Curriculum Overview

Our Humphry Davy School Curriculum

Our Mission Statement

An inspiring and vibrant place for learning which enriches, and is a valued part of, the Penzance community.

A place where we:

  • Celebrate individuality
  • Nurture a true sense of belonging
  • Aspire to excellence in everything we do; and
  • Seek to maximise the life chances of all our young people.

Our Aim and Principles (incorporating our co-operative core values)

Humphry Davy School seeks to unlock the talent and enterprise of all our young people.

We promote high achievement and learning for life by working with every individual to:

  • value, trust and respect each member of our community and work together co-operatively;
  • develop their full academic, creative, physical and personal potential, regardless of background and overcoming any barriers to learning;
  • develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to lead successful and happy lives;
  • become independent, confident, considerate and responsible young people who make a positive contribution to society;
  • understand the importance of a fairer and environmentally sustainable world;
  • be empowered to make an ethical and sustainable contribution to local, national and global prosperity.

We are committed to justice and equality for all and will carry this through in school life by:

  • recognising individuality;
  • raising aspirations and awareness of opportunities;
  • valuing and celebrating the positive attitudes and diverse achievements of all;
  • encouraging a positive sense of place and identity through awareness of Cornwall’s heritage, environment and culture, and understanding and respecting differences on a local, national and international level;
  • establishing fair and firm boundaries which promote self-discipline and a responsible attitude towards people and property;
  • providing a community where all feel they belong and where each is known as an individual;
  • promoting the personal qualities of resilience, curiosity, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline, tolerance and compassion;
  • ensuring that our school is a community in which all participate in decision making and the voice of each individual can be heard.

We work to the co-operative ethical values of:

  • Openness – We believe in being open, sharing information and ideas to improve the lives of children and young people
  • Honesty – We are professional and respectful with everyone
  • Caring for others – we treat everyone as we wish to be treated ourselves, understanding that children and young people have one childhood

Our Curriculum Intent

Humphry Davy School is fully committed to providing a broad, balanced, inspiring, inclusive but by design, challenging curriculum.

Our curriculum is designed to embrace all our students do. It is a set of skills, knowledge, understanding and experiences with the thread of our school values and principles running through it. It is the mechanism through which students journey towards a better understanding of themselves and the role they can and will play in their community and society, as ambassadors of a co-operative way of life.

Aspiring to excellence in everything we do is important, whether this is in the respect and tolerance our students show to each other and society in general, or in their studies and the contribution they make to school life. We expect our students to work hard, show resilience and be ready and skilled to deal with the challenges they face.

Humphry Davy School is committed to a holistic education, unlocking all of the talents, enterprise and skills our students possess. Examination and assessment outcomes alone are not guarantees of future success. However, fulfilling their academic potential and achieving their best possible grades in examinations and assessments opens doors and we take student attainment seriously. We believe whole-heartedly that in order to access a broad and balanced curriculum and to be successful in their future lives all students need to be confident and proficient in the basic skills of reading, writing, communication and mathematics. The development of these skills is of the highest priority at all times. In order that our students have embedded lifelong learning habits, we place a sharp focus on actively teaching study and independent skills so that all students can be effective in their learning journey.

We invest in our staff to ensure we can offer the highest quality of educational provision and through our curriculum we aim to develop our identified core ‘Learner Dispositions’ and a wide range of skills that are both academic and vocational.

We aim for students to leave Humphry Davy School knowing how to keep themselves safe and healthy, look after their mental health and wellbeing and equipped with the skills necessary for success in the 21st Century. They will have a broad experience that includes academic, musical, artistic, dramatic, sporting / physical activity, vocational and, most importantly, personal growth opportunities. We provide time for students to learn and enjoy their studies beyond the timetabled school day. We know the crucial role this can play in retaining their interest and excitement; particularly important for some of our most vulnerable students. Therefore we monitor engagement with our wide-ranging enrichment and extra-curricular opportunities and consult our student body to identify interests and evaluate our provision.

Music in particular has long been the heartbeat of Humphry Davy School and along with the wider Arts curriculum, provides opportunities to develop team skills and a sense of belonging, and acts as a conduit to enable students to maturely and appropriately communicate and express feelings and emotions.

As a truly inclusive school, we believe every student has talents and it is our responsibility to provide the opportunities to flourish. We consider it critical that equal opportunities are promoted and realised at all levels of curriculum provision and that this is integral to outstanding practice. Every student is of equal value and we will always work tirelessly to support their individual needs. Whilst we provide individual and small group intervention support where necessary, our curriculum is one that celebrates inclusion throughout, and we firmly believe that our diversity as a school ultimately enriches and enhances our curriculum for the benefit of all.

We expect our students to be community minded with a willingness to get involved and volunteer. We want them to be able to draw on a deep understanding of our co-operative values and utilize the ‘Ways of Being HDS’ to help them. They will be tolerant of others and willing to listen and appreciate the views and lifestyles that others may follow. Our curriculum reflects the needs of our local community and context whilst also meeting the demands of the national and global agenda. It provides opportunities to reflect upon our local heritage whilst providing insight to other cultures and celebrates the value of modern foreign language acquisition and development.

We acknowledge the fundamental role parents and carers play in their child’s development and we do all we can to support them and provide their children with every chance to succeed in the career of their choice. The school experience is a crucial influence helping students decide what they want to do with their life. We will provide excellent, broad and impacting careers educational opportunities to promote aspiration and engagement. Our curriculum is designed to prepare all our students for success in the future - academic or vocational - via e.g. university, traineeship, apprenticeship, self-employment or employment routes.

Most importantly, our curriculum programmes are designed to be enjoyable, rich, varied, exciting, relevant and challenging, and above all, enormously rewarding.

Our Curriculum Framework

Our curriculum encompasses all aspects of school life and student development. It extends far beyond timetabled lessons and has a wide-ranging scope that could be interpreted differently by groups of stakeholders. To facilitate consistency of understanding we have distilled our curriculum into four short ‘curriculum framework’ statements that can be articulated and applied to all aspects of curriculum design and delivery, and easily understood by all stakeholders, including students and their families.

Framework Statement

Incorporates the areas and ideas of *

Who I am

  • Beliefs
  • Values such equity and honesty
  • Drivers such as self-responsibility and self-help
  • Skills and character
  • Emotions
  • Learner dispositions such as resilience and independence

What I know

  • Subject knowledge/ content
  • Choice of option subjects
  • Cultural capital such as languages, beliefs, traditions, cultural and family heritage, interests, travel etc.
  • The HDS ETHICAL teaching policy (how your lessons are taught at HDS)
  • What is taught / by when / and in what order
  • Building on prior knowledge
  • Working towards requirements for the next stage in education or life
  • Checking understanding via different kinds of assessment

Where I belong

  • Family, friends, school and wider community in and around Penwith
  • Local community
  • Cornwall / South West
  • National identity and British Values
  • Global understanding
  • Culture
  • Applying our co-operative values
  • Caring for others
  • Driving required change

Our future

Your personal future:

  • Your aspirations
  • Your next steps at age 16 and beyond
  • Your life goals
  • Your motivation


Community and global future:

  • Your place in society
  • Environmental impact and sustainability

* Areas and ideas may come under one or more headings, contributing to the understanding that who we are influences how we ‘belong’ and our future opportunities.

Our Learner Dispositions

Development of character is an essential part of our curriculum and our learner dispositions, created in collaboration between students and staff, demonstrate the core skills that our students are encouraged to nurture throughout their time at Humphry Davy. We work to develop learners who are:

  • Enthusiastic
  • Focused
  • Confident
  • Resilient
  • Respectful
  • Independent
  • Creative
  • Responsible

We value and celebrate our students' achievements in the development of these key character traits and recognise that this is as important as academic success in supporting our students on their journey to become happy, healthy and prosperous adults.

Our Curriculum Implementation

Our Humphry Davy curriculum is structured to:

  • Provide a firm foundation for effective transition to secondary school;
  • Utilize the fantastic resources around us to inspire and aim high;
  • Meet the needs of our local context;
  • Be inclusive and overcome historical barriers to engagement and participation.

Even prior to joining Humphry Davy School, our students will have experienced a broad variety of curriculum experiences that promote curiosity and a sense of belonging, through our outreach and transition programmes and summer schools.

There is a strong tradition of Humphry Davy School working collaboratively and effectively with our local Penwith community and businesses.

Subject leaders work with the rich, diverse range of local arts, cultural and heritage networks to maximise opportunities to develop student cultural capital and to experience ‘real world’ curriculum projects. Newlyn Art Gallery, Penlee House Gallery and Museum, The Minack Theatre, The Acorn Theatre, The Exchange, Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, Geevor Tin Mine, Tate St Ives, Purthcurno Telegraph Museum, Trengwainton Garden and St Michaels Mount are just some of the many local facilities accessed by students as part of their studies and we host multiple festivals too.

The ‘Town Deal vision for 2030’ for Penzance is to be: “A thriving, resilient town with a diverse economy, providing quality jobs, opportunities, homes and lifestyles. It is welcoming, connects locals and visitors to its inspiring coastline and culture, and puts people and planet first.”

Penzance has traditionally been dependent upon tourism and fishing as the major employers. It is now typified by high levels of self-employment and small to micro-enterprise. 45.5% of the town population live in the most deprived 20% areas in the country and Cornwall Council describes Penzance as home to the most deprived ward in Cornwall, with a seasonal, low wage economy. Over the years, young people have predominantly had to leave the area to find employment and many families experience multi-generational unemployment. The vision seeks to increase the number of enterprises and share of young people who have the relevant skills for employment.

A strong focus on careers, enterprise and work experience opportunities therefore drives our curriculum model and provision. For example, regular careers fairs; the use of ‘Live briefs’ where our students work with local businesses to develop clothing and textile ranges; and a planned range of visits to HE and FE providers as well as an Oxbridge residential.

The Town Investment Plan seeks to regenerate the town and create opportunities to diversify, but interim there remains a strong demand from the hospitality sector. There is a huge skill shortage in Cornwall with employers struggling to fill roles in the industry, especially chefs. We are helping to solve this issue at grass roots level by engaging students early on with the subject. With great success in developing winners of the national ‘Future Chef’ competition, the Savoy Hotel Trust invested in a professional kitchen at the school and students from all backgrounds have achieved highly, going on to start up local businesses and winning national awards including ‘Master Chefs of Great Britain for sustainable seafood’.

The strong tradition of music and the arts in Penwith is inspirational. The musical life is lively and varied, including an unusually high percentage of people in the community. West Cornwall has a great tradition of choral singing and of brass and silver band playing. Numerous groups and organisations, pursue a wide range of styles and interests; young people are activity involved in all these areas. Whilst schools nationally have witnessed a 19% drop in GCSE Music uptake, numbers remain strong at Humphry Davy School, providing opportunity to access the creative industries contributing over £100bn to the economy annually. Camborne College and Falmouth University support our Art and Design students who develop and exhibit their work alongside undergraduates and The Penzance Exchange Gallery has displayed student works for private viewings alongside international artists. We aim to ensure artistic opportunities are not restricted to those that opt for the GCSE courses; enrichment includes an arts award qualification as well as a variety of clubs, performances, productions and trips and visits – in school, nationally and abroad.

By the end of Year 8 all students will have covered at least the national curriculum in all foundation subject areas. Our ‘open options’ model and guided interview process enables students to plan and select a personalised curriculum journey, that will enrich them as learners through and beyond Key Stage 4.

Ideally the school would offer our rich curriculum experiences arising from our business links to all the students at Humphry Davy. However this is not possible with few local large employers and the majority of small/micro businesses limited in their capacity. This is one of the reasons we have extended our Key Stage 4 programme - to ensure we provide enriching opportunities to raise aspirations and engagement and to offer quality opportunities to extend and explore the arts and foundation option subjects, which are accessible to all. For example, local businesses provide master classes in butchery, fish mongering, fashion and textiles. International professional Rugby players from the Penzance Pirates support the delivery of modern foreign languages. And arts subjects utilize the additional time to support those in need and challenge students of all abilities to explore more complex and creative ideas.

Historical, mining and cultural ties with Concarneau and Lopérec in France, Cuxhaven in Germany and Bendigo in Australia provide opportunities to develop student’s sense of place and belonging. The extended Key Stage 4 model provides opportunity for students to study a second or alternative modern foreign language in greater breadth and depth and to develop fluency rather than pure knowledge. It also facilitates time e.g. for the school Jazz Band to tour and perform in German schools and to collaborate with Bendigo School or Bournemouth Symphony orchestras and the International Musicians from Prussia Cove. Post-pandemic restrictions, we look forward to reintroducing our exchange with Le Nivot and starting new ones to build upon the video exchanges with our French and Spanish partners.

The additional time at Key Stage 4 has also provided opportunity to engage in a wide range of volunteering and fund raising activities for national and international charities through our Prefect and Humphry Davy Interact club, culminating in the opportunity to visit our partner school in Kisoro, Uganda.

In summary, the curriculum at Humphry Davy School has a rich and varied range of opportunities for all students to develop their character and fulfill their potential. Our Key Stage 4 curriculum option choices are open to students of all abilities, reflecting our commitment to inclusion and high expectations of everyone and we are a school that proudly serves all members of our local community.

Curriculum Policy

Faculties and Subjects

To view information on all our faculties and subjects please click here.  

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