The curriculum is a framework for setting out the aims of a programme of education, including the knowledge and understanding to be gained at each stage (intent); for translating that framework over time into a structure and narrative, within a school context (implementation) and for evaluating what knowledge and skills pupils have gained against expectations (impact/achievement).


Our curriculum has been recognised as one of the school’s strengths and demonstrates our determination to provide equal opportunities for all pupils. The Ofsted report from our inspection in November 2016 stated: ‘Leaders have ensured that the curriculum is appropriate and meets the needs of pupils so as to equip them to move on to the next stage of their education. The pupils whom inspectors spoke to said that they feel that they have a good range of subjects to study and subsequently choose from. The effectiveness of the curriculum can be seen by the very high numbers of pupils who go on to further education, employment and/or training’.


Our Mission Statement expresses our intention to ensure that all pupils, regardless of their academic ability, are given the opportunity to fulfil their potential – not only academically but spiritually, morally, socially, emotionally and physically.  So that all pupils may “have life and have it to the full”.  (John 10:10).


Our context underpins our curriculum rationale.  The school works in an extremely challenging context.  42% of pupils are disadvantaged which is almost double the National Average.  There is chronic deprivation within the Manchester context. Additionally, cohorts are below National Average for reading, writing and mathematics on entry.  Approximately 20% of pupils have English as an additional language.  Pupils with additional needs (SEND) is significantly above the National Average. 


Key Stage Three Curriculum: 

Underpinning our curriculum are our aims to ensure that pupils are developed to be responsible citizens, independent and confident individuals, constructive contributors to the community and happy and successful learners who achieve well (RICH).

In order to achieve our aims we offer a broad and balanced curriculum.  Pupils study a full range of traditional, academic subjects alongside creative, artistic, technical and sporting disciplines.  As a Catholic school Religious Education is the “Core of the Core” curriculum.  Religious Education is also a vehicle through which we deliver PSHE, British Values and Catholic Social Teaching.

Complementing this is our RICH curriculum which runs during 30 minutes of Family Time each day.  During this time pupils study Literacy, Numeracy, PSHE, Citizenship and British Values as well as CEIAG.  There is a strong SMSC link throughout this, including our carefully planned 5W Weekly Focus which is delivered at the start of each week.  We place high importance on this aspect of our curriculum provision and it is monitored and evaluated rigorously.

It is critical pupils’ literacy and numeracy levels are developed through our curriculum provision at Key Stage Three which is a vehicle for developing these skills.  This is done through an ever increasing focus on literacy and numeracy across the curriculum, and well-targeted intervention.  There is a use of Question Level Analysis from Key Stage 2 and the ‘Catch Up Premium’ to ensure gaps are closed rapidly.  Where necessary, this support continues into Key Stage Four.

Pupils also study two hours a week Core PE at Key Stage Three due to the importance we place upon their physical and mental health and well-being.  This is particularly important given the context in which young people live today.

Three Year KS4: Rationale

The Barlow introduced a three year Key Stage Four in September 2014.  There were a number of reasons for this.

Improved pupil progress data in August 2017 and August 2018 support the decision to transition to a three year Key Stage Four for pupils at The Barlow.

The two year Key Stage 3 helps to avoid a ‘dip’ in their progress.  It is essential that progress is rapid and there is no time to waste repeating material already covered at Key Stage Two unless necessary.  Teachers have carefully reviewed schemes of work and evaluated pedagogical approaches and continue to do so.  We continue to use this as a vehicle for improving teaching and learning.

The Options process is very thorough and robust.  This is supported by pupil and parent voice.  Pupils are given a significant amount of guidance, including independent careers advice.  Pupils are given greater ‘personalisation’ through their Key Stage Four curriculum as they follow one of four bespoke pathways which best meets their needs.  There is dialogue around the allocation of Pathways with parents and pupils and an element of flexibility as appropriate.

This structure also allows us to provide a richer and deeper curriculum.  The time gained in Key Stage Four enables us to increase enrichment activities, for example, our British Values Week in May 2018. 

It is critical that we ensure there is good knowledge and understanding of the content of the curriculum and that pupils are able to manage the robust new assessment procedures.  Opportunities are built in within the three year Key Stage Four to revisit content taught in Year 9 in both Year 10 and Year 11, to ensure that learning is secure.  This is particularly important for our disadvantaged pupils.

For The Barlow, the increased focus in Year 7 and 8 has reduced any restlessness ahead of Year 9; leading to improved behaviour.  It has supported pupil engagement with their learning and has also impacted positively upon pupils’ self-esteem as they are able select subjects in which they can experience success.

Particularly important for our pupils is the increased opportunities for enhanced subject depth and enrichment, e.g. STEM activities.

Key Stage 3 (11-13 years)

In Years 7 & 8 pupils study the following subjects: Religious Education, English, Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, Spanish or French, Computing, Design Technology, Art, Drama, Music and Physical Education.  There are a small number of pupils in Year 7, for whom it is appropriate, who study additional Literacy and Numeracy as part of their curriculum provision.

Key Stage 4 (13-16 years)

Towards the end of Year 8, our pupils take their Options. This is when they decide which subjects they would like to study in Years 9, 10 and Year 11. This period during their school career is very important, as the choices they make are likely to influence their future studies. 

All our Year 9, 10 and Year 11 pupils have to study core subjects. These are: Religious Studies, English Language and Literature, Mathematics, Science (either Combined Science or Separate – Biology, Chemistry and Physics), Physical Education and Personal, Social and Health Education (PHSE), Citizenship, Careers, Enterprise & Work Related Learning.

Pupils also choose up to three subjects from the list below, dependent on the Pathway that they follow:

  • GCSE subjects: Art, Craft & Design, Business, Computer Science, Drama, French, Geography, Graphic Communication, History, Music, Physical Education or Spanish.
  • BTEC Level 1/2 Technical Awards: Engineering, ICT OCR National, Sport or Music.
  • V Cert Level 1/2 Technical Awards:Health & Fitness
  • Other qualifications: ASDAN ‘Preparation for Adulthood’, Salford Diocesan Certificate in Religious Education, Entry Level Literacy and Numeracy.

For curriculum information about individual subject areas, please click on the subject area on the left hand tab of the curriculum section of the website.

Course/Examination Types

GCSE – General Certificate of Secondary Education:

The GCSE is the chief examination that will be taken by students in Years 10 and 11. With recent examination reforms, there has been an increasing emphasis on linear examinations which have now come into effect.  This means as your child begins his/her studies in Key Stage Four (Years 9-11), a greater percentage of his/her final grade, will be determined by the final examination.

We have undertaken a huge amount of planning for the new GCSE syllabuses and fully aware of the importance of preparing our students for these changes. We test students regularly to prepare them for the increasing demands of the new national success criteria as well as to help them develop examination resilience.  

BTEC – Business and Technology Council:

BTEC offer different and practical ways of working for the student. Courses are evidenced-based and the student’s success is not determined by a final examination but on the satisfactory completion of a number of units. These are specialist qualifications that focus on particular aspects of employment within a range of work areas. The quality of a student’s work and the extent to which it addresses the module requirements determines the grade awarded. Grades at Level 2 include: Pass, Merit and Distinction and Distinction*. Student’s work is internally assessed and externally verified by the examination board.

However, there is an increasing emphasis on externally set online tests with regards to the BTEC reforms, which are now in place.  This means as your child begins his/her studies in Key Stage Four (Year 9-11), a greater percentage of his/her final grade, will be determined by the external test performance as well as the completion of the set units.

OCR National:

The OCR Nationals are attractive, practically-based qualifications intended to stimulate and interest candidates. They support achievement of Key Skills and relate to national occupational standards thereby providing an ideal progression to National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) once individuals are in suitable employment.

V Certs:

V Certs are technical alternative qualifications to GCSEs at Key Stage Four holding Department for education (DfE) performance points and are recognised in the Progress 8 Measure.  V Certs are appropriate for learners who are motivated and challenged by learning through hands-on experiences and through content which is concrete and directly related to those experiences.  They offer equivalent levels of rigour and challenge to a GCSE with clear progression routes and career pathways.


ASDAN is an educational awarding organisation.  They provide flexible and engaging programmes and qualifications that help young people develop skills for learning, work and life.  ASDAN offers a range of nationally approved qualifications based around the development of personal, social and employability skills.

Entry Level Certificates (ELC):

Entry Level Certificates provide basic and relevant Mathematical and English skills and are suitable for students of all ages.  It is pitched just below GCSE level, however, is teachable alongside GCSE and is a way of building the confidence of students in developing key skills.

Salford Diocesan Certificate in Religious Education:

This offers students an opportunity to focus on religious and moral issues that are outlined in the Religious Education Curriculum Directory and prepares students to respond to religious and moral issues of everyday life.  There is no terminal examination, instead it is assessed through tasks that are assessed internally and externally moderated.  Successful participants are presented with their certificate by the Right Reverend Bishop John Arnold.

The English Baccalaureate:

The Government believes that schools should offer a broad range of academic subjects that will promote achievement of a broad academic core and have introduced a new award called the  English Baccalaureate. Any pupil who secures 9-5 GCSE passes in English Language, Mathematics, two Sciences, a Modern Foreign Language and a Humanity subject (History or Geography) will receive this additional certificate recording their achievement.  The government has set a target for 75% of Year 10 pupils to study GCSEs, in the EBacc combination of subjects, by 2022.  Whilst we remain aspirational for all our pupils, and recognise it is important for pupils to have access to study these subjects, our driving factor in determining the curriculum our pupils follow is what best meets their needs.

Progress 8 and Attainment 8

New DfE indicators spell the end of 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and Mathematics as the key headline measure of a secondary school’s performance. Schools’ performance will now be evaluated using the following Headline Measures:’Progress 8′, ‘Attainment 8’, Basics (the percentage of pupils gaining 9-5 in both English and Mathematics) and the EBacc.

‘Progress 8’ and ‘Attainment 8’ will be based on a student’s results in eight subjects: English, Mathematics, three EBacc subjects (from the list above) and three other approved ‘high-value’ subjects, which may or may not be from the EBacc range.  All the options subjects offered at The Barlow RC High School are ‘high-value’ subjects.

CEIAG – Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance

The Barlow has been awarded a Gold Award for CEIAG.  The Ofsted report from our inspection in November 2016 stated: ‘Leaders ensure that pupils are provided with the necessary careers education, information, advice and guidance. It is of a high quality and impartial. Recently, the school has received national accolades for the quality of the advice and guidance it gives to pupils. The pupils whom inspectors spoke to value the accurate advice that they have received to help them make informed choices about their next steps’. However, we are not complacent and as part of our continuous school improvement the CEIAG curriculum is constantly reviewed and developed further to provide our students with a broader knowledge base and get them thinking about their career options at an early age.  This will enable all of our students to have a more extensive choice of post 16 options and lead them into successful future careers once they leave The Barlow.  Please see our Careers section of the website for further information.