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Academy Life

Teaching and Learning

Our aim is to develop both staff and students to ensure all students excel in lessons and achieve the highest outcomes.

The breadth of the curriculum at Smith’s Wood Academy and the needs of our students mean that the implementation of the curriculum in each subject is not identical but feature a number of common aspects.



As a school we have adopted the Teaching for Excellence Model to the curriculum and to curriculum delivery. This allows our children to succeed in modern society. The curriculum for every department is knowledge rich and emphasises the development and securing of deep knowledge, in conjunction with the development of key skills such as organisation, resilience and communication (known as our “Why” Values). Teachers plan learning around carefully designed Learning Journeys. Our curriculum is designed to provide a flexible, personalised education – knowing that one size does not fit all and preparing students for their future lives.

Teachers at Smith’s Wood are asked to adopt the Teaching for Excellence model of teaching which is based on 6 key principles;


  1. High quality Explanation
  2. Deliberate practice
  3. Modelling
  4. Questioning
  5. High quality feedback (live and deep feedback)
  6. High expectations


Teachers also ensure regular reading and the use of targeted vocabulary is prioritised to allow students to access the full curriculum offer.


Smith’s Wood Academy aims to support every member of staff in becoming an outstanding teacher. A varied professional development programme is provided that caters for teachers at all stages in their career; teachers are encouraged to share their ideas and learn from each other. Our Coaching Programme has been well received by staff and is highly effective in terms of developing teaching and learning.

Teaching and Learning

Our vision for teaching and learning is upheld by staff and students alike.


Knowledge is power. Information is liberating.
Kofi Annan


At Smith’s Wood Academy, we believe all students, whatever their background, are able to become experts in the disciplines that they study. Their expertise will be achieved through
quality teaching and the dissemination of deep knowledge by highly skilled and knowledgeable subject experts. The Teaching
for Excellence Model
will prevail – in every classroom, every lesson, every day.


Our students have the right to be introduced to deep knowledge and
wealth of information from the spectrum of subjects that they study. They will be introduced to, and understand, theories and principles
that have influenced, continue to influence, and will influence in the future, the world in which they live. They will be prepared to fully engage in academic discussion about their learning.

This learning will secure a successful place in society for our students. They will go further than they ever thought possible.

To support teachers in delivering this vision the Academy;

An overview of the curriculum coverage for each subject area can be found via that subjects web page.

Teaching and Learning

At Smith’s Wood Academy we have transformed the way in which we plan lessons, give feedback to students. Our starting point for the recent revolution has been a bedrock of scientific research into the science of learning. For example, “”Daniel Willingham’s assertion about the importance of knowledge:


“Data from the last thirty years lead to a conclusion that is not scientifically challengeable: thinking well requires knowing facts, and that’s true not simply because you need something to thinkabout. The very processes that teachers care about most critical thinking processes such as reasoning and problem solving — are intimately intertwined with factual knowledge that is in long-term memory (not just found in the environment).”


There are two parts of Willingham’s assertion:

1) You can only think deeply and critically about what you know well—what you have a lot of knowledge about—and

2)  To aid thinking, that knowledge must be encoded in long-term memory. Retrieval practice is the tool that encodes knowledge in long term memory.


Further research in the cognitive sciences makes clear that the battle against forgetting begins as soon as you learn something and that the best time to practice retrieving something from long-term memory is when you have started to forget it. When you try have to work harder to remember something, but then do so, you build a stronger neural pathway of the thing you are trying to remember (or not forget).


Therefore in May 2017 we began the first tentative steps of our journey toward a knowledge based curriculum, and the Teaching for Excellence Model. Fast forward to September 2021 and we are well underway with the transformation and evolution – we have re-set our expectations around T&L, with a clear focus on what we our expectations are. This approach ensures that lessons follow a very simple framework.

The lesson structure can best be described as follows:

To support our delivery of this work we’ve put in place (and are continuing to do so) some very highly focused training on each of these aspects.



Our approach to Feedback has also been transformed. See our policy here. At Smith’s Wood Academy we recognise that effective feedback is one of the most powerful tools in enhancing student achievement (Hattie in Ainsworth & Viegut 2006). As a result, all students have an entitlement to receive regular feedback.

We understand the importance of teacher workload in relation to feedback, therefore the policy outlined below is underpinned by the following key principles of best practice as outlined by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

Feedback at Smith’s Wood Academy therefore takes a number of forms. Live feedback and deep feedback. Teachers no longer mark a students’ book, instead the teacher spends time identifying errors made by students at point of error, addressing these immediately. While teachers will also read through a students’ work, making notes in a teacher notebook – to share success and areas for development with the class as a whole. The improvement we have seen within students books as a result of these changes has been incredible.

Accelerated Reader Vision

“Of the subjects taught in school, reading is first among equals – the most singular in importance because all others rely on it” 

Lemov, Driggs & Woolway

At Smith’s Wood Academy, we believe all students, whatever their background, are able to become competent and confident readers. Students will develop both an imaginative and critical view of the world in which they live, preparing them to fully engage in all subjects and deepen their knowledge.

This learning will secure a successful place in society for our students. They will go further than they ever thought possible.

We can turn every learner into a reader.

Why is reading important?

Reading is the basis of all GCSE subjects, but more than this, it is the basis of everyday interactions and information. For our pupils to access their community and world fully they need the skills to read and interpret text. At present, English teenagers are the most illiterate in the developed world, yet 16 year-olds who choose to read are two times more likely to secure a high paid job after school. We want to ensure that all Smith’s Wood pupils fall into that second group of teenagers.

What is Accelerated Reader?

AR is a national reading programme designed to monitor, encourage and facilitate reading for pleasure. The programme has two components: S.T.A.R. reading assessments and accelerated reader quizzes.

S.T.A.R. reading assessments are taken three times a year by all pupils from years 7-9. It is an online assessment, which takes approximately 30 minutes. We use it to generate valuable information about the pupils reading ability such as: their reading age, their ideal ZPD range and their overall understanding.

AR quizzes are completed by pupils after they have finished a book, they are a comprehension-style quiz assessing what the pupils remember about the book they have read. Tutors check pupil data weekly, to ensure that quizzes are being completed and that pupils are achieving a minimum of 80% in every quiz.

How does Accelerated Reader work in practice?

After the S.T.A.R. reading data has been complied, pupils are given an individual ZPD range. This number tells them what books to select from the library, ensuring that they are able to progress during the year.

There are three steps to accelerated reader, once the pupils are given their ZPD range:

Step 1: choose a book within the pupils ZPD range.

Step 2: read the book (sometimes twice if it is a short book)

Step 3: take a quiz


How can I support my child at home?

Encourage your child to read for pleasure at home, perhaps before bed, as a routine. Complete quizzes at home. All children have a personal login to access the accelerated reader quizzes, these can be taken at home on a mobile, computer or other internet accessible device.

The login details, for the majority of pupils, are as follow:

Username: first letter of their first name and the last four letters of their last name

e.g. Emma Hassall = ehass Password: abc