Core Knowledge FAQ
We believe passionately that our approach ensures that our children's mental horizons are progressively expanded beyond their everyday experience.
Why is the acquisition of knowledge so important for my child? Surely you can find everything on the internet now?
Knowledge is required to understand the world about us and to think critically about things. Every subject in the school curriculum is based on a core of knowledge that the child needs to acquire in order to master the subject. We can find facts on the internet, but unless we hold information in our long-term memory, we cannot think critically about anything. Possessing a growing body of knowledge across a wide range of subjects will enable our pupils to question what they may read on the internet and not just accept as truth anything that comes to them through the mass media.
Why will my child be happier as a result of being taught Core Knowledge?
The better we understand the world we live in, the more successfully we engage with it. Acquiring command of a range of academic subjects gives a child the satisfaction of achievement and the security that comes from understanding his or her surroundings.
What does knowledge-based learning mean? Can you give me an example of how a lesson might be knowledge-based?
There are many different ways of teaching, but in recent years it has been popular to focus upon the teaching of skills, often through child-led methods such as discovery learning. In some cases this has led to the erosion of knowledge in the curriculum. With Core Knowledge, pupils will focus on a foundation of knowledge; as a result they will be able to develop skills such as critical thinking and analysis.
Knowledge-Based Lesson Example: To understand the importance of waterworks for Roman citizens
This lesson would occur in a unit of work where children are studying the Romans. Children would recap their previous learning, particularly specific vocabulary, before moving onto the content for this lesson. Children would discuss the role of water in a city. Knowing that the Romans built cities across their empire, children would then look at ways in which Romans overcame the problem of delivering water to their citizens. Children would learn about aqueducts, baths and sewage systems. The teacher would use a range of sources at this stage; these could include drawings, pictures, written accounts or artefacts where possible. Children would then show their understanding by writing about the importance of waterworks for Roman citizens, using key vocabulary correctly. This lesson may be followed by study of the Roman forum and the role it played in the life of Roman citizens.
Isn’t Core Knowledge very old-fashioned?
The idea that something is old-fashioned suggests that it belongs to a different era. On the contrary: Core Knowledge is entirely up to date, using techniques of teaching and learning developed in ancient Greece but adapted, most recently and with great success, in the last ten years in the US. The basic principle of the approach is that we use our cultural inheritance and geographical context to show how and why we have got to where we are now; and through it our pupils are able to face the future armed with an understanding of how the past has shaped the society we live in today.
Why is it important for my child to learn Shakespeare? Are there not more relevant books for them?
Core Knowledge places great emphasis on the classic texts, not only Shakespeare but the myths and legends of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as classic fairy tales and children’s stories. The Roman historian Sallust said of myths that ‘these things never happened and will always be true’, because they tell us profound truths about the human condition. Our culture is deeply permeated by these classic texts, and it is important that children should be able to recognise references to the Mad Hatter and the Wooden Horse of Troy.
If Core Knowledge is so good, why aren’t more schools using it?
The importance of a knowledge-rich curriculum has been reflected in the government’s decision to overhaul the national curriculum. Children across England are embarking upon this new national curriculum that places a greater emphasis on knowledge. Therefore, more schools will be teaching ‘core’ knowledge. We think this is a big step forward. The number of schools specifically using the Core Knowledge series is growing and we hope to work alongside other schools to share good practice.
How does the NMS CK curriculum go beyond what the government is introducing into the state sector?
The subject areas included in the Core Knowledge curriculum cover the content specified in the national curriculum, and actually go further in terms of detail and level of challenge. Children at NMS may learn things in a slightly different order, for example prehistoric Britain is taught in Year 1 at NMS but doesn’t appear in the national curriculum until Year 3. Overall, we aim for children at NMS to be exceeding the expectations of the national curriculum.
Why is Core Knowledge taught from Year 1 and not in Reception?
The Core Knowledge approach follows the approach adopted in the US. We did this because we believe the Core Knowledge curriculum works best from this age level upwards. This view is shared by the Government with the new knowledge-based curriculum for state schools, which also starts in Year 1. However, a full programme of activities that will prepare children for their introduction to Core Knowledge in Year 1 has been devised by NMS for Reception, where children also learn within the framework of the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Will my child leave school ahead of their peers from non-NMS schools, as a result of learning the CK?
A child who has received a knowledge-based education in primary school will be well prepared for secondary school, where more detailed work is needed in all subject areas. The knowledge-enriched child will be able to grasp complicated subjects more easily than children who have received a more fragmented education, as they will be familiar with the ‘grammar’ - ie the rules and principles - that underlie every subject.