A bright, well balanced curriculum offers a good blend of academic, physical and practical activities to stretch each child's development.
Lower School Curriculum
The broad curriculum in the Lower School ensures each child can enjoy and participate in all lessons. The children are introduced to a varied and specialised curriculum, mainly looked after by their Form Teacher in Years 2 & 3, but also given the experience of working with specialists in subjects like Games, Music, Food Technology and Textiles. Many activities throughout the school day are practical and all the children are encouraged to get involved and have confidence in their own abilities.
In the Lower School, children study English, Mathematics, Science, Information Technology, History, Geography, Religious Studies, French, PSHE, Reasoning, Art, Music, Drama, Technology (including food and textiles) and Physical Education (including swimming and a wide range of indoor and outdoor sports).
In Year 4 children move into set groups for the core academic subjects. All classes follow similar programmes of study in each subject, with the main difference between sets being the pace of the lessons and the amount of independent work.
Due to the rigours of a busy school day, homework is kept to a minimum for the younger children. Reading aloud, spellings, multiplication and number bonds are the main tasks set with some written homework introduced in the latter part of Year 3. In Year 4, the levels of homework increase to include a written piece of English and Mathematics alongside continued daily reading.
Informal assessments take place regularly throughout the school year and more formal summer term assessments in English and Mathematics indicate individual pupil's progress and attainment.
The students in Year 5 also start their preparation for both the 11+ and 13+ pre-tests (involving Maths, English and Reasoning), which are undertaken early in Year 6.
Upper School Curriculum
Upper School pupils are taught in subject specialist rooms, which are very well resourced including interactive white boards. They are taught by subject specialists, who maximise each child’s potential and ensure continuity and progress during their Upper School years.
Academic focus is geared towards preparation for Common Entrance or Scholarship exams in the final year. There is an increased timetable allocation for the Common Entrance subjects and homework is set in all the academic subjects, typically in two subjects per night during the week and three at weekends.
The curriculum is broad and vibrant, with a ‘carousel’ system operating in the non Common Entrance subjects of Art, ICT, DT, PSHE, Music, Food Technology and Textiles. These are taught on a rotational basis and students have ample opportunities to involve themselves in all aspects of school life. Games, PE and Swimming also have suitable curriculum time afforded to them.
Year 7 is the foundation year for Common Entrance and pupils are split into groups to prepare them for Common Entrance and Scholarship awards. These are determined by a combination of summer exam results at the end of Year 6, ongoing assessments and by standardised tests. Pupils are continually monitored during Year 7 to determine whether they are in the most appropriate academic group.
The Common Entrance groups are split further into subject based sets for English, Maths, Science, French, Latin and Spanish. For certain subjects at Common Entrance there are tiered papers and the expectation at Downsend is that the stronger Common Entrance candidates will aim to sit the higher tier papers.
SEN and Gifted & Talented Children
Should a child need additional learning support, the school has a Learning Support SEN Co-ordinator, who liaises with the Form Tutors and subject teachers as required. Also on site is a Gifted & Talented Co-ordinator to ensure more able children are given extension work and tasks, which are appropriate to their abilities. These resources are available at the Pre-Preps and throughout the Prep School.