Curriculum Overview

Curriculum Overview

What our students learn

Our curriculum “makes learning challenging and enjoyable for all” enabling our students to “secure the best outcomes and remain lifelong learners who are committed to seeking truth”. As such, we offer a wide range of subjects, enabling students to explore the fundamentals of a broad base of subjects in Key Stage 3 before selecting a balanced diet of Key Stage 4 options.

We recognise the vital importance of knowledge in building a deep understanding of the world; after all, you can’t think about something you don’t know. Furthermore, we recognise that developing a body of powerful knowledge will allow our young people to participate fully in social, political, and moral debates thereby enabling them to make a valuable contribution to our democratic society. To this end, we ensure students are explicitly taught the foundational knowledge that they will need in order to understand the heart of each subject, creating an interconnected web of understanding through which they can interpret, analyse and evaluate the world around them.

The subjects that we teach are intrinsically interesting; we encourage our students to appreciate the authentic core of each subject and to value learning and knowledge for its own sake. Our schemes of learning and lessons are designed to be challenging and require our students to grapple with troublesome concepts, making connections, analysing and evaluating. In this way, our students are learning the value of hard work, persistence and determination.

Years 7 and 8

In Years 7 and 8 all students study: Religious Education; English; Mathematics; Science; Art; Design & Technology including Woodwork, Graphics, and Food Preparation & Nutrition; Drama; Geography; History; Information Technology; Music; Spanish; Physical Education; and PSHCE.

As a Catholic school, at the centre of our curriculum is 10% teaching time devoted to RE. This time enables students to explore and deepen their own faith, learn about other faiths and perspectives, and respect the inherent worth of all people. This is central to our young people’s character development, which can be seen not only throughout their time in school but beyond.

Our student population is diverse, with students travelling from across the city to attend Cardinal Heenan.  We believe it is essential that all students have access to powerful knowledge that will enable them to participate fully in social, political and moral debates, thereby making a valuable contribution to society.  We devote considerable time to Geography, History and Science, as we believe that these subjects enable students to develop a rounded understanding of the wider world. We understand the complexity of learning a foreign language and support all students in Years 7-9 to learn Spanish.

In order to access and understand this knowledge, students must be secure and fluent in the skills that will enable them to access this and other knowledge, as well as understand a diversity of opinion.  Literacy, numeracy and IT skills are central to this.  All teachers reinforce and uphold high standards of these skills (for example reading is prevalent across our curriculum), but we believe that the foundations are best embedded by subject specialists.

We also believe that all students have an entitlement to explore and develop their more creative talents.  As such, our KS3 curriculum provides students with a wide range of experience, including Art, Drama, Food, D&T, and Music.  Education is absolutely about knowledge, and about the skills that will be required in the work place and beyond.  For us, it is also about developing passions, appreciating beauty and learning the dedication that is needed for success in any field.

A final range of subjects that are covered in our curriculum help students to be safe and healthy.  All students, throughout their time at Cardinal Heenan have four hours of Core PE.  This develops interpersonal skills (such as how to lose gracefully, how to support one’s peers, how to persevere, the attributes of strong leadership), as well as giving a much needed opportunity to develop and learn about fitness, with the aim of students continuing this outside and beyond school.  PSHCE is a timetabled lesson for all year groups, not only covering the compulsory content but responding to contextual safeguarding needs. As they move into Year 9, students engage in a Study Skills programme; a metacognitive lesson designed to support them to understand how they learn best, reflect on their own learning across the curriculum and make improvements as needed.

There are many subjects and topics that cross over the boundaries of subject areas, such as RSE, reading, computer literacy and careers. These are carefully mapped  to ensure a coherent curriculum, which covers all of the necessary content, delivered in an appropriate and authentic way.

At the heart of our curriculum design is a respect for the authentic core of individual subjects.  Each subject is valuable and interesting in its own right.  We maintain curriculum leaders of each individual subject area, to ensure fidelity to the subject discipline, and aim to ensure subject coherence and authenticity is paramount.  Our teachers are almost all subject specialists, and our curriculum leaders are passionate about their subject.  They share this passion with our students.

Year 9

As students move into Year 9, they are able to make more decisions about the subjects they wish to study.  All students continue to study a broad core curriculum, rooted in the subject of the English Baccalaureate: RE; English; Mathematics; Science; Geography; History; and Spanish.

This core curriculum is accompanied by two options subjects, which allow our young people to further develop their interests and talents, and explore new subjects before committing to them in Key Stage 4.  In Year 9 students choose two of: Art; Business; Computer Studies; Design; Drama; Food; French; Health and Social Care; Music; and Sport.  Some of these Year 9 courses (Business, Computer Studies, Design, and Sport) can lead to multiple Key Stage 4 subjects, meaning that through their Year 9 studies students are able to understand the course that is most suited to their aptitude, interests and future plans.

At Cardinal Heenan we offer a holistic experience.  In addition to the academic curriculum, we provide a wider curriculum designed to enhance, complement and support students’ studies.  This includes: PSHCE, which gives students the knowledge, understanding and practical skills to live safe, healthy and productive lives; Core PE, which sustains physical and mental health whilst giving students the opportunity to develop inter-personal skills; and Study Skills, which enables students to understand how they learn and develop the skills required to be a successful student.

Years 10 and 11

In Years 10 and 11 all students study: Religious Education; English Literature; English Language; Mathematics; and Science. Some students take separate sciences (Physics, Biology and Chemistry) whilst others follow a combined GCSE. Our science curriculum is designed to delay this decision until students have had sufficient opportunity to develop their understanding, skills and knowledge of all three sciences.

Students choose from a range of options including: Art; Business Studies; Computing; Construction; Design & Technology; Enterprise and Marketing; Food Preparation & Nutrition; French; Geography; Health & Social Care; History; I-Media; Life Skills (ASDAN); Music; Spanish; Sports Studies; Personal, Social Development (ASDAN) and Physical Education. We are proud of the diversity of our provision which allows our students to make choices that are both appropriate and ambitious. We recognise that our students are with us for a brief five years of their life-long journey in education and, as such, we have deliberately designed a curriculum that supports them in taking their next steps, most notably at Notre Dame Sixth Form College.

In addition, during Years 10 and 11 students continue to study PSHCE, Study Skills and Core PE.

Students are able to complement their timetabled lessons with a varied range of extracurricular opportunities, including sport, art, music, debating and charity work. All Year 10 students undertake a two-week work experience placement and there are a variety of enrichment opportunities on offer, including our annual pilgrimage to Lourdes, numerous international trips and visits to universities and businesses.

We are proud of our rich and varied curriculum which has been carefully constructed to meet the needs of our diverse school. We believe that it “inspires excellence by encouraging every individual to be the person that God calls us to be, in preparation for this life and the life to come”.

Teaching and Learning Overview

How we teach, and how our students learn.

Our children are exceptional and we have sky-high expectations of what they can achieve. As such, our lessons are challenging, requiring our students to think for themselves, to make connections and to apply their learning in novel situations.  We support our students in becoming “lifelong learners who are committed to seeking truth” through creating an environment where we value knowledge for its own sake, but also as the vehicle for critical thinking, problem solving and evaluation.

Our students are encouraged to systematically reflect on their learning, the progress they have made and the next steps that they will take in their learning. Regular feedback supports students in this journey and students use the “green pen of progress” to make improvements to work, and understand that if it is not the best it can be then it is not finished.  In this way we “encourage every individual to be the person that God calls them to be, in preparation for this life and the life to come”.

For further information about our curriculum please contact Ms Stockton-Pitt, Senior Assistant Headteacher (Quality of Education). Email:

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