desirable qualities such as politeness, perseverance, initiative, independence and concern for others
- Provide an enjoyable and rewarding experience where pupils know they are, and will continue to be, successful
How do we achieve this:-
- There is an emphasis on practical, oral and visual learning
- The objectives of the lessons are clear and achievable, with the learning highly differentiated to meet the individual needs of the pupils
- The Programmes of Study, while covering the breadth of topics found in the National Curriculum, also provide opportunities for frequent revisiting and consolidating of work, especially number work and life skills
- All KS4 pupils work towards national accreditations and are able to see their achievements grow as they progress through the levels awarded.
- We have fun, laugh a lot and celebrate our achievements every lesson
Science is mostly taught in two dedicated rooms enabling pupils to enjoy the benefits of the resources available to a secondary Science Department but with a curriculum adapted to their needs. We also have access to wooded and grassed areas and two ponds for studying the natural world.
In Key Stage 3 pupils are taught through topics which aim to make Science relevant to their lives, for example ‘A Question of Sport’ which looks at the human body and forces and how they relate to different sports.
At Key Stage 4 pupils work towards an Entry Level Certificate in Science. This consists of six components covering all aspects of the subject.
Science is a practical subject and all pupils are encouraged to develop their practical skills alongside those of working as part of a team and keeping themselves and others safe.
Art & Textiles
Art within The Valley School is offered from Year 7 through to Year 11 and offers students the opportunity to experience and trial a host of artistic and craft processes, working into sketchbooks and charting the journey throughout the year. The students work towards a range of accreditation routes and the year culminates with an Arts exhibition. Students are encouraged to take a prominent role in this and use it to help gain an Arts Award.
Learning is delivered through topics and students are encouraged to develop their artwork and explore ways of transferring their ideas into textile outcomes. Our projects have included screen printing T-shirts and printing our own fabric to make outfits.
Each year group scheme includes a set of skills and criteria that should be covered during the year on each of the 5 key areas of painting, drawing, print making, textiles and sculpture.
Each area includes:
- learning objectives
- language skills
- responses to art, craft and design (including responses to their own work and the work of peers and artists). These can be purely verbal responses
- organisational skills
- fine motor skills
- activities (these are activities to develop the skill but do not dictate context)
These can all be applied to a variety of contexts relevant to the theme or topic being studied that term.
Assessment is ongoing and verbal feedback given at each session.
At the end of each half term, children are assessed against the given criteria in the progress trackers by:
- a) highlighting those statements that have been met and making any other relevant comments
- b) identifying pupils who have not met and who have exceeded expectations for their year group
Some of these criteria can be met by simply completing the given activity, whilst others refer to the quality or level of skills applied and whether the pupil can replicate that process.
In the technology room the emphasis is on hands on making. We expect all the pupils to be eventually able to work safely with almost all of the tools and equipment available. I believe very strongly in the satisfaction to be had working with your hands and the joy in being able to take something home that they have made that actually works – sorry about the plastic whistles!
We use wood, plastic and metal in our products as well as the softer materials like paper, card and textiles. We construct simple circuits and use small motors to power things.
We build the props and sets for the school plays.
Our aim is to prepare the pupils for later life, when they engage in do-it-yourself projects or when they are at work. The pupils should have the confidence and familiarity with tools to be able to make good use of them safely.
We make Clocks, boxes, treasure chests, pencil cases, plastic whistles, little electric racers, puppets, jitterbugs, moving animated pictures, tables, cabinets, caddies and in years 10 and 11 the pupils have the choice to design and make their own projects.
As in resistant materials we expect that the pupils will take home what they have cooked, but unlike wooden products we cannot guarantee that the food will actually make it home.
Enterprise & College
We strive to prepare all of our students for life after the Valley and in years 10 and 11 students follow a range of courses which will provide them with skills, knowledge and experiences which will be of great benefit when they gain employment.
In year 10 students will follow an accredited (ASDAN) Enterprise course where they will be planning making and selling a range of products. For the first time we will be opening our own Market stall at Stevenage Market on a Thursday and each week a group of students will have the opportunity to work on the stall, selling the products made in school. We will also be exploring different opportunities to sell our products through online sales and during school fairs.
In year 11 students take part in a Link course at North Herts College where they can study some vocational based courses, entry level courses or continue with the Enterprise theme where they can gain another accredited qualification (City and Guilds). All students will spend time at either the Stevenage site of the college or at the NET which is on the Valley schools site as preparation for post 16 transition.
We like food at the Valley school. We like eating it and we enjoy cooking it. Our food lessons are mainly to teach life skills so that our pupils can cook and feed themselves later in life. We teach them about healthy eating and the “Eatwell Plate”, about safe working in the kitchen, and about the safe handling and storage of food.
Our kitchen is well equipped with the sort of appliances that you have in your home. We have fridges and freezers, microwaves and ovens. We have both gas and electric hobs so that the pupils can have experience using both types.
The other part of food studies it to encourage the children to try new foods that they may not have come across before so that they are less fussy eaters and can enjoy a greater variety of food.
At the Valley school we believe that the whole Geography, History and RE curriculum interlinks and connects. Humanities is taught holistically where pupils are taught not just the Geography of a place but also the culture, beliefs and History all at the same time. A lot of our work is developed with the pupil in mind- getting to know and understand the world around them locally and then building and developing that knowledge to incorporate the greater world we live in.
Pupils’ knowledge, skills and understanding is developed alongside their thinking skills, allowing them to expand ideas and form opinions. Pupils participate actively in their learning, they experience a host of activities including local walks, visits to museums and other places of interest; their enthusiasm and individuality is valued and they are given opportunities to complete tasks in ways that suit their learning styles and the department encourages and supports the use of a range of technology for individual, group and class research.
At Key Stage 4, students explore how people of different faiths perceive different social and moral issues. They research the practices of worldwide religions and look at how it influences their daily lives and values.
As they move into Year 11, students have the opportunity to study for a City and Guilds qualification in which they will study: individual rights and responsibilities; environmental awareness; understanding diversity in society; aspects of citizenship. Our aim is to encourage students to have an open, fair-minded approach towards the views and values of all groups within our society.
ICT & Computing
At The Valley School Computing and ICT is taught throughout the course of the year, students in KS3 learn about a variety of skills including; E-Safety and how to use online resources safely, ICT equipment, how to use various tools on Microsoft Office, exploring information from numerous sources, and using ICT to work with text and images Computing and ICT are taught throughout a series of learning themes. These include “Robotics and Systems” using algorithms, floor robots and MSWLogo to show position and direction, “Turtle and Games” using programming language and strict instructions to achieve objectives and “Bringing Images to Life” with a focus on how they can be changed and edited to communicate different moods or ideas. Each of these themes helps students to develop their knowledge and understanding through the application of skills and techniques.
In KS4 students throughout the year learn about a variety of skills including; health & safety in ICT and how to use online resources safely, ICT equipment, how to use various tools on Microsoft Office, exploring information from numerous sources, and using ICT to work with text and images. Students also work towards their OCR Entry Level 3 Award and Entry Level Certificate, covering a variety of topics such as, displaying information using ICT, using ICT to find out information, and communicating using ICT.
We also have a range of different resources with the school from I pads to Macs as well as over 50 Windows workstations, including interactive SMART boards in every classroom. Students gain a good understanding of how to use today’s technology and all the different devices that are out there to get the most out of there learning.
Performing Arts are at the heart of what we do at The Valley. We produce a whole-school annual production each March, as well as a Christmas Concert and other events throughout the year. These all take place in our newly developed Valley Theatre. Pupils work on stage and backstage, supported by staff from across the school to deliver a production that builds confidence and teamwork amongst the entire community.
For one week each October, the timetable across the whole school is collapsed and pupils participate in arts activities as part of our Arts Week. These include workshops with professional artists, theatre visits and pupil-led learning activities. We always collaborate with a number of schools from the local community and host a school-wide design competition, involving pupils, staff and families. The week culminates in a showcase to which all Parents and Carers are invited.
The Performing Arts curriculum at The Valley encompasses a variety of arts disciplines. Pupils are given the opportunity to learn the ukulele, drums, piano as well as develop their singing voice. We teach about musical expression and performance and develop creative thinking skills and composition on a variety of instruments.
We are a well-equipped department, with a recording studio and radio station (Valley Radio). Pupils are given the opportunity to learn a variety of music technology skills, including recording and manipulating sounds as well as managing live sound and radio broadcasts.
As part of their Performing Arts curriculum, pupils also learn basic theatre and drama techniques, including mask theatre. Pupils transfer their performance skills into film making projects. They learn how to use a selection of film making software and create trailers and animations, before planning and producing their own feature films. Photography is another area explored within Performing Arts. Pupils learn about light painting and photo editing, as well as the practical skills involved in taking photos in a variety of settings.
We work in partnership with Drake Music, who are a nationally renowned inclusive music charity, to deliver instrumental lessons and music interventions. These are delivered as 20 minute sessions, either individually or as a small group and are offered on the drums, piano, ukulele, guitar, bass guitar and voice. All pupils are eligible to sign up and pupils who are entitled to free school meals may receive these free of charge. There is also a drop-in Band Club during lunchtime twice a week, where pupils may explore different instruments.
Our Performing Arts curriculum allows pupils to achieve Arts Award qualifications at a variety of levels, from Entry Level 3 (Explore) to Level 3 (Gold). These are nationally accredited qualifications that demonstrate a pupil’s commitment and learning in the Arts and have successfully helped pupils access arts college courses once they leave The Valley.
We work in partnership with a host of professional artists and organisations and encourage pupils to attend ‘real life’ arts events through workshops, visits and master classes. Recent examples include a whole school trip to see Wicked the Musical in the West End, a session in a professional recording studio, a residency with a professional photography company and a mural project with a community graffiti artist.
We use the positive impact of sport to reach out to our students and allow them to experience personal success.
Sports helps them to manage their emotions in a positive way and importantly gives them the confidence to try new challenges academically as well. Through sport we help build up their self-esteem and confidence so they take a pride in what they achieve at the Valley School and beyond.
Through sports we open up opportunities for all our students. The broad and balanced curriculum that we offer at key stage 3 and 4 enables all pupils to enjoy and succeed in many kinds of physical activity. Pupils develop the ability to suggest improvements, use tactics and compositional ideas to succeed.
Throughout the years we cover a variety of sports and activities including horse-riding, swimming, basketball, football, hockey, rugby, athletics, badminton, trampolining, gymnastics and health and fitness
Learning 4 Life
The Valley School would like your child to leave us knowing how to care for themselves, understand the environment and be a comfortable member of their community, within their level of understanding.
The Learning 4 Life curriculum tries to address these topics, building on your child’s strengths and understanding, throughout their time with us.
We want our pupils to understand how to care for themselves, learning how to eat and cook healthily, personal care, road safety and how to use social media and the internet safely and confidently.
They will study the environment around them and have an understanding of how to look after it. They will discuss recycling and its value. They will talk about and visit local amenities and understand how to access and enjoy them.
They will work together to raise money for local and national charities, provide entertainment and support for our immediate community and visit and host other schools.
As our pupils get older we will introduce the topics of economics and wellbeing. They will understand different methods of paying for items, enjoy planning shopping trips for projects and discuss employment, including enjoying work experience.
The Learning 4 Life curriculum also includes SRE for all pupils. We will discuss body changes, how to keep safe, being a parent and relationships.
Finally, we want our pupils to be able to understand and resolve conflict and to become valuable members of our community.