At Saint Martin’s, in order for all pupils to achieve academic excellence, we deliver a knowledge-rich curriculum where teachers are the experts whose role it is to convey their knowledge and expertise to pupils. We believe that all pupils are entitled to learn about ‘The best which has been thought and said’ (Matthew Arnold). Our plans are inspired by some remarkable schools that have already embarked upon this project, the rationale for which is outlined here by Joe Kirby in his educational blog, Pragmatic Reform.

We have developed a Knowledge-rich curriculum, designed to develop memory and a student’s ability to recall information. Intelligence is malleable, in other words, pupils who put in more effort, who practise, who learn and memorise more ideas and knowledge are able to develop greater expertise and thereby become more intelligent than those who do not. Individual facts are of little use, however, if you acquire more factual knowledge, you are able to build a mosaic of information that is a prerequisite for deep understanding. In essence, the more you know, the more you are able to learn and understand. Knowledge is like Velcro, the more you have, the more that sticks.

‘Higher-order thinking is knowledge-based: The almost universal feature of reliable higher-order thinking about any subject or problem is the possession of a broad, well-integrated base of background knowledge relevant to the subject’.  ​E D Hirsch


Our Knowledge and Mastery Curriculum supports learning. This means the following:

  • knowledge is deliberately visited and re-visited across a module, across a term and a year, and then across 5 years
  • we reinforce the essential 40-50 pieces of subject information in each topic through Knowledge Organisers.
  • we shift them from short into the long-term memory that is capable of storing tens of thousands of pieces of information


Neuro-scientific research tells us that our short-term memory can only hold between 4 and 7 items of information at a time. And that, if we do not re-visit that knowledge within 3 days and regularly, we lose it. That’s like learning on a Friday only to have forgotten it by the Monday. Scary.


And, because it is mastered, it will remain long after those GCSE examinations because it has been so deliberately supported and practised that it has become subconsciously stored in our students’ brains where it sits, waiting to be retrieved at any time in their lives.

It also means that by continuously re-visiting it in short, low-stake quizzes, there’s no panic because there’s no cramming in the final year or weeks leading up to exams. That makes our students secure, prepared and surprisingly calm in the face of examination pressure.

And everyone can revise and re-visit their learning to secure the essential subject facts in their long-term memory. Students are supported at home, by parents; in school by the expert teacher check-ins and quizzes, and through school with interventions to support them when they need it. ​