- Why did Ambrosoli choose the International Primary Curriculum rather than something else?
Ambrosoli first started using the IPC six years ago. It was introduced to replace the English National Curriculum which had been used previously and was felt not to be relevant to the student make up of the school, although we still do base our English and Maths learning on this. The management team at the time were looking for a curriculum which met the current, diverse needs of the children ( 75% of whom are from over 30 different nationalities) and also the needs of 21st century learners in the sense of emphasising skills and understanding as well as knowledge. The curriculum is used by over 730 schools in 92 countries worldwide.It is a comprehensive, thematic, creative curriculum, with a clear process of learning and specific learning goals for every subject. It also develops international mindedness and encourages personal learning.
- How did the IPC start in the first place?
Fieldwork Education was originally providing school management services to international schools, when they were asked if they could find a curriculum that covered the requirements of the then English curriculum, but allowing for the fact that the children were not in England, and needed a greater focus on international mindedness. After conducting a lot of research looking at many curriculum options around the world, the conclusion was reached that while there were many excellent options, none ticked every requirement. Fieldwork were therefore asked if they could write their own curriculum. Following extensive research into how children learn, what age related skills and abilities they have and should be developed at each stage, the IPC was created. It seeks to provide today’s children with the skills they will need for tomorrow’s world, wherever their journey takes them. Subject content may change (e.g. through scientific developments or historical discovery), but skills, personal qualities and international mindedness will see an individual to success for the rest of their life. The IPC is built upon neuroscientific research into improving learning, and uses different approaches to give every child the opportunity to learn in the way that best suits them. The IPC continues to evolve and has an Advisory Board which includes well respected educationalists. (http://www.greatlearning.com/ipc/about/advisory-board)
- What were the challenges faced when transitioning to the IPC from the previous curriculum?
There were no significant challenges. Teachers recognise that teaching through themes or units, as with the IPC, is the best method for primary aged children. Although the IPC is taught in subjects the learning in each subject is interrelated and this ensures that the learning makes sense to the children and helps them to engage in learning from multiple perspectives. Themed units help children to see how subjects are both independent and interdependent. This enables them to see the big picture of their learning and make connections across different subjects.
- How does the school help to ensure that non English speaker understands and digest the learning from the IPC to the same extent as first language speakers?
An answer from our Year 5 students “teachers give you objects, which is better than just saying because it helps you understand better. They also use flashcards to translate keywords. We can also use google translate to make sure the LI is understood. You can also do peer work with someone who shares the same home language. You also get support from T.Mickael.”
The IPC is used in many bilingual schools around the world, some operating different language streams and others teaching in different languages across the curriculum or with specialist language teachers. The teacher works from the materials in English, but the lesson can be delivered in any language. – There are no workbooks or textbooks for pupils, thus no translation is required – activities are very hands on and practical, and so the accompanying written work can be in any language. – One of my colleagues is an EAL specialist, and commented the following: “I find IPC absolutely brilliant for English as Additional Language (EAL) learners as the research and recording is not so literacy driven. I also highly recommend that teachers encourage the EAL children to carry out their research in their mother tongue at home, and also at school. It is the learning that counts, not the language and they can transfer across easily! For example, learning about ‘space’ is a concept which straddles all languages. You can teach them the key vocab in English and mother tongue. Learning about rivers in Arabic or Polish is the same as learning about Rivers in English. Later on when their English catches up they will be able to translate and move the knowledge across easily.”
- How are the IPC units that the school uses chosen and how do they build up over the primary years?
The IPC has over 130 different thematic units of learning, designed to appeal to children’s interests and help them to learn more about the world around them. Units are written specifically and contain learning goals appropriate for Milepost 1 ( Years 1 and 2), Milepost 2 ( Years 3 and 4), Milepost 3 ( Years 5 and 6) with the expectations of the children’s progress and achievements in terms of what they know ( knowledge), what they can do (skills) and what they are able to explain and transfer from one setting to another ( understanding) increasing across the primary school years.
Units differ in length with some being short and focussed ( e.g. Brainwave – 3 weeks) and others which require a longer period of time and more research skills ( e.g. Moving people – 7 weeks). Each year group will complete between 5 and 6 units each year.
Before the school year ends, and in preparation for the new school year, the IPC coordinator and senior leadership team will look through the units available from the IPC website and will select units for the following year by Milepost ensuring that there is a balance between subjects and that there is a clear progression and development of skills from Milepost to Milepost. This is known as the school’s Route Map and the IPC website has a very useful tool which allows you to have an overview of the whole school learning and what, if any gaps in learning objectives are identified. These are then taught discretely.
Sometimes, unless we can see a real need to change or new units are introduced that we would like to explore ( e.g. the Olympics units during Olympic Games years), the Route Map will not change from year to year.
- What are the critical learning points in the trajectory over time to assess understanding?
Specific learning goals within the IPC are allocated in terms of Knowledge, Skills or Understanding to the different milepost. When looking at the learning goals from milepost 1 to milepost 3 a progression is visible and shows how the learning is designed to build on.
E.g. in science we have Understand that different locations support different living things in milepost 1 and Understand the relationship between living things and the environment in which they live in milepost 3.
Teachers plan for opportunities for the children to deepen their understanding across each units.
- Lots of activities are done in groups. How can the progress of individual children be assessed?
Teachers observe and discuss with individual children on regular basis. Allocated reflection time and diverse form of assessment (quiz, mind map, presentation,…) also allow us to focus on individual.
- Some teachers are better than others at encouraging children to find their own answers, rather than leading the discussion. How is the consistency of this skill encouraged across all Ambrosoli teachers?
Various classroom practices are used at different time, although each teacher is different and has his or her preferences we all support children thinking as it’s a core element of our school philosophy of learning. You can refer to the classroom practices document to see which practices support critical thinking, reflection, …
- Do the children have opportunities to work independently?
An answer from the Year one students “yes, it makes things a bit harder because you are by yourself. But if you are really stuck someone comes and help you”
If cooperation is a key skill, being able to learn and work alone is important to. Again different classroom practices allow different learning experience and children have the opportunity to learn independently on a daily basis.
- How many subjects are taught through the IPC?
Subject goals cover the knowledge, skills and understanding of children relating to the subjects they are learning. There are subject learning goals for Language Arts, Science, ICT & Computing, Technology, History, Geography, Music, Physical Education, Art and Society.
Personal goals underpin the individual qualities and dispositions we believe children will find essential in the 21st century. There are 8 IPC Personal Goals – enquiry, resilience, morality, communication, thoughtfulness, cooperation, respect and adaptability. Opportunities to experience and practice these are built into the learning tasks within each unit of work.
International learning goals are unique to our curriculum and help young children begin the move towards an increasingly sophisticated national, international and intercultural perspective. Each thematic IPC unit includes an international aspect, to help develop a sense of ‘international mindedness’.
- How does the IPC prepare the children for secondary school?
An increasing number of schools (particularly all-through schools) are opting for Fieldwork Education’s International Middle Years Curriculum for ages 11-14. They have not – and probably will not – go through into the examination years because the approach is not about tests but about understanding. The majority of international schools offer the IB or the Cambridge IGCSEs and feedback suggests that IPC students are not at any disadvantage, that the transition is pretty much seamless and that they often demonstrate a higher level of skills (eg the ability to work independently) than children from other schools when joining a secondary school.
- How as parents can we be more involved and support the children’s learning?
At the beginning of each new unit or work a letter is sent home from your child’s teacher explaining the theme of the new unit and the subjects and learning goals which will be covered. Please take time to show an interest and talk to your child about their learning in school and to help them with a research tasks that they may be asked to complete at home. Teachers have become very good at giving you some ideas and questions to discuss with your children when sending out Friday emails. Parental involvement in school is also encouraged and we welcome parents who would like to come in and share their own experience, knowledge, skills and understanding with the children not just for entry and exit points but at any stage of the learning process.
It was wonderful to see such a good attendance at our recent Open Morning which was specifically organised to help our school community gain a better understanding of the IPC and how it is taught and learnt at Ambrosoli. We will continue to offer focussed workshops and meetings in an effort to increase our community’s understanding and involvement.
- How does the IPC help my child to work towards meeting the school’s vision.
When the school reviewed and updated its Mission and Vision in 2016 the personal and international learning goals of the IPC were an important part of our discussions. In consultations with representatives from all stakeholders it was felt that these encapsulated the values and qualities that we felt were important for the kinds of children we were hoping to raise at Ambrosoli and so the Vision – ‘Empowering children to become confident, compassionate and internationally minded’ reflects our commitment to the IPC and our vision of the kinds of children we want our learners to be.
- How are specialist subjects integrated into IPC units?
In some units e.g Look and Listen ( Milepost 1) Specialist learning goals are explicitly planned for e.g Music –
- 1.04 Be able to recognise and explore ways in which sounds can be made, changed and organised
- 1.06 Be able to play simple rhythms with a steady beat
- 1.08 Be able to perform individually and with others
- 1.10 Be able to listen carefully to pieces of music and comment on them
ICT and Computing learning goals are also specifically included in most units.
There are separate specialist units for music, world languages, ICT and Computing and Art. There are often suggestions within the unit plans for the integration of Language arts into the learning and our teachers are creative about planning to use English within the IPC unit learning.
All subject specialist plan regularly with the class teachers to ensure that, wherever possible, their planning supports and enhances the learning taking place through IPC units.
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