The final year of primary education at The New School aims to be stimulating, challenging, rewarding and enjoyable.
Our Year 6 students are helped and encouraged to progress in all areas, whilst developing the kind of independent love for learning that will stand them in good stead as they enter secondary education.
There is a tangible sense of pride and team work in our classroom and I feel very privileged to work with such wonderful young people on a range of fascinating subjects: from microbes to The Renaissance, from algebra to tectonic plates and from Shakespeare to Newton.
The Literacy hour is time tabled each day to be immediately before lunch and so therefore dovetails with the ESL department to allow pupils who require extra help with English to receive this assistance at the same time. The class follows a language scheme (Password) for many aspects of grammar and types of writing, but this is enriched by examples of poetry, drama and prose from a large number of other sources. Spelling is done as homework and is tested weekly.
In preparation for the longer and more demanding exercises the pupils will have to do in the Middle school, they do a ten-week novel study in the second term which requires them to use every aspect of their language skills, culminating in a colourful and extremely useful resource for the future. Also in the second term, and linked to the work they are doing in History (see below) they will keep an Evacuee Diary for several weeks, describing their imagined experiences as a child evacuated from one of the major British cities.
At the end of Year 6, the class perform a Shakespeare play, which requires them not only to learn their parts, but also to understand a considerable amount about the linguistic and cultural conventions of the Elizabethan period. Again, this is of genuine value when they reach the Middle school and encounter Shakespeare in a more formal setting.
As with virtually every other stage of the school, Year 6 maths begins with a thorough revision of the basics. Thereafter the pupils are extended in all areas of arithmetic – including long multiplication - and introduced to the basic characteristics of fractions, decimals and percentages. Number work is complemented by intervals of information handling, shape and position, measurement and a selection of graphs and charts. Maths is studied every day, invariably in the morning, and basic mental arithmetic is tested informally every week.
Physical geography is represented by a project in the first term on riversand in the second term on mountains. In both cases these topics are introduced to the class and several weeks are spent looking at the major features of both. These are then consolidated by the pupils, working with a partner, to produce their own booklet on an assigned river and mountain range. Each pair is time tabled for sessions on the class computer, using the internet, to research their topic. Home research is also encouraged and expected.
In the third term they do a structured project on the evolution and development of The European Union, looking at the political and economic characteristics of the member states and compiling a booklet of relevant statistics and information.
The first term features a major project on 'Conflict' as typified by the Second World War. The pupils look at the causes of the war, the main battles, and the eventual outcome. (This leads directly to the geography project on post-war Europe in third term).
In the second term the class look at the main events and personalities of the 'Italian Renaissance'. This includes economic and trade factors, the importance of religion, the great artists and thinkers of the period and the work they produced.
In the summer, the class looks at the religious and political reasons for the 'Jacobite Rebellions' in eighteenth century Britain. Using these events as examples, issues such as nationalism, unification and separatism are discussed in the wider context.
An attempt is made to cover the three main sections of science (physics, chemistry and biology) in Year 6, again as an acknowledgement of what the pupils will study in the Middle school.
In the first term, concentrating on what might be considered physics, the class perform experiments to show the nature of both 'light and sound'. These experiments are carefully written up in a detailed and accurate manner to a prescribed plan.
In the second term, where chemistry is the focus, they examine 'solutions and suspensions' under the heading of 'reversible and non-reversible reactions'. Again, emphasis is placed on the accurate recording of these experiments so that by the end of the year, the method of writing up in science is firmly in place.
Finally, in the third term, the class do a carefully chosen and delivered course on the basics of 'human reproduction'. This includes video material on 'body changes, conception and birth'. Reference is made to the general nature of reproduction and the other functions which characterise all living things.
While looking at forces in Science, the pupils are expected to design and make their own working 'catapult'. These must be free-standing and have a trigger of some sort. They are tested outside for distance and accuracy. In the second term, while the class are looking at the Second World War in history, the class make 'shelters' which should protect them from blast and water. This begins as small models but finishes in the garden where they make real shelters based on the designs that have worked best with the models.
The pupils also make a basic 'pin-hole camera' which illustrates the way the human eye works, producing an image which is upside down and needs to be focused.
As the pupils are often beginning to change in terms of height, strength and shape, it is important that PE should have plenty to offer everyone. Each game (basketball, rounders, cricket, football) is examined for its component skills and these are practised before any sort of structured match. As many of the pupils are extremely determined to win, the emphasis is placed on games for enjoyment, fitness and healthy competition.
As well as looking at, and imitating, major painters from several periods (Matisse, Escher, the Renaissance masters) the pupils also use a wide variety of media to broaden the basis of what they understand by art. They make 'stained-glass windows' from black card and tissue paper, using craft knives under careful guidance. Using papier maché to produce large objects is also done in third term, often to provide props for the summer play.