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Curriculum Overview


The report of 2012 General Inspection confirmed that: “The curriculum is suitably broad and balanced and meets effectively the learning needs of all of the pupils including, by 2013, a curriculum for post-16 pupils which will match well the interests, abilities and career aspirations of the widening intake of pupils to the sixth form.”

The curriculum in Down High School comprises all the learning experiences within the
school and includes not only knowledge and skills but the attitudes, beliefs and values which underpin the relationships within the school community. The school aims to ensure that the pupils in all year groups experience a broad, balanced, enriched and relevant curriculum providing opportunities for them to discover and develop their interests and talents. Pupils are encouraged to achieve their full potential during their time here, leavingDownHigh School equipped with the necessary skills for success in the wider world. To this end increased flexibility has been introduced to the curriculum. In order to broaden the choice of subjects on offer to pupils, a number of both Applied and General Academic subjects have been introduced at GCSE and A-Level as Down High School moves towards meeting the requirements of the Entitlement Framework. In collaboration with the South Eastern Regional College, a number of BTEC Level 3 Subsidiaries have been introduced into the Sixth Form curriculum in order to make the curriculum offer more attractive to pupils in our significantly enlarged Sixth Form.

Down High School has always promoted the acquisition of thinking skills and capabilities, and opportunities for these to be developed amongst pupils are included in departmental schemes of work. The importance of knowledge and integrity of academic subjects have been upheld within a curriculum that enables pupils in Down High School to develop personally and serve as contributors to society and the economy and respecters of the environment. The centrality of Learning for Life and Work has been recognised and clear connectivity between LLW and the Learning Areas has been encouraged. Down High School also believes that pupils should be able to connect their learning and, for this reason, collaboration between subjects is encouraged and facilitated where possible.

Good levels of Literacy allow pupils in all year groups to access the full curriculum and all teachers have a responsibility to develop pupils’ capacities for reading, writing, talking and listening. In order to support a number of pupils in this area, Literacy Support was offered to a number of identified pupils across all year groups. Furthermore, the promotion of pupils’ competence in numbers and measures will allow them to acquire the financial capabilities needed for adult life. Committees exist in the School to promote the importance Literacy and Numeracy across all key stages and the Heads of English and Mathematics are coordinators for Literacy and Numeracy respectively.

Down High School aims to be inclusive in all aspects of its work and pupils’ individual needs and learning styles will be accommodated in the classroom. Differentiated strategies should be used to allow pupils with individual needs to learn most effectively and the School’s SEN policy and guidelines will be implemented in classrooms to allow pupils to reach their full potential. The school’s Learning and Teaching Policy provides the basis for effective classroom practice and accentuates the importance of the pupils as curious, participative learners who are challenged using a range of classroom methodologies, including ICT.

Key Stage 3

In Years 8-10 all pupils follow a programme in line with theNorthern Ireland(Revised) Curriculum. At present pupils in Year 8 study Mathematics, English, French, Religious Studies, Physical Education, Science, History, Geography, Art, Home Economics, Music, Technology, ICT, Drama, Learning for Life and Work and Games. They also spend an induction period with their Form Teacher. Year 9 pupils study the same subjects but with the addition of Spanish. In Year 10, pupils learn Science in separate Physics, Chemistry and Biology classes and also benefit from the provision of a Careers period. Drama featured on the Year 10 curriculum (but not in Year 9) in 2013-14.

Key Stage 4

Pupils in Years 11 and 12 study ten subjects at GCSE. All pupils take the core subjects of English with English Literature, Mathematics, French or Spanish, Religious Studies and non-exam lessons in Physical Education, Games and Learning for Life and Work.

All pupils also study either Double Award Science or at least one Science as a single subject. They are then free to choose the remainder of their subjects from Art, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Computing, Drama, Geography, History, Home Economics, ICT, Moving Image Arts, Music, Physical Education, Physics, Spanish and Technology.

Sixth Form

The majority of pupils study four subjects at AS level in Year 13 (or a combination of As subjects and BTECs) and three subjects at A2 level in Year 14. The following subjects are offered:

Art & Design

Government & Politics

Moving Image Arts



Health & Social Care


Technology & Design

Business Studies


Physical Education

Theatre Studies


Home Economics


BTEC Engineering

English Literature


Religious Studies

BTEC Sport




BTEC Travel & Tourism


Further Mathematics

Software Systems Development

BTEC Business

In addition, there is a non-exam Games provision for all pupils in both years and compulsory Religious Studies and Careers in Year 13.

A feature of the Sixth Form programme has been the introduction of BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary courses in collaboration with the South Eastern Regional College. The outcomes in Years 13 and 14 have been most encouraging and the strength of the BTEC qualification has enabled pupils to access university courses across the UK.


Down High School regards the formative process of assessment as an essential part of learning and teaching, enabling teachers and pupils to make judgements on the effectiveness of learning. Each teacher seeks to provide positive feedback to pupils, identifying his/her strengths and areas for development. Assessment for Learning techniques are an established part of classroom practice and pupils are encouraged to review their learning and suggest strategies for improvement. Down High School has a separate Assessment for Learning Policy and all departments have policies for their subject areas.

Summative assessment: Pupils in Years 8-11 sit twice-yearly written and practical examinations. A short report, consisting of a pupil’s % mark, year average and effort grade is compiled in December and sent home to parents. Parents receive a full report (with comments) in June. Students in Years 12-14 undertake full examinations in November/December and full reports and comments are sent to parents at this stage. Departments employ additional common tests throughout the school year and all teachers use summative assessment to assess pupils’ understanding of a topic. Each subject’s scheme of work illustrates the nature of the assessment techniques used.

Pupils in Year 8 were again assessed using the Cognitive Abilities Test in the first term and the outcomes were published for Senior Leaders, Heads of Year and Form Teachers. In the light of examination performance, pupils whose outcomes differed most significantly from their baseline scores met with the Year Head to discuss progress, study techniques and their learning skills. This was followed up during pupil self-evaluation days.

Pupil self-evaluation is conducted twice-yearly, whereby students identify academic objectives which encourage them to set high expectations for themselves. Pupils discuss with their form teachers the strategies through which they can improve. These include adopting appropriate study techniques and learning skills/behaviours. Pupils reflect on the extent to which targets are achieved and diagnose areas of strength and weakness before agreeing new targets.