We believe that how a child learns is as important as what a child learns. Our teaching techniques reflect the latest pedagogical research. We want children to develop research and presentational skills, to question and to justify what they hear and say. Pair work and partner talk are used extensively and higher-order thinking skills are developed with open-ended and ‘what if?’ questioning.
We teach from whole to parts, simple to complex and concrete to abstract. We offer our children an extensive and challenging education in breadth, depth and richness. Our children are well taught and thoroughly prepared for their next school and many achieve well above national expectations.
At the beginning of every academic year, baseline ability assessments are undertaken in reading, writing and maths. A cohort tracker (with information from the previous year) is also used as a starting point. This tracker contains a list of the outcomes (key assessment statements from the National Curriculum) that each child has achieved. These are the objectives that a child must have achieved to be ready to access the next year of study. This tracker equips teachers and leaders with an immediate overview of what the child has and has not learnt.
For new pupils that start within the academic year, the teacher will quickly establish what point these children have reached in their learning. Previous school records will be used to ascertain pupils’ respective starting points.
PGP’s curriculum has two special elements: the Creative Curriculum and our STEAM initiative (science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths).
Our Creative Curriculum aims to give children a rich and varied experience that develops their key skills and knowledge and broadens their interests. We encourage a cross-curricular approach to strengthen and consolidate learning, positively impacting on children’s understanding of topics. Themed learning with cross-curricular links enables children to have a deeper understanding of the topic. At the start of the topic the children are asked two key questions: what do you already know about the topic and what would you like to find out?
Ask a child to solve a maths problem, and you have supported them through their next assessment. Ask a child to explore the universe with you, build a rocket and see how maths is an integral part of this process, and you have captured their curiosity. This is what our STEAM initiative is all about. It brings science, technology, engineering and maths to life and gives purpose and real meaning to learning in the classroom. STEAM is designed to capture the enthusiasm young children have for science and empirical discovery and develop this into a lasting interest in STEAM subjects.
Through English, we develop our ability to listen, speak, read and write. These fundamental life skills enable children to express themselves fluently and creatively and give them the foundation they need to become enthusiastic, lifelong readers and writers. English forms part of the Creative Curriculum. Reading and writing skills are developed and nurtured in conjunction with different topic work, giving the children the opportunity to improve their skills in a variety of different contexts. Children’s English skills are developed through constant support and encouragement, starting in the Early Years and continuing as children progress through the school.
In Key Stages 1 and 2, English skills are taught in dedicated daily lessons. These sessions typically cover a reading or a writing activity, a focused word or sentence activity, a guided group or independent activity or a whole class session for reviewing progress and learning. Children develop important skills, learning to talk to adults as well as their peers. They are taught to listen carefully to expand their vocabulary and are also shown how to explore words in texts. Children from Year 1 upwards have designated spelling, punctuation and grammar skills lessons, as well as the opportunity to apply taught skills during daily independent writing sessions. Children are shown self-evaluation techniques. They are given the tools to begin planning, drafting and evaluating their own work.
The children enjoy putting their English skills into action at our special school events, including readathons, spelling bees, book fairs and author visits. World Book Day provides another exciting opportunity for us to enthuse our young learners, with the whole school taking part in themed events. Weekly class assemblies, school productions and ‘buddy’ reading activities also develop speaking and listening skills and help the children to gain confidence by performing for an audience.
Maths forms an integral part of our science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths (STEAM) initiative. Through maths, we seek to challenge and extend children in their mathematical thinking as well as supporting and emphasising the key skills of STEAM. We have introduced multi-sensory resources, including Numicon, an award-winning maths resource encompassing specialised shapes and rods to help pupils understand number relationships and patterns. Children are taught a broad base of mathematical knowledge and skills. We teach to each child’s individual needs, supporting or extending them where appropriate and catering for all children across the learning spectrum.
Maths is reinforced by other elements of the curriculum. It is further supported by the new computing curriculum, and each Key Stage 2 child has their own electronic tablet. From Year 1 upwards, our children can take advantage of the Chesslings club and advanced chess sessions on offer. The benefits of chess are well documented and this helps enhance our maths programme at Parsons Green Prep.
In Key Stage 1, children develop a knowledge and understanding of maths through visual, auditory and kinaesthetic teaching and learning. They learn to count, read, write and order numbers to 100 and beyond. They develop a range of mental calculation skills and are encouraged to use these confidently in different settings. They learn about shape and space through practical activities that help their understanding of the environment. They are introduced to mathematical language and encouraged to use it to explain methods and reasoning when solving problems.
In Key Stage 2, children are taught to use and apply number skills more confidently. They move from counting with ease to calculating with all four number operations. They are taught strategies to try and solve problems with mental methods before using other approaches. We explore features of shape and space, and develop measuring skills in a range of contexts. They gain confidence in discussing and presenting their reasoning and methods, using a wide range of mathematical terms, diagrams and charts. The idea of ‘working mathematically’ is fostered from the start across all strands of learning.
An understanding of biology, chemistry and physics starts with an inquiring mind. Our primary aim is to harness each child’s natural inquisitiveness and develop their scientific skills, knowledge and understanding of the world. Children enjoy a wealth of resources in our science room. They are encouraged to work scientifically by asking scientific questions, using scientific vocabulary, planning and carrying out investigations and analysing their results. We aim to build key knowledge and science skills and carry out practical investigations, encouraging their curiosity and making learning exciting.
The children get involved in ‘real’ scientific activities. These include preparing and undertaking science experiments, solving everyday problems linked to current affairs, visiting local science museums, gardens and environmental centres, and participating in recycling and ecological initiatives. They also hear from members of scientific groups and various science educators who are invited to speak and share their experiences with the children.
At Parsons Green Prep we use a variety of teaching and learning styles in our science lessons, which are differentiated to support all the learning needs within the class. The children work in pairs and in small groups to encourage discussion. They are tasked with inquiry-based research activities. Each term, we have whole school activities linked to the science curriculum. One particularly exciting example was a project to hatch chicks – their progress was broadcast to the classrooms and school hall via a live weblink. The children enjoy whole school science days and workshops through the year.
We support and extend the children in computing skills and aim to provide them with the relevant knowledge they will need for the future. We follow the new National Curriculum for computing. This has three main areas: computer science, information technology and digital literacy.
Computing is not a standalone subject. While it is taught as a dedicated lesson to everyone, computing also features as a part of many other lessons, whether preparing a presentation in French or putting together a spreadsheet in maths. Computer literacy is taken for granted at the majority of senior schools and we expect our pupils to achieve a good level of proficiency before they leave PGP. Good technological resources enable teachers to enhance learning and teach computing skills effectively.
Teachers use a range of strategies to deliver computing. These include whole-class demonstrations using classroom Smartboards, individual or paired working, whole-class discussions, collaborative group work, pair-work and peer evaluation. Computing is taught in a gradual, balanced and stimulating way across the Key Stages.
We are an accredited STEAM school – standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, The Arts and Maths. Primary school age is the perfect moment to encourage children to explore and to understand and the links between these subjects. Whether making balloon-powered cars or a bridge made out of newspaper, it is an opportunity for children to problem-solve, design, create and explain. Through STEAM, pupils develop a valuable set of skills including teamwork, resilience, reasoning and critical and creative thinking.
STEAM at PGP is promoted in a variety of ways, including assemblies, STEAM-themed days, workshops and a weekly STEAM after-school club. Outside speakers are invited to the school to enhance the children’s learning experience. They come from a variety of backgrounds; their enthusiasm and commitment encourage young people to engage in STEAM and to see the career possibilities that come from learning and linking STEAM subjects.
At Parsons Green Prep we understand that physical education is an important part of a child’s all-round development. PE lessons not only make for happy, healthy children; they also provide an opportunity to learn key life skills. They are designed to both stimulate and challenge our children. They are supported in the development of new skills and techniques and given the tools they need to succeed with competition. PE provides children with an opportunity to become independent learners and valuable team members. They learn to work together and develop an understanding of teamwork. PE lessons help them develop their own ideas and initiative, with older children often leading part of the session and showcasing their skills to younger pupils. We are inclusive and girls and boys may experience playing all the sports on the programme.
We offer the following team sports as part of our curriculum:
In addition to curriculum sport, we have an extensive list of sports clubs, which are run in the mornings and after school. Through these clubs children can further develop their skills or try out entirely new sports like fencing.
During the Early Years and Year 1, children learn basic core hand-eye skills to develop their co-ordination and spatial awareness. Core skills include throwing, catching and gymnastics. PE equipment is modified to complement ability and age levels. As the children move through the school, they are encouraged to participate in a team sport.
We believe it is important that every child has the opportunity to play sport competitively. Our school sports teams play against other local schools in tournaments and matches throughout the year. As members of the Independent Schools Association (ISA) there are a number of tournaments and festivals of sport that we attend in west London. Over the past few years, our teams have achieved impressive results in netball, football and tag rugby. We have also had success in athletics, where a number of children achieved medals in the sprints and long jump at the ISA west London athletics meet.
Every summer we hold a house swimming gala for Key Stages 1 and 2 and a whole school sports day, where all children are encouraged to take part and have fun. Sports day is a fantastic opportunity for parents to come along and see their children in action. Weather permitting, children and parents can round off the day with a relaxing picnic in the sun organised by our parents’ association, Friends of Parsons Green Prep (FOPGP).
Our music programme is taught to all pupils by a specialist teacher. Starting with the basics of beat and rhythm in Reception, the programme builds up to a fuller understanding of notation and theory by Year 6. Each year-group has an instrument – whether tin whistle, recorder, ukulele or drums – on which to experiment and practise while following the course and will usually perform for parents at the end of the year. They develop an understanding of musical composition, organising and manipulating ideas within musical structures and reproducing sounds from aural memory. They are taught to appreciate and understand a wide range of high-quality music drawn from different traditions and composers and musicians, as well as developing a knowledge of musical history.
In addition to whole class lessons, private instrumental music lessons are available in (at present) piano, guitar, violin, singing and drums. Termly music assemblies and Friday ‘tea concerts’ provide the opportunity for musicians to perform in front of an audience.
Children also have the opportunity to perform in a choir or orchestra. We have three choirs rehearsing every term and performances take place at Christmas and at the end of the year. The repertoire is varied and enjoyable and for many it is the easiest and least stressful way of getting up on stage!
The ability to speak well in public is a highly prized skill and we want all of our pupils to have a go at taking the stage. There are many such opportunities: the poetry challenge, House Day, reading match and trip reports, the form assembly and the LAMDA assembly, the Nativity play and the three other plays we perform each year. PGP children traditionally rise to these challenges and quickly develop the poise and confidence to capture an audience’s attention.
English lessons routinely incorporate drama – this is a key way of bringing text to life. Many children will also take individual LAMDA lessons and our record of Merits and Distinctions in the associated exams is spectacular.
Art is a vital part of the Creative Curriculum at Parsons Green Prep, supporting all-round development and enabling independent thinking and expression. Class teachers deliver art lessons in the Early Years and Key Stage 1. In Key Stage 2, specialist teachers give lessons in the art room. We ensure that learning is relevant, effective and fun by threading art objectives through cross-curricular topics.
We aim to provide visual, tactile and sensory experiences for children to communicate what they see, feel and think through the use of colour, texture, form, pattern and different materials and processes. Pupils have the opportunity to explore a wide variety of media through drawing, painting, pottery and sculpture.
Pupils explore ideas and meanings from the work of artists and designers and the impact they have on our lives and culture. In particular, our much-loved school Art Day is an opportunity for pupils to study the work of a designated artist. They produce a range of creative work that is then displayed around the school.
We believe that languages should be an enjoyable and rewarding experience and an avenue to promote awareness of different cultures and traditions. Our languages programme provides children with the opportunity to specialise in French, which is taught throughout the school, on a weekly basis, by a native French speaker.
Our aim is to ensure that all children leaving at the age of 11 have a good understanding and sufficient command of the language, providing them with a solid foundation for their studies at their next schools. Regarding how we work, the children begin to develop language skills, learning through repetition, songs and games. This is followed by a basic introduction to French writing by the end of Year 2. Key Stage 2 pupils continue to develop their conversational French through roleplay, which is reinforced by reading stories and increased written work. By Year 6, children should be able to participate in class discussions in French.
We have recently relaunched Le French Programme at Parsons Green Prep. This is designed to provide French lessons to children of French-speaking families within the English educational system. Children learn to appreciate the French curriculum within a calm and secure environment. The French Programme combines the rigour of the French curriculum (by using various supports like Bled, Bescherelle, and Boscher’s method, etc) with the positive and encouraging attitude of the English way of teaching. The club embraces several key learning areas, including reading, writing, conjugation, grammar and spelling. And also from Year 3, Le French Programme focuses on the basics of maths and French history. During the school day, French classes are split: children within the F.P. have their French lessons while the rest of the class learn French with their own teacher. In the afternoon, the F.P. runs as an after-school programme (compulsory). This allows the children to follow the F.P. without missing any key lessons of their English curriculum.
Cross-curricular links are all important in our teaching of history. It is more than likely that a study of the Victorians – for example – will tie in with what the children are learning about in art (William Morris prints), English (the novel Street Child) or geography (global locations). The study of the Egyptians might tie in with the construction of a shaduf in STEAM lessons or the discussion of creation stories in RE. We do not see history as a discrete subject; making links between events and developments across cultures and disciplines is a key part of our teaching.
In Key Stage 1 children travel back to the world of the knights, kings and queens of the medieval era and begin to understand the history of London through key events like the Great Fire of London in 1666. We use stories to encourage the children to engage with historical events. The children are also shown resources to provoke questions about the past and compare historical occurrences with events today. We use art to bring history to life, focusing on a number of notable artists and exploring the depiction of key historical events.
In Key Stage 2, we explore a timeline which takes in the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Celts. The children approach history in a variety of ways. They are introduced to political, economic, technological and scientific, social, religious, cultural and aesthetic perspectives. The children work with historical sources to improve their understanding of the past both in depth and breadth. Using different sources teaches the children that the past can be represented and interpreted in different ways. They develop techniques for writing about the past. They are encouraged to use dates and historical vocabulary to describe events, people and key historical changes.
In Key Stage 1 children develop skills using a range of mapping resources and learn to navigate using simple compass directions. They explore the local area and look at a small part of the UK and contrast it with a non-European location. They also learn to locate the capital cities on a map and name the seven continents and the five oceans. Time is spent studying weather patterns in the UK and learning where the hot and cold parts of the world are in relation to the equator.
In Key Stage 2 knowledge and understanding is extended beyond the local area and into places around the world. Children learn about geographical regions and their physical and human characteristics. The significance of longitude, latitude, Arctic and Antarctic circles and time zones is also explored. In physical geography, volcanoes, mountains and earthquakes are investigated. In human geography, trade links and the distribution of natural resources are considered. Children learn to use the eight points of a compass, four and six-figure grid references, symbols and keys to build their knowledge of the United Kingdom and the wider world. They enjoy rural residential trips during Key Stage 2.
Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education helps children identify, manage and even celebrate the many personal, economic and social challenges they face during their time at school and in the future.
We recognise that ‘pupil voice’ (pupils being engaged as active participants in their education) is vitally important for ensuring that children feel valued, safe and supported in their environment. Our school council plays a key role in encouraging pupil voice. A child from each class makes up the council and they attend regular meetings with the headteacher. Children are given the opportunity to make decisions and vote, as well being introduced to the democratic system. Year 6 house captains are supported by vice house captains.
In Key Stage 1, pupils learn about themselves as developing individuals and as members of their communities, drawing from their own experiences and from the Early Learning goals for personal, social and emotional development. They learn about a healthy lifestyle and how to keep themselves healthy. Children are taught the importance of keeping safe. They are given the opportunity to show that they can take responsibility for themselves and their environment.
Children are taught the importance of working with others. They begin to learn about their own and other people’s feelings and become aware of the views, needs and rights of other children and older people. As members of their class and the school community, they learn social skills such as how to share, take turns, play, help others, resolve simple arguments and resist bullying. They begin to take an active part in the life of their school and its community.
In Key Stage 2, pupils use their Key Stage 1 knowledge and skills as a foundation from which to build. They learn more about themselves as individuals and as members of their communities, exploring their own experiences and ideas. They become more mature, independent and self-confident. They learn how to make more informed choices about their health and the environment, to take more responsibility, individually and as a group, for their own learning, and to resist bullying. They learn how to take a more active part in school and community activities.
Children learn about the wider world and the interdependence of its many communities. They develop a sense of social justice and moral responsibility and begin to understand that their own choices and behaviour can affect local, national and global issues and political and social institutions. We support our children with their changes through puberty. We help them to prepare for the challenge of transition to their senior schools. With our support and encouragement, PHSE sessions help to equip our children with the skills to face these new challenges and to believe that success starts from within.
PSHE, amongst other aspects of school life, also actively promotes fundamental British values. Children study topics related to British values of distinguishing right from wrong and respect for democracy and equality, including an appreciation for other cultural traditions as well as a broad general knowledge of public institutions in England.
While being a non-denominational school, Religious Education (RE) remains an important part of the school curriculum. RE lessons contribute to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of our children. We consider and respond to the ‘big questions’ in life: its meaning and purpose, as well as exploring the nature of values and the benefits of a moral society. In the Early Years, children learn about themselves, their friends and family and important members of the community. This helps them to understand that we are unique and have different beliefs which must be respected and nurtured as part of a community. Throughout the year, we explore different religious festivals and celebrations, helping the children develop an appreciation and basic understanding of different faiths and cultures around the world.
In Key Stage 1 pupils learn about different beliefs in the world around them. They begin to understand the importance and value of religion and beliefs and that other children and families may hold different beliefs from their own. They learn to recognise that beliefs are expressed in a variety of ways, and begin to use specialist vocabulary. Pupils are encouraged to use their imagination and share their sense of wonder about the world around them. They are introduced to a range of stories and other religious materials and encouraged to offer their views. They talk about what is important to them and others, recognising their own unique value as individuals, reflecting on their own feelings and experiences, and developing a sense of belonging.
In Key Stage 2 pupils learn about a range of religions, developing an understanding of their impact locally, nationally and globally. The children explore religious beliefs, teachings and practices, through sacred texts and other sources. They learn to appreciate diversity in religion, exploring similarities and differences within and between religions and beliefs and the importance of dialogue between them. They recognise the challenges involved in distinguishing between ideas of right and wrong, and valuing what is good and true. They consider their own beliefs and values and those of others in the light of their learning in RE. They communicate their ideas and recognise other people’s viewpoints. They develop their range and use of specialist vocabulary. RE helps develop social and cultural understanding in a multi-faith, plural society.
For Years 3 to 6 chess is part of the school day. Children sign up for morning sessions at the beginning of each new term. These sessions are very popular and take chess learning to competitive levels. They run every morning for ten weeks of the term and players of all abilities are encouraged to join one of the daily clubs. We teach the rules and tactics of chess and follow the curriculum outlined in the Systematic Study of Chess. In addition to this, all players are expected to master algebraic notation. This system is internationally recognised and is used to record each move during a game. Chess notebooks are supplied at the beginning of the autumn term for this purpose.
Chess awards are announced termly and are eagerly awaited. Achievements to individual levels are recognised by bronze, silver and gold Carlsens. The top prize at PGP is called a Chess Magnus and all Carlsen levels must first be achieved to attempt this award.
While teaching the rules and art of chess we follow the Systematic Study of Chess:
Also see Chesslings chess club for Years 1 and 2
While academic excellence is highly valued, it is only one part of the education we offer. Our extra-curricular offering complements what goes on in the classroom, opening children’s minds to skills and aptitudes that may well form the basis for a life-long interest. We have timetabled lessons in art, music and sport. We have after-school school clubs in a huge variety of things – baking, tapestry, yoga, film animation, debating – whatever the particular interest of our staff at the time. We also have a busy programme of visiting speakers, cultural days and residential trips. From just a few hours at the fire station in Reception to a full-blown outward bound adventure in Year 6, our trips build up confidence and open up children’s eyes to the world beyond school. By Year 6 we hope children to be not only well-grounded in academic subjects, but also curious about the world and aware of the possibilities it offers.