Choosing the right school for your child is a huge decision. There are so many things to consider that it can be hard to know where to start. Proximity to home, day VS boarding, pros and cons of an all-through school approach are all important factors. Once you’ve taken all those things into account though, a great place to start is by evaluating the curriculum.

Curriculum is a hot topic at the moment due to a recent report by the HMC. The State of Education – Time to Talk reflects on the purposes of curriculum and assessment in an ever-changing, post-pandemic world.

In response to this, many independent schools are assessing whether their curricula are really equipping young people with the knowledge and skills they’ll need for the future. Literacy and numeracy will always be crucial, but increasing importance is being put on data and digital literacy, physical and mental health, and social and environmental skills.

Framlingham College in Suffolk is one independent school that is leading the way with curriculum development. The School started working on a bespoke approach to its curriculum in September 2021, with a vision of preparing its pupils to thrive as global citizens in their adult world.

It’s an exciting time for schools, like Framlingham, who are changing the way they look at learning. Below, we share the key factors to consider when looking at a potential school’s curriculum, to make sure you choose the right school for your child.

Framlingham College fosters a lifelong love of learning

Ethos and educational philosophy

A good way to get a feel for a school’s approach to learning is to find out as much as you can about their ethos, educational philosophy, and values. It’s important to make sure they align with your own beliefs and goals for your child’s education.

At Framlingham, each child is celebrated as an individual. The School’s range of subjects and courses is designed to allow pupils to flourish, whatever their journey may be.

Integral to teaching and learning at Framlingham, is a huge focus on interconnected learning inside and outside of the classroom. Fostering a lifelong love of learning, this approach not only deepens pupils’ knowledge of each subject area, but also helps them to develop crucial skills.

Lucy Manning, Assistant Head of Teaching and Learning at Framlingham College says: “We want our children to flourish and thrive and have a passion and a hunger for learning that will stay with them forever.”

Learning beyond knowledge

Excellence in core subjects including English, Maths, Science, Languages, and the Arts is undoubtedly important. However, many schools are now recognising that a well-rounded education goes beyond what has traditionally been taught in the classroom. 

At Framlingham, academic subjects are not just about learning facts so that children can pass their exams. The School endeavours to foster intellectual curiosity and the spirit of inquiry with engaging and challenging lessons where every pupil is expected to take an active part.

Gaining skills is given just as much importance as gaining knowledge. Skills such as leadership, listening, and collaboration to help to support children across the whole curriculum.

Lucy Manning says: “We aim to give them the literacy skills, the empathy, critical thinking skills, the skills to work with other people to be able to flourish beyond GCSE. This is about lifelong learners, it’s not about children who can just pass an exam.”

She continues: “We don’t want to be just delivering facts and knowledge to our children and then they regurgitate it back in a standardised test. We want to make sure that our children are asking why? They need to be curious if they are going to be successful members of society in the 21st century.”

Enrichment and elective courses

Look for schools that offer a variety of enrichment opportunities and elective courses such as music, art, physical education, foreign languages, and extracurricular activities. These can help nurture your child’s interests and talents.

There’s a huge breadth of opportunities for pupils at Framlingham within the School’s co-curricular programme. Children are encouraged to gain new skills, try new experiences, and develop their interests, within a supportive learning environment.

The Senior School has a flourishing Duke of Edinburgh programme and all activities beyond the curriculum are structured into three broad categories so that they contribute to the Award. Within the Prep School there’s also the Junior Duke Award, a starter DofE programme for pupils, aimed to develop important and essential life skills, where the children’s co-curricular choices contribute to the achievement of skills, volunteering and active elements of the awards.

Lucy Manning says: “All the children have to learn a range of different skills. They have to show that they’re taking care of others, they’ve got to volunteer their time to help other people. And it’s those skills that we’re building up from a very early age that will put them ahead of other children who are solely focused on an academic journey.” 

Teaching approaches

Investigate the teaching methods used, including project-based learning, experiential learning, traditional instruction, or a combination of approaches. Determine which approach aligns with the needs of your child.

Framlingham is an all-through school for pupils aged 3-18. The learning journey is designed to be seamless throughout the School. This can take away a lot of the stresses of transitioning from Prep to Senior, as pupils know what to expect.

Framlingham’s Year 7-9 curriculum is thematic and is intended to support teachers to deliver rigorous, exciting, and purposeful lessons. Learning is framed with the use of inquiry questions to provide a bigger picture, encourage adaptive learning, and help pupils to see the interrelationships between themes.

Lucy Manning says: “If we’re exploring a theme like global citizenship, we might study a novel in English looking at refugees and the refugee story. That’s the perfect time to look at migration of people in Geography. And then, in Science, that’s when we look at how we make sure that we are becoming respectful global citizens through looking at ways of combating climate change.”

Pupils at Framlingham College work on laptops from Year Seven

The role of technology

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in learning inside and outside the classroom. By integrating technology into the curriculum, educators can accelerate learning, optimise collaboration and communication, provide personalised learning opportunities, increase student engagement and productivity, and provide experiential learning opportunities. Technology also helps teachers to be more efficient and makes learning more engaging.

As parents, however, we are ever aware of the negative impact of too much screen time, so it’s important to determine if a potential school has a balanced approach to integrating technology into their curriculum.

Framlingham believes that technology should be used to complement learning and move learning forward. Lucy Manning says: “We’re definitely not a school that wants to use technology in any kind of gimmicky way. We know that AI is developing rapidly and there are so many different tools out there.  We’re being quite sensible in our approach.”

All children at Framlingham have laptops from Year Seven and they use Microsoft Office Suite and OneNote. This enables teachers to give fast and efficient feedback. The School has been using VR headsets with great success with younger pupils, providing exciting immersive learning experiences. AI is also used in lessons to start conversations, make learning relevant and engaging, and show children how it can shape their future.

Special education and extra support

If your child has special educational needs, enquire about the School’s support services for students with disabilities or learning differences. Look for evidence of diverse perspectives in the curriculum and a welcoming and inclusive school culture.

Framlingham offers an inclusive ethos where teachers ensure that pupils with learning needs are able to access every aspect of school life as fully as possible. There are Heads of Academic Support at both the Senior School and Prep School, to ensure children are assisted in their development wherever possible.

Lucy Manning says: “We cater to individual needs on a child-by-child basis, making sure that each child has as much access to everything possible on the curriculum, and that whatever their need, it’s never detrimental to their opportunities in school.”

Examinations, assessment, and grading

It’s important to understand how a school assesses progress and how grades are determined. Is there good parent-teacher communication and does the school provide progress reports?

Lucy Manning says: “We focus on two things. Firstly, attitude to learning, which we feel is more important than attainment. Whether they’re showing the right behaviours, whether they are respectful, whether they listen, whether they are committing themselves to doing their prep correctly, and how they’re working with other people in the classroom. Secondly, with their attainment grades, we really focus on progress, rather than whether a child is an A or B grade.”

Homework policy and workload are also important to consider. Make sure it’s manageable and age-appropriate for your child.

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Pupils at Framlingham College are well prepared for life outside the school gates

Further education and career readiness

Consider how well the school prepares students for higher education or their future careers. Look at the school’s university acceptance rates and past performance.

Framlingham has a Careers Programme to help support and inspire pupils at all stages. The process begins in Year 9 PSHE, where pupils reflect on their skills and attributes, think about their employability, and begin to research routes into work. 

Final thoughts

Whenever possible, visit the school in person to observe classrooms, meet teachers, and get a sense of the overall environment. Don’t hesitate to ask questions during the admission process to ensure that the school meets your child’s unique needs and your expectations.

Ultimately, the right school for your child should align with your family’s values, your child’s specific learning needs and their individual needs. Careful consideration of the curriculum and other factors can help you choose a school where your child will thrive.

This is a sponsored post created in collaboration with Framlingham College Prep School, a boarding and day school located in Suffolk for boys and girls 3 – 18.

Read more school news here.