“The loftiest edifices need the deepest foundations.” – George Santayana
What makes Michaela’s curriculum distinctive?
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 at least five hours a week each. We provide five 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.
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. 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
What makes our curriculum challenging?
We choose the most challenging content across subjects to teach. In English, in Year 7, all pupils read the classic Greek myths, Homer’s The Odyssey and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. By the end of KS4, pupils will have studied four Shakespeare plays in-depth and a selection of classic texts, poems and plays. 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 pupils learn the foundations of French grammar, and learn complex sentence structures covering a range of topics. In Music, pupils learn the fundamentals of singing and musical expression, and study the history of music. The rigour in the Michaela curriculum in every subject we teach is exciting, inspiring and even life-changing for pupils.
How is our curriculum sequenced?
The sequencing of our subject curricula is very carefully planned, evaluated and honed. In every subject, we begin by teaching the most fundamental, central concepts to provide pupils with a deep foundational understanding.
In Year 7, pupils study history chronologically alongside study of the geography of the British Isles and a study of the teachings of Christianity and Islam in Religion. In maths, pupils begin with the fundamental foundations of maths and build on this across the course of the first three years at secondary school. In Art, pupils study drawing techniques and gradually learn to use a range of media. In English, pupils study the foundations of storytelling and narrative structure to deepen their understanding of more complex texts and to support their own creative writing. Science lessons prioritise teaching the basics of biology, chemistry and physics to engender curiosity about the complexities of the universe.
The sequencing of our curriculum 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.
“Culture is to know the best that has been said and thought” – Matthew Arnold
Why do we believe in teaching our pupils the “best that has been said and thought”?
At Michaela, we believe all pupils, whatever their background, have a right to access the best that has been said and thought. This includes a variety of writers, from all parts of the world, and thinkers from all the ages. The curriculum ensures that pupils are knowledgeable enough about the world around them to transform it in the future.
The education provided at Michaela is broadly traditional and academically rigorous. We expect our pupils to be polite and obedient. We encourage competition and allow our pupils to win and lose. We believe that knowledge about the world is central to our pupils’ success. Only when they have acquired this knowledge will they be ready to lead and participate as full citizens.
Pupils are taught the background and context of what they are learning so that they can understand and make connections easily. History is taught chronologically so that pupils are able to grasp the key facts and have a strong understanding of the subject.
Pupils should know how well they are doing, both in relation to themselves and to others. Pupils sit biannual exams, in January and in June. They have weekly quizzes in all subjects. Assessment at Michaela is open and meaningful.
How can I find out more about Michaela’s curriculum?
Michaela is unique. Pupils work hard and are kind to each other. Guests visit the school and are very impressed by the maturity, kindness and motivation displayed by Michaela pupils. To understand just how different Michaela is, a visit to the school to eat lunch with the pupils is strongly encouraged.
We take pride in being one of the only schools in the country that is open to the public at any time, and encourages guests to dine with the children.