Lower Prep pupils at Ballard have the benefit of access not only to GCSE teachers for STEM projects but also fully-equipped departments. These include a Junior ICT suite, a specialist Junior Science lab, which has been recently fully refurbished and a DT lab with access to a laser cutter, 3D printers and CAD.
This access enables our pupils to tackle complex projects and underlines their “can do” approach. Recent projects have included animated merry-go-rounds and Knex buggies, which they then raced.
Year 5 take part in a weekly apprentice challenge, which involves a number of different entrepreneurial STEM projects. Lower Prep pupils can also join a number of our popular STEM-related extra-curricular activities.
Design & Technology
Lower Prep pupils are taught DT by specialist teachers and have the opportunity to use all the GCSE equipment in our DT lab including the CAD suite, laser cutter and 3D printers.
Work is project-based and often cross-curricular. For example, a trip to Paultons Park to look at the physics and structure of funfair rides links to the creation of a working model carousel.
We make sure that during their time in Lower Prep, pupils experience a wide range of different techniques, whilst keeping the finished product relevant. Year 5 make key rings, photo frames and clocks.
ICT & Computing
ICT is taught by specialist teachers. In Years 3 to 5, the use of computers is fully integrated into the curriculum. Pupils have access to devices in the classroom as well as access to the IT Suite in the main school. Other subject teachers bring pupils into the IT suites to add another layer of learning to their lessons. Year 3 often work as a group in their French lessons before splitting into pairs to practise what they have learnt with the aid of a fun computer program.
Pupils are encouraged to be creative and take advantage of the myriad of applications available to develop their IT skills as well as enhance their learning. Typing challenges encourage them to improve their keyboard skills.
Regular work on internet safety develops their awareness of how to use the internet responsibly. Creating animations for History, designing posters for English or working with DT to research, design, create and display a project as part of a mini Dragons Den, all provide inspiration, fun and learning opportunities.
Ballard views the Mathematics syllabus in terms of a helical model. Topics are introduced at a simple level and are revisited at intervals, always building on and extending previous knowledge.
We use a variety of techniques to repeat and refresh our pupils’ skills so that they feel challenged but happy. We integrate IT into our lessons with popular learning software, which pupils can use at home to extend their learning.
Year-by-year our pupils’ grasp of the subject is both reinforced and enlarged. Whilst the more able pupils are constantly stimulated by more challenging examples, others benefit from regular reinforcement and therefore develop confidence through success. We also use Mathematics in other key subject areas.
Science is taught with a strong emphasis on investigative work and scientific enquiry providing the pupils with solid foundations for the Science they will develop further up the School.
We strongly believe in a hands-on approach to Science at this age, enabling the children to experience awe and wonder in the subject and to capture their natural curiosity about the world as they experience it.
Our team of teachers, chosen for their passion and knowledge of Science, present the subject in a stimulating and lively way with each class having access to a specialist Science laboratory as well as a considerable wealth of resources, specialist equipment and apparatus.
Whether it’s becoming part of a food chain or working out which solids melt, our pupils’ imaginations are constantly engaged, and their enquiring minds filled with skills, which will prepare them for the future.
Ballard is also lucky to have such extensive grounds, including meadows, woodlands, and a beautiful water garden, which are frequently used for studying the local ecology. This has inspired a group of Lower Prep pupils to not only investigate the outside world but also to try and protect it through the formation of an extra-curricular ‘Eco-Committee’.
They have been successful at implementing change across the school on a wide variety of topics and having won the Silver Eco Award.
In Lower Prep, Expressive Arts is introduced to the curriculum alongside Art, Dance and Music – all taught by our talented specialist teachers. These lessons cover everything from drama and group singing to focus and spatial awareness. They help prepare our pupils for our productions, giving them the confidence they need to get on stage. We also have achieved 100% success in the Explore Arts Award.
A starter scheme for Instrumental Music provides bespoke learning opportunities for all Year 3 pupils. At Ballard we believe that by giving our younger pupils access to all our GCSE equipment reaps rewards for both pupil and School.
We ensure that our pupils have a firm grounding in the basics before building on their knowledge and growing confidence to push them to the next level. For example, Year 3 start music technology in our iMac suite with Garageband and Logic software and by the time they reach Year 5 they can use Sibelius.
There is also a plethora of opportunities for extra-curricular arts activities in Lower Prep. Talented pupils may sit arts scholarships in Year 6 for entry into Year 7 in Art, Dance, Drama, Music or the Performing Arts.
Art in Lower Prep is included in our cross-curricular teaching topics wherever possible. All Art at Ballard is taught by our specialist teachers from Year 3 upwards, creating incredible opportunities for our younger pupils.
At Ballard, we work on projects which include many Art disciplines. This way the pupils learn all the formal elements of Art but are encouraged to experiment with them rather than just copy. This develops their confidence and allows us to push them even further.
We teach them to think smart and to be independent. To think like an artist, there is a ‘three before me’ guideline – think, look and ask your neighbour before asking the teacher in order to encourage their creativity.
Year 3 recently created tonal observations of cultural masks, which involved all of the following techniques: mixed media, printing, stencils, pattern making, tonal work and shading. Year 5 had to think about texture, technique and experimentation with their ‘feathers’ project.
Expansive clay work is encouraged, which is way ahead of other local schools. Year 3 created incredible Pharaoh masks which brought their Ancient Egypt topic to life. Year 4 created lifelike, and almost life-sized, iguanas in an array of beautiful bright colours.
Lower Prep pupils receive a course in dance from our specialist dance teacher in our well-equipped dance studio. They continue to apply and develop a broad range of skills, learning how to use them in different ways and to link them to make actions and sequences of movement. They enjoy communicating, collaborating and creating movement vocabulary with each other. Pupils develop an understanding of how to improve their performance and learn how to evaluate their work. They grow in confidence and recognise their own success.
In addition to the dance programme, Lower Prep pupils also enjoy an ‘Expressive Arts’ programme, working across dance, drama and music to prepare a range of performances including an annual production. Recent opportunities have included a colourful production of ‘Suessical’ and a range of related workshops on a Mayflower Theatre Day. Pupils complete their ‘Explore Arts Award’ through the ‘Expressive Arts’ programme.
We also run a through-school dance production for pupils in Years 1-11 in alternate years, where everyone is welcome to participate and perform. The last production ‘Eureka’ was a fantastic experience and performance for all involved based on ‘Eureka’ moments throughout history. Dance scholars from the senior school often support our younger pupils in their dance club and the opportunity for these pupils to work and perform alongside older dancers provides both inspiration and challenge.
Lower Prep pupils at Ballard receive weekly music lessons from our specialist teachers in our well-equipped music building and specialist Music Technology Suite. Pupils study a modular curriculum including composer focus, composition skills, musical notation and a range of fun, practical activities.
It is well-documented that learning an instrument early on in life can help develop pathways in the brain and develop important skills. At Ballard, all pupils are encouraged to learn an orchestral instrument so we have a starter scheme for pupils starting in either Year 4 or 5 which encourages those who have never played an instrument, or those who may wish to try a different instrument, the opportunity to do so. After a trying a variety of orchestral instruments in class we suggest an instrument that we believe the pupil will enjoy and has the aptitude for. We then offer a number of free one-to-one lessons from our specialist peripatetic staff, alongside the loan of the instrument.
“The Starter Scheme has worked brilliantly: George was able to try a variety, make a free choice and brought home a French horn! He plays the viola, and didn’t have as much say in that choice as he would have liked (!)… brilliant for him to really ‘own’ his choice of instrument as it meant that he was super-keen from the start. We quickly moved to the next step of buying his own instrument and continuing with lessons at school – which he adores. I would never have suggested Horn, but am completely delighted that he is so in love with it!” (Parent)
Ballard’s inclusive music policy ensures that all pupils in Lower Prep have opportunities to perform in a range of events including our Carol Service and class performances. For pupils who wish to enhance their music experience further there are numerous ensembles on offer, including a chamber choir, instrumental ensembles and a harp ensemble.
Mentors from the Senior School often support our younger pupils in their music-making and the opportunity for these pupils to work and perform alongside older musicians provides both inspiration and challenge.
In addition to the music programme, Lower Prep pupils also enjoy an Expressive Arts programme, working across music, dance and drama to prepare a range of performances including an annual musical production. Recent opportunities have included a colourful production of ‘Seussical’ and a range of related workshops on a Mayflower Theatre Day. Pupils in Year 5 complete their Explore Arts Award through the Expressive Arts programme.
Flexible streaming at Ballard (from Year 3) allows sport for all and ability-related lessons are modified as pupils improve. A focus on mixed gender games enables Ballard to stretch our able and talented pupils both physically and in their understanding of games.
The emphasis here is on learning the key skills and techniques of the core sports of hockey, netball, rugby, football, swimming, athletics and tennis and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to learn the basics.
The fundamental skills of movement are key to progression for this age group – allowing pupils to receive the ball in space, advance in attack and develop understanding of formations and team play.
By setting personal goals we encourage all pupils. One Year 4 girl who couldn’t swim when she joined Ballard a year ago has just taken part in the Ballard triathlon, to the astonishment of her parents.
New sports such as volleyball, badminton and basketball also develop core physical attributes and transferable skills which are essential for all sport. Exposure to alternative sports often highlights a child’s potential that may not otherwise be recognised.
Extra-curricular activities are offered throughout the week both at breakfast and after school. Over 12 pupils took part in the mini triathlon in 2018 having gained confidence in extra-curricular activities.
Life in Lower Prep is stimulating and engaging with many exciting topics and creative cross-curricular opportunities. Pupils rise to this challenge in many ways such as building a model Stonehenge in History to taking metrological measurements in Geography. We often welcome visitors to Ballard whether it is a mysterious historical figure, GB Athletes, Alumni or a well-known author our pupils have a wide range of experiences. Ballard pupils continue to extend their knowledge and skills with a bespoke range of trips.
These skills are shared as our Lower Prep pupils become mentors to younger children in Pre-Prep, helping them with such things as their reading or sport. Lower Prep pupils helped create the award-winning Eco-committee, creating and policing a green strategy for Ballard. Recently, a Year 5 group were undertaking one of their weekly apprentice challenges to raise money for charity. They were so polite to local shoppers that when one found out what they were doing they immediately gave a donation to their cause. This ‘can do attitude’ is what makes a Ballard pupil.
English at Ballard is built around the key disciplines of reading and writing but it is taught in many different ways.
Pupils’ experience of literature is enriched by visits from touring theatre companies and storytellers. This year we saw a performance of Wind in the Willows and some of our pupils got up on stage to perform with the professionals.
World Book Day is celebrated as pupils dress up as their favourite book character. Texts are enjoyed together and pupils are supported in becoming more independent readers through a partnership between home and School.
The Oxford Reading Tree scheme is supplemented by library books (from their dedicated Junior Library), set texts and reading material suggested by teachers, parents and the pupils themselves.
When writing, pupils build on their understanding of grammar and learn spellings weekly. They are nurtured in becoming competent writers in a range of genres. An emphasis on drama, discussion and public speaking results in confident young communicators.
Our pupils discover their world in Lower Prep Geography with a comprehensive study of the local area, the British Isles and beyond. From learning the basics of grid references to map reading and studying aerial photographs, we develop their curiosity and love of learning.
Form tutors have access to specialist geography resources and equipment, which gives our pupils a head start. For example, our Year 3 pupils have used professional instruments to study the weather.
Our cross-curricular approach allows the pupils to immerse themselves in topics. Year 4’s study of India covers a wide range of topics including; endangered animals, where tea comes from, life in a village in Mumbai, Ghandi and the struggle for freedom. At the end of this topic, we celebrate by immersing ourselves in a special ‘India Day’.
Our hands-on learning encourages creativity and individuality. We recognise that many children learn in different ways so we encourage our pupils to have a go. We give them opportunities to experiment, whether it is creating a ‘live volcano’ or a model earth made from plasticine layers – it gets them thinking.
It was our Lower Prep pupils’ interest in their world which helped create the Eco Committee. Their aim is to educate the whole School in areas such as energy conservation, recycling, studying air quality, growing vegetables and building a grow room. Forest School is also part of the Lower Prep programme.
In Lower Prep History is taught in topics and with cross-curricular support. We cover a huge range of topics in History from the Classical World to the early Twentieth Century. The children love the variety and creativity involved in Lower Prep History.
Year 5 pupils recently made models of Stonehenge using modelling clay, trying to match the specifications and order of the real stones. This practical experience encouraged questions and debate as they tried to balance their model stones on top of each other.
At Ballard we try to show the pupils rather than tell them and wherever possible we take them to sites of historical interest such as Fishbourne Roman Palace, an Iron Age Hill Fort and a range of local museums.
Modern Foreign Languages
Pupils are introduced to French through stories, rhymes, songs, games, crafts and role plays.
Again, emphasis is placed on enjoying the language learning process, whilst still providing the solid grounding which pupils require as they get older.
In Year 4 we introduce Spanish, alongside French, again the emphasis is on fun.
Although this subject is taught predominantly from a Christian perspective, using the Bible as a major source and reference, other faiths including Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam are introduced.
Examining other religions and unfolding various moral and philosophical issues fosters religious tolerance, curiosity, imagination and creativity.