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Case study: A partner school delivering the Aspire to HE Knowledge Curriculum.



The Aspire to HE Knowledge Curriculum is an evidence-based, higher education and student progression knowledge curriculum for Years 9 to 13. Aspire to HE provides the resources and materials to all partner schools via Moodle, supplemented by advice and support from dedicated Senior Partnership Officers.

The Knowledge Curriculum content has a specific focus on higher education, but also explores other routes, allowing students to reflect on their own learning preferences and the pathways that may be most appropriate for them. Each year group is provided with knowledge content on the same topics, such as ‘What is HE?’, ‘Finance and Outcomes’, ‘progression’, and ‘career information’, which all are requirements for students to make an informed and ambitious decision about their future.

In previous years, Aspire to HE staff were responsible for content delivery within schools. However, as schools became increasingly familiar with the Knowledge Curriculum content, in-school delivery by key staff within schools was piloted in 2021-22.

Wood Green Academy (WGA) has been part of the Uni Connect programme, and an Aspire to HE school, since the programme launched in 2017. WGA staff have been consistently eager to trial new initiatives and provide an inspiring example of an institution keen to work collaboratively with Aspire to HE.


The key challenge for schools is to find time to effectively deliver the Aspire to HE Knowledge Curriculum within an already busy timetable. It was identified early on that scheduled PSHE (personal, social, health and economic education) lessons would be an ideal place for the Aspire to HE Knowledge Curriculum to sit, because sessions focus on strengthening the knowledge and skills of young people and prepare them for life and work. However, PSHE provision in most schools is typically planned well in advance, so it has been a challenge for schools to fully take advantage of the Knowledge Curriculum resources.

An additional challenge for schools, and for Aspire to HE, is the successful monitoring of attendance at all Knowledge Curriculum sessions. It is often the case that multiple staff deliver different aspects of the Knowledge Curriculum at different times, resulting in the Lead Teacher for each school struggling to monitor which students were present for which sessions.


WGA identified the Knowledge Curriculum content as being important to their students. There was an active willingness from the Senior Leadership Team to imbed our sessions at the school because the content aligns with Gatsby Benchmark 7 (encounters with further and higher education). The Gatsby Benchmarks are a framework set out by the government to improve and standardise careers provision in schools.

When addressing the challenge of fitting the content into the school timetable, several approaches helped ensure delivery success in both WGA and other partner schools.

Firstly, the Knowledge Curriculum features 6 hours’ worth of content for each year group. This content is split in to 6 x 1-hour sessions, which can then be divided again into 20 or 30 minute sections. We found that creating sessions that could easily be broken down into smaller ‘blocks’ of delivery has worked well within schools. It allows them the flexibility to deliver content during 60-90 minute lessons, or during smaller blocks of time during the day such as ‘form time’.

Secondly, the Knowledge Curriculum is a ready-made programme with resources that fit easily into PSHE sessions. At WGA they have six ‘Step up 4 Life’ days throughout the academic year and this is where they deliver their PSHE curriculum. Step up 4 Life days are ‘off timetable’ days where no traditional lessons take place. The school is able to deliver content that actively supports students but may not have an academic focus. For many of these days WGA invite external speakers into school to inspire and inform students about life beyond compulsory education.

The first few Step up 4 Life days for 2021-22 already had content confirmed, but fortunately the remaining days did not, enabling the school to easily work the Knowledge Curriculum delivery into the schedule. By WGA embedding the Knowledge Curriculum into their Step up 4 Life days, it meant that collecting registers and details of the session became a smoother process. Aspire to HE is required to collect this information from schools to accurately record which students attend which sessions.

Overall WGA are really engaged with the programme of events that Aspire to HE offers. Due to this they also booked a Future Goals session from Positively You and motivational speaker Daniel Caines on their final day of Knowledge Curriculum delivery, which was funded by Aspire to HE.

All the content schools require is easily accessible on Moodle, and we allow all partner schools to have as many logins as they wish to enable staff to download the resources they need. Our goal with the Knowledge Curriculum is to remove as many barriers to delivery as possible and encourage schools to adopt the method(s) that work best for them.

With this in mind, Aspire to HE also provided WGA with printed booklets for students to work from. This enabled students to take these workbooks home to complete additional research about the topics they learned about at school. We are hopeful that this resource meant that students, and their families, recognised the Knowledge Curriculum as an important part of their learning.


As part of our ongoing evaluation, Aspire to HE has funded The Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY) to carry out more in-depth evaluation of the Knowledge Curriculum. Part of this evaluation involved a member of CfEY staff observing the delivery of Knowledge Curriculum sessions; speaking to the school staff who delivered the content; and interviewing students who received the Knowledge Curriculum sessions.

The Aspire to HE Lead Teacher for WGA said; “The learning curriculum has allowed pupils to gain invaluable knowledge of the opportunities and protocols associated with higher education and continues to do so at Wood Green Academy. It uses current and relevant information to inform young learners of the next steps they need to take to ensure they are making the correct choices for their future career choices. Staff have found the resources easy to follow and to plan for”.

A pupil at WGA commented that; “Mainly, [I learnt that] you don’t just get the education out of [going to university]. You get social skills and life skills you can use every day out of university.”

Overall, we have had great feedback from the staff who delivered the Knowledge Curriculum sessions at WGA and our other partner schools. We hope that schools will continue to deliver the content and utilise the accompanying resources beyond the programme, adapting them to suit the needs of their students.

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