Core Knowledge

Introduction

We believe that learning should be rich, varied and exciting.

The Greenfields Primary School curriculum is based on Core Knowledge, a comprehensive and knowledge-based curriculum, which has been adapted for the UK by the research group Civitas from the US original, devised by ED Hirsch.

Professor James Comer of the Yale Child Study Center wrote in Parents magazine –

“Hirsch made it quite clear (in Cultural Literacy) that respect for cultural diversity is important but is best achieved when young people have adequate background knowledge of mainstream culture. In order for a truly democratic and economically sound society to be maintained, young people must have access to the best knowledge available so that they can understand the issues, express their viewpoints and act accordingly”.

The 2014 UK Primary National Curriculum is largely inspired by the Hirsch approach, but we want much more for our pupils. Core Knowledge goes beyond the limits of the National Curriculum, providing additional content that is both challenging and engaging.

Core Knowledge starts in Year One and prepares children for a lifetime of learning. We impart to every child a first-class knowledge-based education in the arts and sciences.

Our curriculum and teaching methods aim above all at the transmission of knowledge, which we believe is the best way to inspire a child with the thirst for a wider and deeper understanding of the world. It lays the foundations for an expanding grasp of a wide range of subjects later on in education.

We believe passionately that our approach ensures that our children’s mental horizons are progressively expanded beyond their everyday experience.

Sport and creative arts are also vital to a child’s development, so we provide a wide range of these activities.

Residential trips, excursions and activities within the local community further enhance our pupils’ educational experience and help them to develop confidence and independence. An extensive range of after-school clubs are organised each term. The activities range from reading club to art club and from science club to sports club.

The Greenfields Primary School Teaching and Learning Committee (TLC) oversees the curriculum.

For more information, visit the Core Knowledge website coreknowledge.org.uk

Core Knowledge FAQs

We believe passionately that our approach ensures that our children’s mental horizons are progressively expanded beyond their everyday experience.

Why is the acquisition of knowledge so important for my child? Surely you can find everything on the internet now?

Knowledge is required to understand the world about us and to think critically about things. Every subject in the school curriculum is based on a core of knowledge that the child needs to acquire in order to master the subject. We can find facts on the internet, but unless we hold information in our long-term memory, we cannot think critically about anything. Possessing a growing body of knowledge across a wide range of subjects will enable our pupils to question what they may read on the internet and not just accept as truth anything that comes to them through the mass media.

Why will my child be happier as a result of being taught Core Knowledge?

The better we understand the world we live in, the more successfully we engage with it. Acquiring command of a range of academic subjects gives a child the satisfaction of achievement and the security that comes from understanding his or her surroundings.

What does knowledge-based learning mean? Can you give me an example of how a lesson might be knowledge-based?

There are many different ways of teaching, but in recent years it has been popular to focus upon the teaching of skills, often through child-led methods such as discovery learning. In some cases this has led to the erosion of knowledge in the curriculum. With Core Knowledge, pupils will focus on a foundation of knowledge; as a result they will be able to develop skills such as critical thinking and analysis.

Knowledge-Based Lesson Example: To understand the importance of waterworks for Roman citizens

This lesson would occur in a unit of work where children are studying the Romans. Children would recap their previous learning, particularly specific vocabulary, before moving onto the content for this lesson. Children would discuss the role of water in a city. Knowing that the Romans built cities across their empire, children would then look at ways in which Romans overcame the problem of delivering water to their citizens. Children would learn about aqueducts, baths and sewage systems. The teacher would use a range of sources at this stage; these could include drawings, pictures, written accounts or artefacts where possible. Children would then show their understanding by writing about the importance of waterworks for Roman citizens, using key vocabulary correctly. This lesson may be followed by study of the Roman forum and the role it played in the life of Roman citizens.

Isn't Core Knowledge very old-fashioned?

The idea that something is old-fashioned suggests that it belongs to a different era. On the contrary: Core Knowledge is entirely up to date, using techniques of teaching and learning developed in progressive ancient cultures but adapted, most recently and with great success, in the last ten years in the US.  The basic principle of the approach is that we use our cultural inheritance and geographical context to show how and why we have got to where we are now; and through it our pupils are able to face the future armed with an understanding of how the past has shaped the society we live in today.

Why is it important for my child to learn Shakespeare? Are there not more relevant books for them?

Core Knowledge places great emphasis on the classic texts, not only Shakespeare but the myths and legends of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as classic fairy tales and children’s stories. The Roman historian Sallust said of myths that these things never happened and will always be true, because they tell us profound truths about the human condition. Our culture is deeply permeated by these classic texts, and it is important that children should be able to recognise references to the Mad Hatter and the Wooden Horse of Troy.

How does the Greenfields Core Knowledge curriculum go beyond what the government is introducing into the state sector?

The subject areas included in the Core Knowledge curriculum cover the content specified in the national curriculum, and actually go further in terms of detail and level of challenge. Children at Greenfields Primary may learn things in a slightly different order. Overall, we aim for children at Greenfields to be exceeding the expectations of the national curriculum.

Will my child leave school ahead of their peers from other schools, as a result of learning the Core Knowledge?

A child who has received a knowledge-based education in primary school will be well prepared for secondary school, where more detailed work is needed in all subject areas. The knowledge-enriched child will be able to grasp complicated subjects more easily than children who have received a more fragmented education, as they will be familiar with the grammar – ie the rules and principles – that underlie every subject.

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