Welcome to the Lower Senior School at Downsend – Years 7 and 8
As pupils transition from the Junior School, or join us from other schools at Year 7, there is a sense of excited enthusiasm for the next stage of the journey.
We have had much to be proud of in recent years, reflected in our successes in exam results and across a breadth of scholarship awards to some of the best senior schools in the country.
As we become an all-through to GCSE school, we continue this drive for academic success, interwoven with the development of softer skills that will enable our young people to be truly incredible.
A Global Perspective
As our Year 7’s progress into the Senior School, their understanding of their place in the world, and their responsibility as global citizens grows. Having a solid sense of perspective and an ability to see the bigger picture is an important part of both our teaching and pastoral approach at Downsend.
Our curriculum encourages a diversity of opinion on race and gender issues, deliberately focusing on literature that promotes a global perspective. We study a wide range of cultures, from Music to History, and choose trips that will inspire and spark debate. Being part of a global schools group means we have enviable access to our sister schools in Chile, Asia and Spain so we seek to learn from them and bring that learning to the classroom or through exchange experiences.
Shaping emotionally intelligent team players
Our research to define our new Future Skills vision showed that irrespective of sector, employers and universities seek the students that excel in ‘non-cognitive skills’; the ability to be empathetic, to listen, to have a voice, to adapt, to be resilient and to be a part of an amazing team.
The Downsend Diploma is designed to focus on those areas, through the pillars of: Academic, Leadership, Citizenship, Creative and Physical, pupils are able to work towards this exciting and innovative award, alongside their academic journey.
We encourage debate, promote public speaking and group performances and encourage all pupils to take on positions of leadership. We encourage pupils to focus on their wellbeing, through initiatives such as Global Be Well Day and by using personalised programmes such as AS Steer to help us signpost potential mental health issues before they escalate.
We know that the ability to think creatively is much demanded by employers as manual tasks become increasingly automated. Creativity is one of the key skills highlighted by the World Economic Forum as vital for the workforce of the future, alongside analytical thinking and complex problem-solving. We know that thinking about real-world problems independently, and as part of a team, is all part of the creative process so we integrate these opportunities into every part of the curriculum. We use Virtual Reality headsets to ensure the learning experience is fully immersive, using our state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to design, use machinery to develop products, to evaluate and review.
In Year 8, pupils take part in Downsend Dragon’s Den, working alongside real-life dragons from a variety of sectors and areas of expertise to strategise, design, implement, deliver and market their own product.
Our ground-breaking STRETCH programme covers a wide range of creative disciplines such as Pfizer’s Science in a Box to Young Engineers and Rocket-Making. Alongside this, we excel in the more traditional Creative Arts, giving all pupils the opportunity to perform musically or theatrically.
Developing Digital Mastery – 1 to 1 devices for every pupil
Being part of a global schools group gives us unrivalled access to the latest Ed-Tech developments. During the pandemic, we rolled out 1 to 1 devices to every pupil from Year 3 and above, enabling us to move seamlessly to online learning and to capitalise on our pupils’ increasing levels of digital skill. We use the devices alongside best-in-class technology platforms such as One Note, to improve collaboration and feedback, and AI based platforms such as CENTURY, to personalise and stretch the learning experience.
A personalised approach to developing the individual
We have a meticulous approach to tracking progress, with individual targets set for each pupil. These targets are reviewed termly, with new approaches taken to stretch higher-order thinking, or support areas of weakness. We use MidYis and Yellis (Year Eleven Indicator System) to help us track baseline assessments, predict GCSE performance and produce a detailed analysis of individual strengths and weaknesses.
Tutors and teachers encourage the pupils to become more independent in their learning with opportunities for self-directed study either in the Senior Library and an open-door policy at break and lunchtimes for pupils to ‘drop in’ if they have any queries. They are also encouraged to set themselves SMART targets during their termly tutorials and are given opportunities to review and reflect on their progress, encouraging greater ownership of their learning and development.