“The loftiest edifices need the deepest foundations.” – George Santayana
Our knowledge-led curriculum is distinctive. It is uniquely challenging and coherent, crafted by subject experts to ensure that all pupils achieve broad, deep subject expertise. We prioritise the core academic subjects that are strong preparation for further study, understanding of the world and fulfilling lives.
Pupils study English, Maths and Humanities for five hours a week each. We provide four hours of Science and three hours of French. We allocate two hours both to Art and Music, which is double the provision of many schools, and two hours of Sport.
All of our Heads of Department continually hone their expertise in curriculum design. Many are writing textbooks in their subjects, building on years of teaching, iterating and improving. They have all studied the science of memory and how the human mind learns. We know that deep knowledge is required for complex thought, and that pupils remember best with extended, deliberate practice that is spaced out rather than crammed. All our teachers teach with the aim to ensure pupils love our subjects for the rest of their lives.
“The only thing that transforms reading skill and critical thinking skill into general all-purpose abilities is a person’s possession of general all-purpose knowledge.” – E.D. Hirsch
We choose the most challenging content across subjects to teach. In English, in Year 7, for instance, all pupils read Homer’s The Odyssey, Sophocles’ Antigone, Vergil’s The Aeneid, Cicero’s rhetoric, Seneca’s stoicism and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, including the weakest pupils. By age 14 in Year 9, pupils will have studied 5 Shakespeare plays and read a vast domain of poetry, drama and novels. In Mathematics, pupils in Year 7 dramatically strengthen their mental arithmetic and fluency with negatives and fractions: many pupils go from 10 times tables or division calculations in a minute to over 60. We go into great depth, spending six weeks rather than half a week on solving equations with algebraic fractions. In French, Year 7 are already studying complex tenses, subjunctives, idioms and proverbs, speaking with astonishingly fluent pronunciation, and writing with accurate spelling and use of accents. In Music, pupils learn to read music and play an instrument, and aim for Grade 5 theory by Year 10. The rigour in the Michaela curriculum in every subject we teach is exciting, inspiring and even life-changing for pupils
The sequencing of our subject curricula is very carefully planned, evaluated and honed. In History in Year 7, pupils compare civilisations of Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome, dovetailing with the focus in English on classical literature. In Art, pupils study Egyptian, Greek and Roman sculpture and architecture. Because Humanities, English and Art are taught chronologically and cumulatively, this helps pupils grasp the interactions between history, culture and civilisation. The cross-curricular connections pupils can make are limitless: to take just one instance, in astronomy in Science, pupils learn that the planets are named after Roman gods, and that Mercury, the fastest-moving planet, is named after the swift Greco-Roman messenger god. The sequential knowledge curriculum allows pupils to make fascinating links and understand the evolution of the complex ideas that shape our world: from democracy, dictatorships and republics to philosophy, algebra and geometry, all from their earliest origins. The coherence of our curriculum, both across and within subjects, aims to help pupils to remember the subject knowledge they are taught for the long-term: not for ten weeks or ten months, but for ten years and beyond.
When Einstein was asked what the most powerful force in the world was, he replied: ‘compound interest.’ By Year 8 and after, we see the strong compound effects of our pupils’ strong prior knowledge, effects that are well established by scientific research into education. Our pupils develop formidable, accumulative advantages from studying such a rigorous, sequential knowledge curriculum.