Alexander First School

Acquire knowledge, prepare for the future, research in action



At Alexander First School we place the curriculum at the heart of school life. It drives all other decisions that we make and is the best means we have of demonstrating as a school what we believe in and what we stand for. In essence, our curriculum is designed to ensure that all pupils at Alexander acquire knowledge that they cannot learn at home and that the specified curriculum knowledge is based on the most coherent and tested ways of conceptualising the world that we have. We know that learning can best be defined as a change in one's long-term memory and that the best way of testing the efficacy of a curriculum and its enactment by teachers is to evaluate how much of that taught curriculum a student can use at a given point in the future. This is especially relevant for our Service (Army) pupils who experience high levels of mobility and educational disruption. 

This is why at Alexander First School we have an assessment model that is intertwined within our curriculum – they are inextricable and one and the same thing because the curriculum provides the framework from which students are assessed – not an exam specification years in the future. This is why we believe work scrutinies and lesson observations are at best poor proxies for student learning – material written in a book is not evidence of a change in one's long-term memory. We instead use work scrutiny to evaluate the scholarly atmosphere and pride of our students.

So at Alexander First we explicitly teach a rich foundation of subject-specific and broader cultural knowledge that enables us to ensure our students can participate in and shape the national discourse; learning to think in more powerful ways through subject-specific teaching and exposure to enriching experiences that take them beyond their everyday models.

This belief in the centrality of the curriculum to the school experience shapes everything we do at Alexander First School. Schools can teach, and develop understanding, of academic subjects to as wide a group as possible. This is the democratic promise of state education. Therefore at Alexander First we believe that all learners should encounter and wrestle with ways of constructing knowledge and ways of thinking that are above their everyday experiences, and see that academic concepts are different from everyday concepts and ways of explaining the world.

Why do we honour knowledge?

Many poor readers can sound out words from print, so in that sense, they can read. Yet they are functionally illiterate — they comprehend very little of what they can sound out.[1] This is in part due to their lack of vocabulary and also due to them having been deprived of the cultural knowledge that literate adults take for granted. As Willingham points out, our broad background knowledge not only allows the reader to comprehend the sentences, it also has a powerful effect as you continue to read because it narrows the interpretations of new text that you will entertain. The cognitive system gambles that incoming information will be related to what you’ve just been thinking about. Thus, it significantly narrows the scope of possible interpretations of words, sentences, and ideas.[2]

What design principles shape our curriculum? At Alexander First School we…


  • Acknowledge that students need deep knowledge of a subject in order to think creatively or critically about it.
  •  Acknowledge that to “think like a scientist,” a student must know the facts, concepts and procedures that a scientist knows and must see the teacher as a more knowledgeable expert.
  • Prove that almost all students should be able to learn almost all material in a standard school curriculum.
  • Acknowledge that if students have not learned material early in a curriculum, they will have more difficulty with material later in the curriculum.
  • Ensure that that the core concepts of a subject also organises teaching.
  • Embed a high degree of challenge from Day 1. We accept that students arriving at the school in Nursery have a capacity to work with complex ideas and we ensure that the curriculum treats students as intelligent.

The curriculum is designed such that pupils leave Alexander First School:

  • Culturally literate and able to contextualise events and experiences and act accordingly.
  • With a broad domain-specific knowledge base that allows them to conceptualise the world in more scientific ways.
  • Able to participate in the national discourse.
  • Committed to doing the best they can.
  • Skilled enough to make a valuable contribution to society and the economy.
  • Able to take ownership of their future.
  • Aware of their community and willing to play a constructive role in it.

[1] Willingham, D. (2017) ‘How to Get Your Mind to Read.’ New York Times.
[2] Willingham, D. (2016) ‘Knowledge and Practice: The Real Keys to Critical Thinking.’ Knowledge matters.

Please see below for the Alexander First School Curriculum maps