In a spiral curriculum, key concepts and topics are presented repeatedly throughout. However, it is more than simple repetition, because each time a topic is returned to, layers of knowledge and understanding are built up, providing deepening complexity.

Back in December we shared about how Life to the Full is a spiral curriculum, with a particular focus on the primary programme. So in true spiral curriculum fashion, we are now returning to the key concept of Life to the Full as a spiral curriculum, but this time with a focus on the secondary programme!

For those wanting to catch up, or consolidate prior learning, you can read the original article ‘How many times do you need to be reminded?’ which explores what a spiral curriculum is, how Life to the Full can be considered one, and a faith perspective on this.

Life to the Full secondary is split into 5 different programmes designed to be used in the 5 years of secondary school: Years 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.

Across the Life to the Full programmes for each year group, the same broad topics are returned to. This is reflected in each year’s programme being split into the same three themes: Created and Loved by God, Created to Love Others and Created to Live in Community.

Within these three umbrella themes are sub-themes which also demonstrate returning to and building on learning in each year group: Religious Understanding (which relates to each theme), Me, My Body, My Health, Emotional Well-being, Life Cycles, Personal Relationships, Keeping Safe, and The Wider World.

Through this structure, pupils are introduced to concepts in Year 7 that lay the foundations that are built upon throughout Years 8, 9, 10 and 11  – a true spiral curriculum.

The main theme and sub-theme titles for secondary schools (in the image above) are the same as those we use in our Life to the Full primary programme, so pupils who have attended primary schools which utilise that programme will be familiar with this structure. This structure gives us a framework to continue the spiral curriculum from Early Years Foundation Stage throughout Key Stage 1, Lower Key Stage 2 and Upper Key Stage 2 at primary school, and onwards through Years 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 at secondary school.

Pupils do not have to have completed the primary programme to engage with the secondary programme, but particularly for Year 7 teachers, it is beneficial for teachers to know which pupils have and have not engaged with the Life to the Full programme at primary level, in order to best support their participation throughout secondary school.

There are many benefits! Let’s look at just three here, with the specific example of puberty in mind:

  • Previous learning is reviewed, hence improving its retention and reducing any sense of fear or surprise about puberty.
  • The topic is progressively elaborated on when it is reintroduced, meaning children are able to hold multiple ideas at once without becoming overwhelmed. In this way learning is built up in layers as young people experience puberty for themselves.
  • Content is pitched according to how appropriate it is for the age group – all year groups consider self-awareness, but the nature of the focus changes with age, e.g. from personal hygiene to sexual desire.

For this question, let’s consider the theme of ‘Emotional Well-being’ as explored in Life to the Full for secondary schools:

  • In Year 7, pupils learn about what contributes to their self-esteem, how to increase it, and how different levels of self-esteem can affect their confidence and decision making.
  • In Year 8, pupils explore feelings in greater depth, including God’s wonderful gift of sexual attraction, which requires self-control, mutual respect and patience to manage well.
  • In Year 9, pupils learn about the difference between love and lust and how to consider their values, attitudes and beliefs, and the influence these have on their choices.
  • In Year 10, pupils are invited to interrogate more rigorously their beliefs, values and attitudes, and take ownership over how they shape or change these, so that over time they are not at risk of making decisions which go against them.
  • In Year 11, pupils watch interviews with James and Sarah, who experienced poor emotional health growing up, resulting in disordered eating. The session helps pupils learn that gaining insight into oneself is key to emotional well-being, and invites them to consider their own deepest needs, complexities and contradictions.

You will notice that each year’s content serves as a building block to the next: building self-esteem, managing sexual attraction, being in control of choices, interrogating beliefs, values and attitudes, and gaining insight into oneself.

As well as WHAT is taught, it is also important to consider HOW content is taught and developed in a way that could be considered a spiral curriculum. Watch this short film from our recent CPD workshop for schools in Wales to find out more:

We recently produced a CPD workshop for schools in Wales which goes into further detail about how Life to the Full for secondary schools is a spiral curriculum, and we plan to hold a session for schools in the rest of the country soon – watch this space!

In the meantime, do check out our upcoming CPD sessions here, or via our website: