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Our Curriculum Intent

Our Curriculum leads are:

Mrs. Peace (
Mrs. McMahon (


Every child has an entitlement to an education that promotes key communication skills,  encourages independence and prepares them for the future.

Every child has an entitlement to be taught life skills, ethical values and a clear sense of right and wrong.

At Co-op Academy Portland we provide these entitlement opportunities to our children in our well-planned and thoughtful curriculum, tailoring our lessons and our wider provision to the specific needs of our community.

It is through our understanding of our community that Co-op Academy Portland’s pupils are offered a curriculum, underpinned by our Co-op Ways of Being, which explicitly seeks to address the community barriers that impact on confidence, self-improvement and future success.

Community, Contribution, Heritage

At Co-op Academy Portland, there are three common threads that run through our entire curriculum which serve as an anchor to make links across the different curriculum contents, and which act as a platform to discuss and learn about our important ethical values and WoB, but which also remind our children of how successful their ancestors in this local community really were – what global contribution they made – and how we can learn their skills to be as successful as them once again.

These golden threads are Community, Contribution and Heritage.

Our Philosophy

Our philosophy is to study and learn from the past whilst preparing our pupils for their future. This isn’t limited to our history curriculum though as we can learn so much from the past in all subject areas: how the world has changed over time environmentally, socially, morally and economically in geography, PSHE, RE; how art and design have both reflected the past and how innovations have changed the future; how science through the ages has driven ways of life and altered the course of history.  

We need our pupils to learn from the actions and mistakes of others as they strive to make sense of our world and play their part in shaping its future.  

We have carefully designed our curriculum to meet the needs of our pupils within this unique community, whilst covering the full scope of the National Curriculum through the lens of ‘contribution’ (the contribution made by the people of Birkenhead and of the physical contribution of the river and geographic-locality) and heritage (looking at the success of our children’s ancestors to capture a sense of pride and ambition). 

Co-op Academy Portland serves a wonderful community who mostly reside within a 2 mile radius of the academy where housing is small, families are large and ambition is sometimes limited. 

We bring together these children, increasingly from different countries around the world, and try to engender a clear sense of ‘team’ and cooperation. We ensure that we promote wide-ranging cultural experiences, trips and visits that widen horizons and have a thoroughly developed outdoor programme to help a good mental health awareness.

For many of our pupils, developing English language and vocabulary is a high priority, including pupils whose first language is English. For this reason, we have put language, literature and vocabulary at the heart of our curriculum. We take every opportunity to broaden our pupils’ language skills. 

This begins straight away in our Early Years. Here, our pupils engage in a rich variety of experiences which encourage and develop confidence and communication. We provide a Speech and Language nurture base for our young children who need intensive Speech, Language and Social programmes. As pupils progress through the academy, they are exposed to increasingly complex vocabulary which has been carefully planned in all subjects to give our pupils the words they need to make sense of the curriculum and open the door to their learning in a much wider sense. 

Our Community and our Ways of Being

Show You Care

Our team understands how family life, relationships, mental health and limited means impacts on our families and our pupils; our curriculum looks at diverse and blended families, healthy partnerships and explores the role of women (including what is sexual harassment) in our modern world. It shares the importance of a healthy mind and body (making good lifestyle and nutrition choices) and talks frankly about poor mental health affecting decision-making as a grown-up (supported by the charity MIND). 

Our curriculum promotes future careers and allows exploration of how planning for a job now can directly impact how much money is earned as an adult (and we look at what money can buy!).

We provide an embedded Outdoor Curriculum which fosters a love of the great outdoors; an alignment to nature (and its healing powers); and teaches our children survival, bushcraft and forestry skills. It facilitates talk and promotes talking when there is a  worry or a concern – talk is good.

These are real life concerns that we show we care about very much.

Be Yourself Always

Our team understands that family life and family expectations can impact on a pupil’s desire to do well in school, and we understand that reputation, family honour and not looking weak are cultural concerns of our community; our curriculum encourages our children to: be themselves and strive to show off the best version of themselves as much as possible. To push through nerves, to cope with failure and to self-regulate effectively are addressed in our curriculum offer, along with ‘walking away’ and making good choices.

Our curriculum allows pupils to identify their strengths across a broad and balanced subject offering, immersing themselves in the very best that our local, national and global communities have to offer. 

We hope to raise the aspirations of our learners so that they shake off what they have always known and become change-makers of their future!

Succeed Together

Our team understands that when competition spills over; when families clash with each other and when self-preservation is a pupil’s main driver, we have to work together to show how being a team can really help. Not only do we model being an effective team ourselves, looking out for each other (and supporting our community and families) but our curriculum constantly looks for opportunities to foster collaboration, partner-talk, team discussion and peer challenge whilst empowering children  to recognise their own strengths and what they can bring to the party!

Respecting each other, embracing differences without judgment and looking back at how our community succeeded together in the past are all key elements of our Portland curriculum. 

The families of Birkenhead North (our community) succeeded together in creating many world-firsts: in transport, engineering, ship building and football, and we want our children to recognise themselves in these people of the past and recognise the qualities needed to succeed effectively together: cooperation and collaboration but also independence, self-help and self-motivation. This will promote a real sense of belonging – something which the adults of our community struggle to feel. 

When a child belongs, they believe they can do it and they can achieve more.

Do What Matters Most

Our team understands the concerns of our families when their children start with us at Co-op Academy Portland: poor speech and language skills, limited vocabulary and literacy, inadequate listening skills and an inability to regulate emotions and feelings.

Our curriculum puts talk at the heart of our curriculum and our synthetic phonics programme and speech and language interventions allow our children the opportunity to accelerate quickly.

Immersion in good vocabulary and experience of high-quality, well-chosen texts ensure we do what matters most in addressing these key literacy areas.

Our Outdoor Learning provision, emotional literacy interventions, and inclusive ethos ensures that our children are well looked after emotionally and are supported in making good choices and managing their feelings well.

Addressing communication skills explicitly in our curriculum whilst supporting the personal development of our learners effectively, enables us to have a clear future-focused curriculum, where life-after-school features heavily in our curriculum practices. We want our children to break free from the restraints of their society and become the change-makers of the future – just like the Birkenhead North people of the past.

Connecting with our locality and heritage 

With this in mind, our pupils study the unique offerings of the Wirral peninsula and look at the contribution of the Wirral Waterways and the heritage of the famous Cammell Laird shipyard in the industrial borough of Birkenhead North, close to the unique and influential cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Chester.

The immediate area is renowned for its historical and geographical importance in the industrial era of steam-power, the global shipping trade of the 1800s and its maritime dominance in Wartime Britain.

Housing the first publicly funded park in Britain, the first street tramway in Britain, the first tunnel in the world built beneath a tidal estuary, and the world famous Cammel Lairds Ship-Building Yard, Birkenhead North was a world leader in steel engineering, building and transport. Our curriculum enables our children to learn about these global influences of our community and appreciate the importance of the River Mersey in contributing to Birkenhead North’s success, offering opportunities for our children to engineer, to build and learn about transport history and walk in the successful footsteps of their great ancestors.

Co-op Academy Portland’s curriculum celebrates this golden era through local history studies, geographical enquiries and through the books that underpin our English programme; themes and topics within Art, Music and DT drive an understanding of this powerful community. A 3-tiered approach encompassing local, national and global contributions are used to encourage our children to understand their community but to experience the best that our country and the world has to offer in these defining curriculum areas and raise the expectations and aspirations of our children so that they too make their mark on the world around them in a really positive way.

Our three defining ‘pillars’ of community, contribution and heritage helps us to explicitly make links between our curriculum areas and draw golden threads out of the work undertaken by the children. This supports a wider understanding of the world they live in but also supports making connections to the world around them and facilitates a higher level of cognition.


Our children will understand the concept of contribution and how it underpins a successful team, a successful community and individual academic success too. 

‘The more you put in – the more you get out.’

Our children will understand the contribution Birkenhead North people made to the wider world and will begin to appreciate the contribution and global influences of far away places on Birkenhead and its people. Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Romans all set up homes and communities here and continue to contribute to today’s society.

Our children will learn about the physical contribution of the River Mersey; geographically, historically and technologically and understand its influence on local traditions and cultural influences. From Razzle Dazzle artistry, music from the Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers, and the world‘s first passenger ferries and estuary tunnels, our curriculum makes links across learning topics and personal development opportunities to develop our pupils into confident young citizens who make their own positive contribution to the world.

Our Portland 50 list also documents the experiences and skills-to-master that we expect all of our children to have met by the time they leave us in Year 6. This makes full use of our surrounding area and the industrial work experience offers that exist in our local area, and allows a thorough exploration of making ethical choices as our children grow up.

Pupils’ Personal Development

Creating ethically minded young people isn’t just about careers and employment; we are also determined to play our part in shaping pupils’ moral development. Our pupils need the courage and knowledge to make good moral choices in life. We have prioritised moral development throughout our curriculum; in history pupils learn about gender bias when studying the Ancient Greeks and why personal choice in faith is important through their studies of the Anglo-Saxons and Scots. In geography, our pupils study the rainforests and the effects that humans have on them as well as learning about inequalities in wealth in Brazil and considering equity through Fair Trade. Our PSHE curriculum and carefully selected literacy texts build in regular opportunities to explore moral dilemmas and issues within society. Running through all of this, is our clear focus on values; our Co-op values and Ways of Being support our pupils in becoming well-grounded and caring young people who look to do the right thing at every opportunity. Pupils learn about each value through a carefully planned series of lessons from Reception to Year 6. 

We look at the opportunities our ancestors took advantage of – making its mark on the world stage – and explore the cultural influences of these exotic places on our lives today and link it to how we can be just like them. From the infamous Silk Road, to the long-standing Roman roads; from the shipping hauls of Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt to the Ferry cargos carried across the River Mersey, our curriculum explores maritime dominance and transport innovation whilst promoting the concept of E. D. Hirsch’s ‘entire’ curriculum. Hirsch outlines that every single aspect of a school day is the curriculum and that this should contribute to the life chances and opportunities of every pupil in order for them to be the best that they can be in the community in which they live.

Pupils in our Academy build on this knowledge of their heritage by having the opportunity to build the leadership skills they will need for the wider world by taking part in our Co-op Young Leaders initiative. Roles such as librarians, prefects, book monitors, reading buddies and school councillors all offer valuable experiences to develop communication, leadership, cooperation and a sense of responsibility. 


Our curriculum is carefully sequenced to ensure that key knowledge is built as pupils move through the school. This means that teachers are fully aware of the whole school curriculum and build in regular opportunities to revisit concepts and knowledge to help pupils to commit learning to long term memory and also address any missed learning. We use principles based on sound educational research to ensure that our pupils experience the best educational practices to maximise their learning and are fully engaged and supported. 

We use James Nottingham’s concept of ‘The Pit’ to facilitate a try again approach to never giving up, and we use the teachings of Hywel Roberts to create verbal imagery to immerse children into the learning setting so that they become more ‘bothered’ about what it is they’re doing.

In line with current educational research, lessons are carefully structured to ensure that real learning is taking place and new knowledge is embedded in children’s long term memory. Each lesson begins with an opportunity to revisit previous learning, followed by new knowledge and concepts which are introduced in small steps. Children are provided with lots of opportunities to practise what they have learnt, using shared models and examples. Children’s independent learning is then scaffolded as they demonstrate their application of new knowledge and skills. As children work increasingly independently, teachers routinely check understanding and give meaningful feedback to move learning forward.

We love tests and quizzes to check back on understanding and we regularly use revision cards to model a key (and very useful) secondary school strategy for exam revision.

We love asking our children to lead plenaries in our lessons to consolidate learning for their peers and as a further opportunity to address misconceptions and provide further assessment information.

Click here for our Curriculum Intent in full