The Cherwell School
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Curriculum Overview

The Cherwell School has a rich history of keeping the curriculum at the heart of the education we offer. As a result, young people experience a rich, exceptionally varied curriculum, which is a conscious blend of the traditional and the contemporary. Students engage with a wide range of subjects through ambitious, well-designed courses, tailored to their needs. 

The curriculum embodies our school values of Excellence, Opportunity and Responsibility.


  • Students flourish socially and academically during and beyond their time at the school. They learn to mix skilfully with adults and with each other, developing as people in tandem with progressing in their studies.


  • Students gain meaningful knowledge and cultural capital which empowers them,  enabling them to succeed in life and understand the world around them.

  • Students experience a wide range of subjects, with multiple progression routes, which ensures a broad, deep experience for each individual.


  • Cherwell students develop into impressive people who contribute actively to the school and the local community and go on to make a difference in the wider world.

Our curriculum supports these goals by being very carefully planned and constructed. Subject teams select content to be ambitious, inspiring and challenging, whilst at the same time ensuring that all students can access every lesson. Through careful sequencing, subject leaders have shaped the curriculum in order that knowledge is built upon and core concepts returned to. We use thoughtful and rigorous assessments to identify and address misconceptions, and provide structures to ensure that knowledge is securely learned. Teachers carefully plan explanations and model precisely how to produce work which enables students to think deeply about the knowledge they are taught.

 We keep the curriculum as broad as possible, for as long as possible to allow all students a rich experience. Every subject a student begins in year 7 remains accessible up to year 13, enabling our young people to become knowledgeable and confident, with a deep academic and cultural understanding. Subject teams have reviewed the gaps that have emerged during the pandemic and have adapted their schemes of work or methods of teaching to address these.  This is also supported by a range of whole school strategies, including use of the National Tutoring Programme. High quality careers education, information, advice and guidance is built into each Key Stage to support students with their next steps.


Supporting students

The learning experience of disadvantaged students and those with SEND are at the heart of our thinking on curriculum and teaching.  We provide support in a variety of ways and centre our approach on:

  • Quality first teaching, where all tasks/activities are carefully modelled to ensure access

  • Subject specific approaches to reading which allow students to access rich and complex texts

  • Explicit teaching of language and terminology needed to access the curriculum

  • Never assuming prior knowledge and carefully specifying exactly what students need to know

  • Quizzing and other methods to ensure retention of knowledge over time 

  • Routines driven approaches to ensuring a calm and purposeful classroom environment




At KS3 our aim is to provide a rich curriculum so that it is a means to an end in itself – it doesn’t function as a ‘watered down’ version of, nor is it primarily a preparation for, GCSE.  As such our curriculum remains as broad as possible for as long as possible.  KS3 is three years and there is no attempt to put children on pathways during this time.  We put emphasis on a curriculum that teaches rich and powerful knowledge and language from the start of Year 7.  Students in Key Stage 3 are given access to an exciting curriculum (including Computer Science, the full range of Technology subjects, Drama, Music and Social Wellbeing) covering the requirements of the National Curriculum (and occasionally going further) by the end of Year 9. Students with additional needs are carefully encouraged via multiple layers of support both academically and socio-emotionally. Therefore children with additional needs flourish at Cherwell and achieve highly. In Year 9, our students are supported to engage in selecting their subject areas for further study at GCSE.  This process is carefully managed by providing tailored guidance through taster lessons and  conversations with targeted individuals (mostly, but not exclusively SEN and Pupil Premium) to ensure that we are not disadvantaging any students through this approach

To see Mr Hilton (Deputy Headteacher) explain our KS3 curriculum summaries click here

To access our curriculum summaries for Years 7, 8 and 9 click the document links below:

Year 7

Year 7 Curriculum Booklet Jan to July

Year 7 Curriculum Booklet Sept to Dec

Year 8

Year 8 Curriculum Booklet Jan to July

Year 8 Curriculum Booklet Sept to Dec

Year 9

Year 9 Curriculum Booklet Jan to July

Year 9 Curriculum Booklet Sept to Dec



Our two year KS4 provides breadth and depth across at least 10 chosen subjects enabling our ambitious  curriculum experience to continue from KS3 into KS4.  In Key Stage 4 all students study English Language and English Literature, Mathematics, Science and a full GCSE in Citizenship (begun in Year 9).  Students are required to follow up to four additional courses leading to GCSE examinations.  Most of our students are able to choose Separate Science.  The timetable and option blocks are designed specifically to support the increased content for Separate Science and the opportunities for purposeful practicals which are at the heart of effective Science delivery.  Students are also provided with a wide and ambitious  range of further options. These lead to high levels of achievement  and open up extensive options post-16 and post-18, including access to prestigious courses and progression into a range of career options. Some students choose, or are guided to take, additional lessons to support their English and Maths and Science. Students are taught in sets according to ability in Mathematics and Science at Key Stage 4, but otherwise they are taught in mixed ability groups. Virtually all of our students choose  at least one Ebacc subject, with  very high numbers of students taking either Geography or History. The majority of students follow the full Ebacc suite (against a national percentage of 40%). This provides us with a helpful benchmark to aid our current aspirations in this area of our curriculum delivery.  Students are given a wide and inclusive experience of languages at KS3 and  our  ambition  is to increase the percentage of students taking a Language at KS4. Alongside this however we are very protective of the broader, non-Ebacc curriculum. In subjects such as Music and the Performing Arts our numbers remain above national average.  We want our students to retain the opportunity to engage with the whole spectrum of the curriculum taught in subject disciplines across KS4 especially in the context that over 75% of students stay with us post-16). 

KS4 Options Booklet


The Cherwell Sixth Form curriculum provides a wide range of academic qualifications designed to challenge and engage our students, as well as to enable them to pursue their interests and to achieve their future aspirations. In line with the experience up to 16, our students study high value academic courses. We provide targeted support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including the 16-19 Bursary,  academic mentoring and one-to-one support. 

Carefully planned opportunities support students to make informed decisions about their futures, be those at university, on a degree/higher apprenticeship or through employment.  There is a focus on independence and agency through “Beyond Cherwell”,  the EPQ and self-managed study periods.  Our linear approach to A levels allows flexibility and additional time, to tailor the curriculum to students’ needs.There are numerous opportunities for students to develop knowledge and skills through the weekly Social Wellbeing programme as well as annual work experience and Student Leadership programmes. Skills are recognised in our Beyond Cherwell Awards at bronze, silver or gold level. We ensure students are well-informed about contemporary issues, including politics, ethics, safety, relationship and sex education, health & well-being in Social Wellbeing and the assembly programme which enables them to be healthy, well rounded young people. The curriculum is enhanced through numerous visits across the year, including via the Turing Scheme and a World Challenge expedition every other year.As well as an enriching two years in terms of our students’ academic and personal development, a strong emphasis is placed on Life beyond Cherwell and future aspirations. Students get explicit guidance, supported by outstanding individual support by the Sixth Form team.


Curriculum and Subject Information




At Cherwell, students follow programmes of study that are rich in cultural capital. This is true as soon as students join the school, for example through the emphasis on The Gothic in year 7 English or our new Silk Roads unit in Year 7 History. Furthermore, in Science students gog beyond the National Curriculum to develop understanding of disease and vaccinations. Our current whole school priorities of reading and personal growth are designed to aid the development of cultural capital. It is also evident in our wider education through the assembly programme, the extra-curricular offer and via a broad range of cultural visits which extend students’ horizons.



At Cherwell School we operate a two week timetable where 50 hours of lessons are taught across “week one” and “week two”. We operate a three year KS3, a two year KS4 and a two year KS5. It is this structure that allows us to provide a broad, ambitious curriculum for all of our students.



At Cherwell School we use the phrase Social Wellbeing to refer to our taught Personal Development curriculum. Across all key stages, curriculum time is given to deliver a very well sequenced, age appropriate and context specific Social Wellbeing curriculum. This timetabled curriculum is supported by additional mornings or afternoons for particular year groups especially in years 9-11. All of the above is planned and delivered by  our specialist teachers. Integral to our approach is GCSE Citizenship which is taught to all students and bridges KS3 and KS4. This gives a deep understanding of key societal issues and how to approach them.

Through this curriculum, we aim to support our students to explore beliefs with respect and reflection and consider moral and ethical issues respectfully and sensitively.Students also learn about well-being and positive mental health, along with information relating to their own development as people and building healthy relationships. Students are shown how to become successful learners and are given age-related careers information, advice and guidance.

This is built into our taught Social Wellbeing curriculum, but is also richly exhibited within English, History, Geography, Religious Studies and so on. 



At Cherwell our form tutors play a key role in supporting students to be ready to learn and students in years 7-12 see their form tutor daily. In year 13, students have a weekly tutor time slot in smaller groups to provide advice and guidance. Our tutors help to set their tutees up for success each day and carry out a planned series of activities supporting their academic and social development. We have very strong systems of pastoral support and expect all of our students to be known as individuals. In addition, all year groups have a weekly assembly which across the year covers a range of themes connected to our school values of Opportunity, Responsibility and Excellence. We also have a weekly online “whole school assembly” delivered by the Headteacher with a focus on issues that help to connect our wider school community and build a sense of belonging



We have a wide range of extracurricular activities available to our students which change each term. These are divided into different themes which complement and go beyond the taught curriculum. Our approach is driven by our whole school ethos that puts emphasis on opportunity. We always look to respond to a student's request when a club or society doesn’t exist. Students who are disadvantaged or who have Special Educational Needs are particularly supported by adults in the school to join in with our extra curricular programme and we make sure that any financial barriers are withdrawn. 

We have a particular commitment to the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme as we believe D of E supports our whole school aims of Opportunity, Responsibility, Excellence. 

Our students are great at describing the unique events and experiences that they have had or are involved in.


For our current extra-curricular programme click here

For information about the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme at Cherwell click here



In lessons, children get a great subject-rich experience - it's academic but it's accessible. It pays attention to academic traditions/disciplinary aspects but also aims to be contemporary and relevant. Individual teachers show their passion and love for their subjects but in an environment which is well aligned with collegiate teachers sharing centralised resources and approaches. There is lots of care in the sequencing of content which will allow students to show deep understanding of important ideas and concepts. We are especially alert to how we implement our curriculum for our disadvantaged students and for those who have Special Educational Needs.


In addition our implementation is supported by:

  • Subject level Curriculum Intent statements which explicitly outline the aspiration and ambition underpinning curriculum design in each subject and the ways in which this will be secured 

  • Subject Specific Assessment policies and calendars designed to secure effective sequencing and help key learning to stick

  • Subject specific “core expectations” to support alignment in areas that make the most difference especially in the context of teaching core concepts, approaches to the retrieval of knowledge and methods for reading.

  • Coherently sequenced curriculum summaries  

  • All classes taught by subject specialists (or by well trained/supported non specialists)

  • High quality Centralised approaches across most curricular areas led by highly skilled leaders

  • High quality CPD which follows an annual plan based on the national standards for professional development.

  • A well understood Behaviour for Learning system and a consistent approach to routines that helps our students to learn effectively 

  • Deep thinking about effective Teaching and Learning built around our Curriculum, Assessment and Teaching Policy (“CAT”). 

  • Systems of intervention and support for students (especially in the context of our SEN interventions)

  • Deliberate strategies designed  to avoid excessive teacher workload and support well-being of our staff



At Cherwell School we continually seek to review the impact of our curriculum in a variety of ways.


These include

  • Student outcomes

  • Student destination data at post 16 and post 18

  • Internal student monitoring data including  via Progress Reviews and Behaviour for Learning data

  • Well developed systems for self-evaluation and impactful conversations with subject leaders that follow an annual cycle and are regularly reviewed . 

  • Thoughtful quality assurance approaches that  suit our context -“learning walks”  and student work sampling is skillfully used to impact on staff training

  • Highly impactful Peer review work in conjunction with the RLT


We believe that the impact of our curriculum is extremely strong, as seen through:

  • Our expectations - Cherwell has a long and distinguished history of supporting students to do exceptionally well. We expect students to achieve highly

  • Student outcomes

  • Outstanding destination data at post 16 and post 18

  • High levels of internal progress and excellent behaviour/attitudes - our students embody our values of Opportunity, Responsibility and Excellence

  • The role the school plays in supporting curriculum development across the wider River Learning Trust

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