Our Curriculum

In response to a Government initiative that gave every school the opportunity to develop its own curriculum, we have planned a curriculum that is creative, fun and focused upon skills. It also combines elements of social enterprise that give the real meaning to work and develops pupil’s ability to be taught to deepen their learning.

In every year group throughout the school the teachers have planned a series of topic-based approaches to learning that are firmly rooted upon a set of skills that are progressive. Wherever possible, the topic will be used to link together the core subjects such as literacy, numeracy, science and art.

By linking the separate subjects under the umbrella of a topic we believe the learning becomes more exciting for our children and our teachers, through the enterprise element the pupils’ journey is extended with creating meaningful and useful work (menus, calculating profit and costs, posters & creating dances to entertain the diners).

Curriculum2To add the ‘wow’ factor to these topics, each year group also plans a hands-on experience to introduce the topic or a really exciting visit to bring their learning to life. This may be in the form of a visit from a local Chinese dance group to link with the theme of the ‘China’ or a trip to Cheltenham Town Hall to link to the theme of ‘By George, it’s Cheltenham’. When our Year 5/6 children learn about Ancient Greece many of the children (and the staff) will come to school dressed in costume in celebration day will showcase Greek links through art and dance.

We have also placed a real importance upon the development of the children’s creative skills. You will be able to see at first hand during a visit around the school the amazing work that the children have been able to produce to support their topics. This could be in the form of clay completed by our Reception and Year 1 children with our in-house artist Jackie White, sketching with another school-based artist, Ruth End or the Willow Sculptures created by Year 6 with artist, Simon Mills. We enjoy immersing the children in art through art weeks and use of artists in school artists.

The creative curriculum has made a huge impact upon the way the children learn in our school. They are excited by their learning and are able to develop a wide range of skills that they will be able to carry with them throughout life. Parents, governors and education consultants throughout the school have also commented upon the impact that this new curriculum has had upon the way the school looks and upon the standards of the children’s work.

Below we have described our philosophy of subjects in a little more detail:

Every Child A Reader

readingWe believe that reading is a vital life skill, one that is high on our priority list at St. James’. In our school we passionately believe that ‘Every Child Will Be A Reader’ and we make this happen with excellent early phonics teaching, using a wide range of graded home / school reading books, children reading to adults in school and with fantastic book corners full of brilliant texts and fantastic libraries that stimulate young minds and nurture a real love of reading! Our children leave Key Stage 1 with results that are above National Average and an ability to read confidently and evaluate what they have read – this is further developed in Key Stage 2 where are results are always well above average.


Children start making marks on paper at an early age and from these early mark makers we aim to develop confident and fluent writers. Across the school children are encouraged to write for different purposes and we constantly look to develop their vocabulary and sentence structure skills. This year we have started to teach children to join from Reception with a focus on developing marks, building strength in their hands through games and only then developing traditional joins. In KS1 the focus is on writing confidently and at length. In KS2 the focus is on spelling, punctuation and grammar and being able to write in a range of styles and genres. Our writing results are consistently above national average. All classes follow the new curriculum carefully.  The whole school takes part in fortnightly writing cafe where they are able to write from a ‘menu’ for pleasure. The choices are linked to the theme that the children are working, it allows for the school to ensure that they can write across the curriculum and therefore begin to fully understand its purpose.


In Reception the children learn the 44 main sounds heard in the English language as well as learning tricky words. They use these sounds to read and write simple words and sentences.

In Year 1 the children revisit the 44 main sounds and learn different ways to spell these. The children also continue to learn many more tricky words and develop a more adventurous vocabulary. At the end of Year 1 all children are screened using the national phonics screening check. They are taught using the LCP scheme.

Year 2 consists mainly of learning to spell and read more complex words and write extended sentences. They are taught using No Nonsense Spelling.

In KS2 we use a programme called ‘Dancing Bears’ which continues to develop the children’s spelling and phonic skills if needed. We also use the Year Group Spelling Lists provided in the National Curriculum.  Pupils are encouraged to continually apply their phonic knowledge in their writing across all subjects.

Modern Foreign Languages

LanguageAt our school we teach French through a fun, multi-sensory approach and offers many valuable learning opportunities. These include the development of language skills and language-learning skills and the ability to understand and communicate in a new language. The children have a weekly lesson based on the scheme ‘Jolie Ronde’ delivered by their teachers. Staff have received support from language specialists in the school. Being part of the Blacarras Teaching Partnership enables us to use their expertise. The school openly values languages through supporting the European Day of Languages and having a language of the term. Parents often come in and share their languages with the school.

Speaking and Listening

Across the school we are consistently trying to develop the children’s speaking and listening skills. Learning to take turns and listen to different people is also a lifelong skill.

Taking part in plays, productions and presentations helps children to develop their confidence for speaking in front of a group / audience. This is part of their work readiness preparing them for sophisticated events by the end of year 6 such as debating in a court of law!


All pupils have opportunities to listen to a wide variety of music from different times and cultures. Pupils also learn to improvise and develop their own musical compositions. Here at St. James’, we are offering an increasingly broad opportunity for children to have specialist instrumental teachers.  They are welcome to join our school choirs and we are currently embarking on setting up our own orchestra. We regularly send children to workshops at Cheltenham College to work with their music team and have enabled our talented children to access the National Youth Orchestra and perform at prestigious events such as the Armed Forces Musical Event at Imjin Barracks.

Art and Design and Food Technology

Through looking at, discussing, exploring and practising the techniques, children develop a visual perceptiveness and language with which they can explore the world around them and express their ideas and feelings. Art is experimental and explorative and is not just about the finished piece, but the whole creative process.

Often, you can see some fantastic art work on display and children in KS1 and KS2 have the opportunity to join arts and crafts clubs.

We are also very lucky to have our own pottery kiln!

We have a cookery room which is used by all pupils and with children in Reception regularly taking full advantage of the space. Year 5 has been lucky enough to be supported by a Jamie Oliver Food Ambassador and year 6 take part in food revolution day. As part of Cheltenham’s MasterChef project – St James’ competed against a large number of local schools, cooking a meal from scratch after a series of workshops from trained staff and with Creed Catering. One of our pupils was lucky enough to win the title of MasterChef champion this year, cooking at the Cheltenham Food Festival.

Children cook a range of foods with a focus on healthy and savoury products and the school provides links to food and charity and poverty through Fair Trade Fortnight and looking at food that has taken it’s influence from around the world, especially in out Tea Party – which celebrated Tea and snacks from around the world.

Mathematical Development

Curriculum-MathsMathematics is an important element of everyday life. At St James’ we aim to give all children positive and fun experiences that will enable them to acquire the knowledge, skills and understanding of the subject. We place a strong emphasis on the four rules of number as well as other core skills such as shape and space, algebra and statistics. All this is done in line with the National Curriculum. In maths lessons and throughout the day children are provided with problem solving activities, relating to real life situations – that give opportunities to use and apply their skills and knowledge. Alongside explicit maths lessons, where they learn both written and mental methods, we aim to include mathematics in our cross curricular activities, using practical, hands-on experiences wherever possible. Currently in many year groups we are taking part in a GLOW maths teaching project which is looking into the use of textbooks and a Singapore teaching methodology – here children start each session with a problem, create their own objects and ‘journal’ their thoughts and workings to solve the problem then apply to learning. This is in its infancy but we are already seeing a positive impact in our mathematical learning.

Drama and Dance

Through PE and through our creative curriculum children have many opportunities to explore new concepts through drama and dance.

Children often take part in festivals such as ‘stages’ and every child is able to take part in productions and plays.

This year Drama club produced an amazing play and the staff, parents and pupils were amazed by their talents.

Physical Education

P.E. is composed of dance, gymnastics, swimming, games including outdoor and adventurous, and athletic activities. At St. James’ we have a minimum of 2 P.E. lessons a week, with a top-up programme of ‘Wake and Shake’ (involving pupils and staff and led by year 6) so that children receive 2 hours of physical education per week. Children also have the opportunity through out of school clubs and the School Sports Partnership to be taught by specialist coaches from external agencies. Recent wins include Archery Level 2 competition, Tag Rugby runners up and team spirit award, Gloucestershire Gymnastics Finalists, Gloucestershire Cross Country Championship 2nd place overall.

Personal, Social, Health, Citizenship and Emotional Development (PSHCE)

PSHCE includes everything our school does to promote pupils’ good health and well-being and is backed by the National Healthy Schools Programme.

Overall our PSHCE curriculum exemplifies how we help children to be healthy, happy, economically secure and successful citizens.

However, much of this is also influenced and developed through day to day teaching, keeping children safe and our overall ethos including collective worship.

Our PSHCE curriculum is divided into core themes which are:

  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Relationships (which includes RSE)
  • Economic Development
  • Social and Emotional Development
  • Citizenship and Living in the Wider World

Additional to this we do blocks of work on safety awareness, sustainable and safe journeys to school and explicit teaching of drug awareness and relationships and sex education (RSE*). Any issues that arise for specific children, year groups or due to external influences may also be built into PSHCE and classroom discussions. This is part of being responsive to our children’s needs. Our citizenship strand also demonstrates how we promote fundamental British values (democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and respect and tolerance of / for others).

How we promote fundamental British Values:

  • Include in suitable parts of the curriculum, as appropriate for the age of pupils, material on the strengths, advantages and disadvantages of democracy, and how democracy and the law works in Britain, in contrast to other forms of government in other countries;
  • Ensure that all pupils within the school have a voice that is listened to, and demonstrate how democracy works by actively promoting democratic processes such as a school council whose members are voted for by the pupils;
  • Use opportunities such as general or local elections to hold mock elections to promote fundamental British values and provide pupils with the opportunity to learn how to argue and defend points of view;
  • Use teaching resources from a wide variety of sources to help pupils understand a range of faiths, and cultures.

Early Years Foundation Stage

In the Foundation Stage, we believe that play is an essential part of every child’s life and vital to all aspects of their development. This is carefully matched to real-life and hands on learning experiences. All of our children read, write and work with numbers on a daily basis and they make excellent progress during these years.


Science enables children to discover and investigate the world around them and to satisfy their natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge. We aim to encourage children to think independently and to explore scientific ideas through investigation and experiments. The scientific areas studied link where possible to our themes, enabling us to make the abstract more meaningful.

Religious Education

This is an important subject in our Church of England School. It is systematically covered from Foundation Stage through to Yr 6 and monitored in a range of ways. As well as Christianity, children learn about Judaism, Islam and Hinduism and how to respect the faith of others. They learn about sacred writings, places of worship, beliefs and traditions as well as many other faith characteristics. The school is able to meet regularly for separate KS1/KS2 collective worship and also as a whole school. This builds a real sense of family and community.

Historical, Geographical and Social Understanding

This is an important subject in our Church of England School. It is systematically covered from Foundation Stage through to Yr 6 and monitored in a range of ways. As well as Christianity, children learn about Judaism, Islam and Hinduism and how to respect the faith of others. They learn about sacred writings, places of worship, beliefs and traditions as well as many other faith characteristics. The school is able to meet regularly for separate KS1/KS2 collective worship and also as a whole school. This builds a real sense of family and community.

Behaviour and Pastoral Support

At St. James’ Church of England Primary School we pursue our vision of high aspiration and achievement through a clear and rigorous approach to rewards and behaviour management. We start with the assumption that children come to school wanting to learn and achieve to their full potential. Children are expected to behave appropriately at all times. Teachers aim to notice children doing the right thing and use examples of positive behaviour to encourage all children to behave well. Visitors always comment on the excellent behaviour of our children and they are impressed at how brilliantly our children work and play together.

Each week we have a ‘Celebration Assembly’ where children share their achievements and are recognised for new skills and excellent behaviour. Our small pastoral team support pupils extremely effectively and often support the whole family, offering advice and signposting for early help. They are a point of contact for pupil premium pupils and their families and any other vulnerable children at school.

Computing and ICT

ComputingAt St. James’ we believe that in our technology rich lives, it is crucial that our children are curious and confident when using ICT. We use ICT to enable our pupils to be active participants in their learning and to develop skills for the future. Pupil’s are involved in running aspects of the school website and working on our brilliant school newspaper.

All of our children are taught coding skills using guidance from the new curriculum, taking part in a day of coding and having a solid understanding of internet safety.