Students at Hele’s School enjoy a curriculum that is firmly rooted in our belief that students need the knowledge to be successful and need qualifications to progress into the world of work. Alongside qualifications, we recognise that skills such as communication, leadership and teamwork are essential, and our curriculum offers many opportunities for students in these areas. Principles of cognition and memory for learning are embedded in our curriculum, as are structures to support cooperative learning; this is a key development in our strategy to ensure that students are partners in learning.
We are committed to the development of the whole child and pay high regard to the social and emotional aspects of learning; we want all young people to feel safe, to feel valued, to have confidence and pride in their abilities. Our curriculum enables every individual to shine and contribute positively to our school and the community.
We celebrate success, aspiration, challenge and inclusion, and are passionate and relentless in our drive for excellence, thus ensuring that all learners are supported into meaningful adult lives.
If you would like to find out more about our curriculum, please contact Mrs Andrea Ayres (Assistant Principal).
The Hele’s curriculum is organised around fifty 1-hour lessons per fortnight, the timetable being delivered as Week A & Week B. Below is an overview of subjects and their allocation as offered at each Key Stage:
Subject (hours per fortnight)
English (6), Maths (7), Science (6), MFL (5), Geography (3), History (3), RS (2), Art (2), Computing (2), Drama (2), Forensic Reading (2) Music (2), Personal Development (2), PE (4), Technology (2)
Core Curriculum: English Lang & Lit (7), Maths (7), Combined Science (9), Philosophy & Ethics (1) Personal Development (1), PE (3), Forensic Reading (2)
4 Option subjects (5 hours each) to include MFL/History or Geography
A range of AS/A Level/BTEC courses (9) alongside Forensic Reading (2), GCSE English/Maths if required (6)
We believe that running a three-year Key Stage 4 gives students access to a more challenging and engaging curriculum through increased opportunities to master their chosen subjects, experience learning outside the classroom and consequently achieve even greater success at GCSE level.
Key Stage 3
Our Key Stage 3 curriculum is designed to be ambitious, broad and balanced; all students study the traditional mix of academic subjects as well as the full range of arts subjects, design and food technology and a range of activities through PE. The curriculum is planned and sequenced so that all students have the knowledge and 'cultural capital' they need to be successful at KS4. Teachers plan lessons to encourage participation and cooperation between students, and the curriculum prepares students over 2 years with the knowledge and skills necessary to move into the more in-depth study from Year 9, where students begin the journey towards their GCSE courses.
We are committed to delivering all subjects on the National Curriculum, and give time to each subject over the two-year Key Stage, allowing students to make informed choices about those subjects they wish to pursue and develop a deeper understanding of as they move into Year 9. We achieve a balance between setting by ability and mixed ability delivery so that students have a well-rounded experience yet are challenged and supported in equal measure.
In Year 7 each Tutor group is a mixed ability group. Science, Personal Development, Music, Art, Drama and Computing are taught in these groups in Y7, whilst English, Humanities and MFL are taught in different mixed ability classes for all groups in Year 7, except one support group made up of students with specific literacy needs, based on Teacher Assessments from Primary colleagues and SATs. Students may move in and out of this support group in light of internal assessment data if appropriate, and they are extracted from English lessons to follow a specific literacy programme.
Maths lessons throughout the curriculum are set by ability across the whole year group, which we believe provides the best opportunities for stretch, challenge and support as appropriate, and hence maximises progress in maths. This also supports tiered entry at GCSE in later years. Opportunities for set changes occur throughout the year & are informed by internal assessment data and discussions between Heads of Departments, students and parents as appropriate.
Students are taught where possible in single-sex groups in PE, and smaller mixed groups for Technology, although these groups need to be much smaller than a Tutor group (no more than 24 students in a Technology group) to safeguard youngsters in practical delivery.
We offer French or German as a first foreign language to Year 7, known as the ‘core’ language. This is decided upon entry; 4 Tutor groups take French and 4 take German. All students take a Modern Foreign Language as part of their core curriculum throughout Key Stage 3.
This model is followed through into Years 8, with one change; Science classes are taught in the same classes as the maths sets, again refining the level of challenge and support for students as appropriate. Maths and science teachers work together to ensure the setting works for all students.
Key Stage 4
Hele’s School has an ambitious, traditional and rigorous Key Stage 4 curriculum that prepares our students well for the next stage of their education, whether advanced level study or apprenticeships. We are committed to providing a strong academic core for all of our young people, and the majority of our students study the full EBacc suite of subjects to GCSE level. The curriculum is planned and designed to give all learners, particularly the most disadvantaged and those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) or high needs, the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life. As well as a comprehensive offer of optional GCSE subjects we offer a small number of BTEC, ASDAN and Cambridge National Awards at Level 1 or 2 for those students better suited to practical assessment.
We believe that a 3-year Key Stage 4 provides students with increased, valuable opportunities to deepen their understanding of essential knowledge and skills and to experience and explore their subject outside the classroom. By maintaining 4 options alongside a rigorous core curriculum for all, students study a diverse range of subjects at GCSE level.
All students in Years 9, 10 and Year 11 study English (English Language and English Literature), Maths, Science (Trilogy), Active Leisure (non-examined PE, with an emphasis on healthy lifestyles), Religious Studies and Personal Development In addition to this core curriculum students take 4 additional subjects; for the majority of the cohort, this includes French, German or Spanish to GCSE level. A small cohort of students is identified as requiring additional support in core subjects and follow a Key Skills course including literacy and numeracy input, the iDeas Bronze Award, study support and enhanced CIAG; these students are still able to access 3 full GCSE option subjects, ensuring that they have a blended learning experience of vocational & academic opportunities more than ever before.
A programme of Citizenship, Personal Wellbeing, British Values, Health Education (including drugs, sex and sexual health), Economic Wellbeing and Careers is delivered through timetabled Religious Studies and Personal Development lessons.
KS4 students follow 4 courses from the following list:
Art; Business Studies; Computing; Design and Technology; Drama; Geography; Health & Social Care; History; French; German; Hospitality; ICT(Creative iMedia); Music; Physical Education; Sports Studies; Spanish.
In addition to this offer, able linguists may opt to follow GCSE Latin in twilight time, CCF cadets complete awards in Public Services, and those who dance outside of school may access Dance GCSE after school.
Core subjects, English, Maths, Science and MFL are blocked and each subject is set by ability in the subject across half-year populations. This supports the demands of tiered entry at GCSE for Maths, Science and MFL. English find it helpful at KS4 to teach in ability groups to ensure the top end students are challenged whilst allowing sufficient support for the weakest students. All other subjects are taught in mixed ability classes to ensure a blend of experience, and to maximise subject choice for all.
Our Sixth Form is ambitious and provides a challenge for all students. We welcome the majority of our Year 11 learners on into our Sixth Form and attract additional applications from students across the city at this stage of their education. Our courses are planned with the assumption that students will be going on to study at university. Whilst this is not the case for all students this leads to the highest expectations and explicit delivery of subject knowledge.
A wide range of courses are available in the Sixth Form Centre. The majority are A level subjects, with a few A level equivalent courses, such as a BTEC in Applied Science, running alongside these. All courses are equivalent in size to one A level, are taught over two years and receive 9 hours of direct tuition from a subject specialist per fortnight. 1 hour a fortnight is timetabled as Independent Study which is to support wider reading & research around the subject by the students. Subjects are divided into 5 teaching blocks, and students may only choose one subject from each block. Most students are encouraged to make 3 choices, with a 4th subject offered to the most able students if appropriate. Some students will be guided towards the Extended Project at Level 3 or Work Experience to supplement and complement their studies.
Several subjects are also provided on a consortium level, with a minority of students travelling to another local school in the Plym Consortium to access a course. This collaboration not only provides consortium solutions to resolve potential clashes for young people, but it also allows sharing of staff/resources/expertise to maximise efficiency, as well as the prospect of offering a broader range of courses and opportunities for Plym learners with appropriate, localised progression pathways.
For students who are identified with a particular need, a one-year vocational study programme is offered through selected, local off-site training providers as a steppingstone on to employment, Further Education or an apprenticeship. This is an individually negotiated programme allowing students to acquire nationally recognised vocational qualifications alongside work experience in an extensive range of areas, widening their employment and further education choices. A student accessing this provision is likely to be working towards GCSE English and Maths, and their timetable is shaped to suit their individual requirements. Students are encouraged and supported to gain work experience for one day a week.
All students follow a programme of personal development activities through a pastoral programme, delivered by tutors. Work Experience is an integral part of the Post 16 curriculum, with all students supported to find a placement during the whole school Aspiration Week at the end of year 12. The CIAG programme ensures that all students are encouraged to consider higher education, apprenticeship routes and employment as valid progression routes, and supported in making appropriate decisions around their next steps.
There is a broad range of extra-curricular activities offered to youngsters of all ages, abilities and aptitudes. Many of these are subject-specific (PE clubs; Animal Club; Street Dance, etc) although there are also cross-curricular and leadership programmes to engage learners on a more spiritual or social level (Christianity Club; Mindfulness; Duke of Edinburgh; CCF; Sports Leaders; Language Leaders; Literacy Leaders, etc)
Our annual ‘Aspiration Week’ is an action-packed enrichment week for Years 7-9, whilst Year 10 and Year 12 are on work experience. During this week, the normal school timetable is suspended & replaced by an extensive menu of activities to suit all interests, giving all young people the chance to try new things or improve their skills & knowledge in hobbies or interests outside school, & to work with other young people across the age range. There are opportunities for residential experiences, sports, outdoor & adventure activities, creative and arts-based activities, science, technology and nature experiences, and of course, this gives opportunities to improve or to try new hobbies and interests.
Work Experience remains an integral part of our curriculum guarantee to young people, despite the withdrawal of the statutory entitlement to Work Experience at KS4. All Year 10 learners have an opportunity to undertake a week of Work Experience with local employers during Aspiration Week. Post-16 students are actively encouraged and supported to undertake Work Experience throughout this week also. Those Year 10s not engaging in Work Experience follow an in-house programme around ‘Preparation for Working Life’ instead. Delivered in partnership with Training Providers, local Employers & Colleges, this programme has its emphasis on employability skills, CEIAG & First Aid
We have reviewed our arrangements for homework this year and have tried to simplify our schedule. Students should be receiving the following amount of homework over each two-week period.
Students should log homework in their planner and staff will also log on ClassCharts.
At KS4 all examined subjects to set a weekly homework of up to one hour.
Maths, Science, English, MFL
1 homework of 30–40 mins per week (Y7) rising to up to an hour in Y9.
All other subjects (excluding PE)
1 homework of 30–40 mins per fortnight (Y7) rising to up to an hour in Y9.
Reviewed: September 2020
Following the amended publication of ‘Guidance for full opening: schools’ on 28 August 2020, Hele’s School has made the following temporary changes to the Curriculum policy.
The School is continuing to provide a broad, balanced and rich curriculum to maintain pupils’ choices for further study and employment whilst adhering to government guidance including the system of controls to prevent and respond to any infection.
The School continues to operate a two-week timetable of fifty periods. There are five periods per day, each of which lasts 60 minutes.
Lessons are timetabled into Year group zones. This means that specialist teaching areas are not available for some lessons. Where specialist teaching rooms are required at Key Stage 4, they are timetabled to one year group per day, in line with government guidance.
In Year 7, students are taught in their tutor groups for all subjects except PE which is streamed for Term 2 and split by gender. The curriculum for drama, music, PE, art and technology has been adapted to adhere to government guidance.
In Year 8, students are taught in the same classes for all subjects except Science and Maths, which are set by ability across the year group. PE is streamed as for Y7. The curriculum for drama, music, PE, art and technology has been adapted to adhere to government guidance.
The school day
Tutor groups have moved from vertical to horizontal; this permanent change coincided with the start of this academic year. Tutorial sessions have been staggered so that Y7, 8, 10, 13 have morning tutorials before teaching starts and Y9,11,12 have afternoon tutorials at the end of the day. During this time there is a planned and structured tutor-time programme. Pupils also attend regular, virtual Year group assemblies during this time. Each afternoon, students are registered at the start of period 4.
Break times have been amended to 2x30-min breaks to support adherence to government guidance.
Catch up support
All year groups have access to the Learn and Grow (Y7-10) or Study Café (Y11) which is run by specially trained staff every afternoon at the end of the school day to support students who feel they have missed valuable input during the extended period of remote learning last academic year.
Y11 intervention in Term 2 will focus on exam subjects with NEA and practical assessments, to ensure that students can prioritise these early and remain focused on exam preparation into Term 3 and beyond. These sessions run at the end of the school day and targeted students are invited to attend.
Y11 assemblies have been timetabled termly during the school day, in half cohort populations to ensure preparation for examination periods are thorough and supportive.