Curriculum Intent

Key Stage 3

The curriculum in KS3 at Holcombe Grammar School is designed to help students develop a solid foundation, both in beginning (in year 7) and continuing (through years 8 and 9) their high level academic studies and in their development as productive and valuable members of society.

Our fortnightly timetable ensures students have access to a range of lessons and home learning opportunities to attain knowledge and abilities in preparation for their GCSE courses. Our curriculum builds on many subject specific skills, including numeracy and literacy covered in primary school, and develops transferable thinking skills that are used throughout the subjects. Many topics studied are demanding and unfamiliar but enable students to discover new ideas that may shape their future choices in work and education.


Academic mastery in KS3 is rooted in a student’s wider reading, research and general world knowledge that supports the classroom-based learning. Therefore, throughout KS3 lessons, form time and extra-curricular activities the development of a love of reading is a priority. In addition, students are encouraged to make use of the school library, share their book reviews with peers and attend extra-curricular book clubs to extend their interests and reading skills.

Individual focus days include Thinking Tools training in Term 1 and Revision Skills in Term 4. These days are led by the Form Tutors to introduce the Thinking Tools that form the basis of Holcombe’s approach to teaching and learning, and by the School Captains and Prefects to help students prepare for their end of year exams successfully.

Students are also encouraged to get involved in many other aspects of the Holcombe community. An extensive range of clubs, societies, music and sports are offered before school, at lunchtime and after school. Students also have the opportunity of making an impact on the life of the school through a number of different positions of responsibility including being an Anti-Bullying Ambassador, helping to run a club or taking on the role of a Form Captain or Sports Captain.

We concluded that a 3-year Key Stage 3 model was a better model for our students for these reasons:

  • By studying the full range of National Curriculum subjects throughout Years 7, 8 and 9, students have greater access to a broad, balanced and challenging curriculum. They are able to study a breadth of subjects for longer, and can study each subject in greater depth by studying it for three years instead of two.
  • Year 9 will deliver a learning experience that better prepares students for GCSE study, for example by extending their ‘mastery’ of key concepts in a range of subjects and through focussing on skills that we know are needed for GCSE study. We will also be amending our ‘Life Skills’ curriculum (encompassing Careers, Health, Citizenship and PSHE) to ensure our students are better prepared for life in 21st century Britain.
  • GCSEs are designed to be completed in two years, not three. Our students are very academically able and are more than capable of studying these courses in two years.
  • The vast majority of our students will progress to A Level study in Sixth Form. A Levels are two-year courses and we feel confident that students will be better prepared for the rigours of A Level study if they are used to completing GCSEs in a two year period.
  • The choice of which subjects to study at GCSE is an important decision. Year 8 is arguably too early to make such a big decision and by extending Key Stage 3 until Year 9, and giving the students an extra year of knowledge acquisition and skill development in a wide range of subjects, students will be that much more mature and prepared to make what is the right decision for them.

Key Stage 4

At Holcombe the transition from KS3 to KS4 begins when students start Year 10. Students will be well prepared for this change, as throughout Year 9 they will be given experiences of non-National Curriculum subjects such as Business Studies, Media, Sociology and so on, so that they will be able to make informed decisions about which subjects they want to study when it comes to selecting their GCSE options.

They will also have chosen which Modern Foreign Language they wish to study in Year 9, selecting from either French or Spanish. All students will only study one Modern Foreign Language in Year 9, compared to the two they will have studied so far. It will then be up to them to choose if they wish to continue to study this language at GCSE when they make their options choices

The Key Stage 4 Team and Form Tutors see your child on a daily basis and have the biggest impact on your child’s education. They follow a vigorous programme of activities during their time with your child offering one to one mentoring support catering not only for their academic performance but also their general wellbeing.

The Key Stage 4 Team provide a range of resources that will help you as parents understand the academic demands that your child will go through, as well as providing strategies to help support your child. Students are also supported with a range of support materials additional to those supplied by their subject teachers in order to strive for success.

Students are encouraged to be actively involved in school life and are given opportunities to have their voices and opinions heard by volunteering to be Form or Sports Captain or member of our School Council and Diversity group.

Key Stage 5

We are a large Sixth Form and offer a wide range of subjects for students to choose from. Although academic success is at the heart of everything we do, we believe that education is about a lot more than that. Therefore we provide lots of opportunities for students to participate in a range of clubs and activities including school trips, sporting teams and events, the opportunity to participate in debates and much, much more. We will also be keen for students to develop leadership skills through becoming a school council representative, a prefect, a student mentor or by becoming a member of the School Captains’ Team.

Whole School

Holcombe Grammar School is part of Thinking Schools Academy Trust. As a Trust of schools, we share a common goal to Transform Life Chances and belief in a cognitive approach to education.

Thinking Schools Academy Trust curriculum intent statement: 

At Thinking Schools Academy Trust our mission is to transform life chances.

Every young person in our community deserves to have the best opportunities at life regardless of their individual circumstances.

Please see the attached PDF below for more information.