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Strength from Diversity

A better school, a better world

The Learning Journey

West Island School
The 11-16 Curriculum
A Guide for Parents

If you have a child in Years 7 to 11 at West Island School, this booklet is for you.

It gives you:
 a guide to what your child will learn at West Island School;
 tips to help you support your child when they plan their
homework and revision;
 answers to questions about the curriculum, learning and

When your child was at primary school, you probably felt pretty closely involved with their
education. You may have dropped them off in the morning and picked them up in the afternoon, you
knew their teacher, and you knew your way around the school.

Secondary school can feel as different for the parents as it does for their children starting year 7. The
buildings are bigger, the work is different and there are many more teachers to get to know. And
that’s not to mention how difficult teenagers can be when you ask them what they’re studying or
whether they’ve done their homework!

That’s why we’ve produced this guide. This is where you can pick up tips about helping with
homework, getting your child through revision and exams and helping them choose which
qualifications they want to work for.

This guide aims to equip you with all the information you need to help your child make the most of
secondary school. You don’t have to read it all at once: it’s designed to be dipped into as and when,
year by year.

West Island School Telephone: +852 2819 1962

250 Victoria Road Fax: +852 2816 7257
Pokfulam email:
Hong Kong Website/cLc:

How the curriculum works....................................................................................................................4
Key stage 3 - teaching for students in years 7 to 9...............................................................................8
Design and technology........................................................................................................................19
English as an Additional Language...................................................................................................21
Information and communication technology.....................................................................................22
History ...........................................................................................................................................24
Geography ........................................................................................................................................26
Modern foreign languages .............................................................................................................30
Art and design .................................................................................................................................32
Music ................................................................................................................................................34
Physical education ..........................................................................................................................37
Learning to Learn...............................................................................................................................39
Lifeskills - personal, social and health education..............................................................................40
CAS - Learning beyond the classroom...............................................................................................42
Key stage 4 - Choices for students aged 14.........................................................................................45
IGCSE’s – International GCSE’s.......................................................................................................49
Studying from 14-16............................................................................................................................50
Use of calculators ...............................................................................................................................51
Computers: to buy or not to buy? ......................................................................................................51
Choices beyond 14-16..........................................................................................................................52
Parents’ tips ........................................................................................................................................53
Help! Answers to questions ................................................................................................................54
Teacher talk..........................................................................................................................................56

How the curriculum works

This section explains how the curriculum works. You will find it a
helpful introduction to this guide. At the end of the book you will find
answers to some other questions that parents often ask. We are always
willing to explain any aspect of our curriculum more fully and to answer
any questions you may have. Please do not hesitate to get in touch. Your
first contact for help is always your child’s form tutor.

“What is the National Curriculum for England and why does it matter to parents?”

The National Curriculum:

 sets out the most important knowledge and skills that every student has a right to learn;
 is a framework designed so that all students are taught in a way that is balanced and manageable,
but hard enough to challenge them;
 gives standards that measure how well students are doing in each subject - so teachers can plan to
help them do better.

The National Curriculum isn’t just for teachers and schools: it belongs to everyone. This guide will
help you understand it, so you can help your child as they continue their journey.

“I don’t always follow talk about year 7, key stage, National Curriculum, tests
and levels. How does it all work?”

The National Curriculum says when things should be taught by describing broad ‘key

Key stages are blocks of years:

 Key stage 3 covers National Curriculum learning in years 7 to 9.

 Key stage 4 covers National Curriculum learning in years 10 and 11.

At the end of this guide you will find a ‘teacher talk’ section- this explains some key words in more

“What subjects are taught at key stage 3?”

At key stage 3, West Island School teaches all the National Curriculum subjects in this guide. Like
all the English Schools Foundation schools, we adapt the curriculum to suit our location in Hong
Kong, as part of China, in South East Asia and to suit our international population.

The subjects we teach at key stage 3 are:

 English
 mathematics
 science
 physical education
 lifeskills
 learning to learn
 design technology
 drama
 information and communication technology
 history
 geography
 modern foreign languages
 art and design
 music
 physical education
 religious studies.

Not every subject will be taught in separate lessons. In particular, information and communication
technology (ICT) is taught through other subjects at KS3.

For more information, see ‘Help! Answers to questions’ at the end of this guide.

“How much time is spent on each subject at key stage 3?”

The school day is made up of five lessons, each lasting 65 minutes, making up a five day week of 25
periods. In order to provide sufficient time to each subject, we arrange the timetable over two weeks,
giving a 50 lesson fortnight. In addition, there is a 10 minute registration period at the start of every
day. During registration, your child’s form tutor will issue notices, check diaries and attend to
general day to day business.

The table below shows how many lessons in each two week block are devoted to each subject at key
stage 3.

Language 1 / LS / EAL

Language 2 /LS / EAL

Learning to Learn
Religious Studies

Art & Design








7 7 6 6 4 2 2 2 4 4 2 2 2 4 1 2 50

8 7 6 6 4 2 2 2 4 4 2 2 2 4 1 2 50

9 7 6 7 4 2 2 2 4 4 2 2 2 4 0* 2 50

Total 21 18 19 12 6 6 6 12 12 6 6 6 12 2 6 150
1 1 1
% 4.0 2.0 2.7
8.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 8.0 8.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 8.0 1.3 4.0 100
*The Learning to Learn programme will extend into Year 9 in August 2008.

“What subjects are taught at key stage 4?”

Key stage 4 gives your child more choice about what they study. Details of these choices can be
found in the section which describes KS4 and in the Key Stage 4 Options Booklet (available on the
school web site and the CLC).

Other questions

There are lots of other questions parents ask about their child’s learning. You
may, for example, be worried about whether your child will reach the target for
their age group, or about special educational needs or support for students’
development of English language.

There are answers to these questions at the end of this guide, in the section
‘Help! Answers to questions’. But first, glance at the main parts of this guide,
which describe what all students will be taught from 11 to 14, and about
choices your child makes at 14 for study between 14 and 16. It also offers
some simple ideas about things you can do to support your child’s learning
when they are at home.

Answers to many questions about the National Curriculum and about the English curriculum in
general may be found on the English government’s website: /educationandlearning/whatchildrenlearn/

Key Stage 3
Years 7 to 9

Key stage 3 - teaching for students in years 7 to 9

These years of your child’s time at school are called key stage 3.

At the end of each key stage, each National Curriculum subject has a target: your
child should have reached a particular level of skills, knowledge, understanding
and application, though many students will go beyond the National Curriculum targets.

‘Why have targets and tests?’

 Students get a sense of achievement from reaching each milestone in their learning, and going
beyond it.
 Teachers use them to check on students’ progress, so that they can match their teaching to each
student’s needs and abilities.
 The school uses them as part of ongoing quality assurance and self-evaluation processes. We can
get a picture of where we are doing well as a school and where there may be problems which we
need to tackle.

Of course, some students may not make as much progress as others and some have special
educational needs.

As a parent or carer, you have a very important role to play in helping your child learn. Some parents
are afraid of doing the wrong thing. (If you are unsure about how to help, you can always ask your
child’s teachers.)

The most important things you can do are:

 take an interest in what your child is learning at school, and encourage them to tell you about it;
 praise them when they have done well;
 give them a quiet space to do their homework.

There are other things you can do, too: this guide gives ideas and tips about homework, revision and
how to develop your child’s thinking skills. Don’t feel you have to do all of them, but any you can
do will support your child’s learning.


Why do we teach English?

English concentrates on four key skills that your child

needs to get the most out of all their learning at school -
speaking clearly, listening closely, reading carefully and
writing fluently. English helps students express themselves
creatively and boosts their confidence about speaking in
public and writing for others. Students read classic and
contemporary prose, poetry and drama from around the
world, look closely at the way writers use language and
explore the social and moral issues they raise.

Teaching for every student

Students are taught:

Speaking and listening

They speak to different audiences, adapting their style to suit the audience and the purpose of what
they are saying. They structure their speaking so that listeners can follow their line of argument
clearly, using techniques such as pace, gesture, anecdotes and visual aids to make their speaking
colourful and lively. They learn how to listen carefully, picking out the main points of what a
speaker is saying as well as the details and any underlying meanings. They play an active and
helpful role in group discussions. They learn how to convey different emotions and moods through
drama, and write and act in plays. They learn about how language changes in different situations,
about the development of the English language and its importance in the world, and about the
differences between speech and writing.

Students studying English at this age read a wide range of plays, poems and
books, both fiction and non-fiction, including:
 at least one play by Shakespeare;
 plays by other playwrights;
 works of fiction and poetry from different times, including works by
contemporary writers;
 drama, fiction and poetry by writers from different cultures;
 non-fiction writing (for example, diaries, travel writing and science

Students learn how to get more out of their reading at this age, uncovering different layers of
meaning and understanding how writing can be open to different interpretations. They appreciate the
full scope and richness of complete novels, plays and poems. They begin to explore how writers
make up plots and characters, realising that the viewpoints of a character in a story may not
necessarily be the same as the author’s.
They compare different styles and themes in writing from the English literary heritage and from
different cultures. They look at how writing can be presented in different ways, exploring how the
use of print, images and sometimes sound can affect how we read texts.

The non-fiction texts students study include information and reference texts, both in print and in
electronic format such as web pages.

Students also look at how text can be presented in different kinds of media. For example, they may
explore how words and images work together in magazines or television advertisements, or look at
how a film based on a novel compares with the original text.

Students draw on their experience of good fiction and non-fiction to compose their own stories,
poems, scripts, articles, brochures and reviews. They learn how to use different styles of writing to
suit their purposes and to meet the needs of different readers. They develop their knowledge of
grammar, spelling and punctuation, learning how to proof-read their work, judge how successful it is
and redraft it accordingly. They write quickly and fluently, presenting their work neatly and clearly.

Targets for every student

Around age 14, most students are able to:

Speaking and listening

 adapt the style of their speaking to suit different situations;
 hold the interest of listeners by varying their expression and vocabulary
 take an active part in discussions while being sensitive to the feelings and opinions of other
 use standard English fluently in formal situations;
 take on and sustain a role in drama.

 find different layers of meaning in texts and comment on them;
 discuss their views and feelings about works of literature;
 refer to different aspects of a piece of writing - such as structure and theme - to justify their views
about it;
 summarise information they have gathered from different sources.

 write in a way that captures the reader’s interest;
 write in different styles;
 structure their work clearly;
 use different sentence structures and a varied vocabulary;
 organise their ideas into paragraphs;
 spell and punctuate their writing accurately most of the time;
 write neatly and legibly, and present writing on screen.

‘Learning English has helped me to read literature, analyse it and also write my own creative pieces.
I still write creatively when I have a spare moment and I certainly read a lot. I find that I’m writing
all the time at work. Learning English language helps you to communicate clearly, both in speech
and on paper - and literature can bring people together: it crosses boundaries and gets people
talking.’ Heidi Gilchrist, 24

Homework tip: should I help my child do homework?

Don’t be tempted to do your child’s homework for them. This may solve an
immediate problem but in the long term it will be counter-productive.

Your child will not have the opportunity to learn the material set for
homework, and will take in a very damaging message: that it is okay to
cheat. This doesn’t mean that you can never help, answer questions, or
discuss homework answers with your child. All these can reinforce learning
and make it more fun. But your child should always feel that the homework
they have done is their own work. They should decide who to ask, and when
to stop asking (or listening!) and start working on their own.


Why do we teach mathematics?

We all use numbers every day. For example, when we tell the time, when we
check our change, when we read information in newspapers, when we plan
the cost of something. They help us to understand the world, to
communicate with each other, to solve problems and to develop our minds.
They can sometimes frustrate us but they can also challenge us and be fun!

Teaching for every student

Students are taught in mixed ability classes in Years 7, 8 & 9 in order to ensure that the material they
are learning is appropriate to their ability and knowledge. The curriculum consists of four main areas:

Using and applying mathematics

Students are taught how to use and apply mathematics. They solve
increasingly demanding problems, including problems that call for
them to think through several steps, developing a chain of

Number and algebra

This includes numbers and the number system, calculations, ways
of solving problems, algebra.

Shape, space and measure

This includes shapes and co-ordinates, constructing shapes
(geometry), and measurement.

Handling data
This includes working out which questions can be answered by collecting data, processing it and
working out what it tells us in answer to the original questions.

The targets overleaf give you a good idea of what is taught in these four areas. If you want to know
the detail, see the explanation on the parents’ website

Targets for every student

Around age 14, most students are able to:

Using and applying mathematics

 plan how to tackle a problem, including working out what information
they need;
 solve complex problems by breaking them into smaller, more manageable
 describe mathematical situations using symbols, words and diagrams;
 link their solutions to the initial problem and present them to a sensible
degree of accuracy;
 explain their reasoning and begin to give mathematical justifications for
their solutions.

Number and algebra

 in their heads, do some calculations involving decimals, fractions,
percentages, factors, powers and roots;
 multiply and divide any whole number by 10, 100 and other powers of 10;
 estimate and approximate answers to calculations;
 use standard written methods for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division involving
whole numbers, decimals and fractions;
 give one number as a fraction or percentage of another;
 use efficient methods to add, subtract, multiply and divide fractions;
 use the relationships between fractions, decimals, percentages, ratio and proportion to solve
 find and use prime factors of numbers;
 use calculators efficiently and interpret the display in the context of the problem; use the constant,
the sign change key, pi, function keys for powers, roots and fractions; use brackets and the
calculator memory;
 use index notation and simple instances of index laws (know, for example, that 2 2 x 23 = 25 and 26
÷ 22 = 24);
 set up and use equations and their graphs to solve word problems;
 simplify and transform algebraic expressions, knowing how to substitute positive and negative
numbers for symbols;
 generate terms of a sequence and use algebra to describe the nth term of a simple sequence;
 use trial and improvement methodically, to find rough solutions to equations such as x3-x = 100.

Shape, space and measures

 use a ruler, protractor and compasses to construct lines, angles and two-dimensional or three-
dimensional shapes;
 use the properties of straight-sided shapes, and intersecting and parallel lines, to solve problems;
 recognise when two triangles are congruent;
 know and use formulae to calculate: the circumferences and areas of circles; areas of straight-
sided shapes; volumes of cuboids;
 use two-dimensional diagrams to analyse three-dimensional shapes;
 rotate, reflect, translate and enlarge two-dimensional shapes and understand how these
transformations affect their sides, angles and position;

 write instructions for a computer to generate and transform shapes and paths.

Handling data
 design a survey or experiment;
 gather the data they need from different sources
(for example, from tables, lists and computer
 choose the right kind of graph to show the data
they have gathered;
 summarise raw data using range and measures of
 interpret graphs and diagrams and draw
 calculate probabilities and solve problems in situations where there are limited numbers of
equally likely outcomes (for example, when rolling a dice);
 estimate probabilities from data gathered in experiments.

‘My favourite subject was maths; I was quite good at it. I enjoyed playing around with figures. After
I left school I was a Bevin boy in the mines, so maths didn’t come in particularly useful for that. But
I still mess around with figures when I’m watching television - especially ‘Countdown’!’ John

Homework tip: should I help my child organise their homework?

At West Island School, your child will need to learn an important skill: organising their time
to hand homework in on the right day. How can parents help with this? Some children have
great difficulty in organising their work and need support. Your aim should be to enable
them to become independent and well organised. Doing the organising for them won’t help
them progress. Encourage them to make a timetable of their deadlines - and keep it visible.
Praise them when they meet deadlines.

The school diary is an essential tool for students to organise homework. Try to look at it at
least once a week and encourage your child to tick off homework when it is completed and
check deadlines for work in progress.

Try not to become anxious when you see that things are not being completed. If your child
sees your anxiety, it is likely to be counter-productive. Stay calm, be supportive and accept
that things may sometimes go wrong.

It is better for your child’s learning if they take responsibility for their own mistakes and
accept the consequences that follow at school. Every child is different. Some always
organise themselves and complete their homework carefully. If your child is like this, you
are very lucky. These children require very little assistance with homework from their
parents: just allow them to develop their independence further, without interference.

Why do we teach science?

Students study science to help them understand the natural world and to
get to grips both with the technology they already use in daily life and
with what they’ll encounter later in their workplace.

Teaching for every student

Students learn about three main areas.

1. Life processes and living things

Students learn:
 about cells in animals and plants: how a cell works, how particular cells (such as sperm cells)
carry out special tasks, and the role of cells in fertilisation and other life processes;
 about the human body: looking at nutrition, movement, sex, how our lungs work and how
muscles move, and what we need for good health;
 about green plants, including nutrition and growth;
 how plants and animals can be grouped into different species, and how features are inherited;
 how different animals and plants grow in different environments, and how they depend on each
other (for example, as food).

2. Materials and their properties

Students learn:
 about similarities and differences in chemical reactions,
and how to identify patterns;
 that chemical reactions make new materials that can be
desirable such as in cooking, or undesirable, such as the
products of burning coal, oil and gas;
 about the behaviour of metals, acids and bases, including
reactions with oxygen and water; the pH scale and the
role of acids in the environment; how a reactivity series
can be used to predict reactions;
 that materials dissolve at different rates, according to the
liquid involved and its temperature;
 about geology, including the ways that different kinds of rocks are formed (igneous, sedimentary
and metamorphic);
 how the particle theory of matter can explain the properties of solids, liquids and gases, and
properties of elements, mixtures and compounds.

3. Physical processes
Students learn:
 about electricity and magnetism: wiring up circuits and making measurements of them; magnetic
fields and electromagnets;
 about forces and movement, including weight, friction, pressure and turning forces;
 how light moves, and how it is reflected, refracted, dispersed and filtered;
 about hearing; how vibrations transmit sound, and how amplitude and frequency affect loudness
and pitch;
 about the movement of the Earth and other planets in the solar system; stars and satellites; space
 about renewable and non-renewable energy resources, and energy transfer and storage.

Through work in these three areas students are taught the methods of scientific enquiry. They think
about the role of ideas and evidence in science, using examples from today and the work of famous
scientists in the past. They also learn how to do scientific investigations, by planning them, finding
and presenting evidence, thinking about what the evidence means, asking what conclusions they can
reach and evaluating evidence.

Students will also experience some CASE lessons. CASE stands for Cognitive Acceleration in
Science Education and the lessons consist of investigative exercises aimed at teaching students how
to think and learn using the scientific method.

Targets for every student

Around age 14, most students are able to:

Scientific enquiry
 explain how important scientists from history combined creative thinking and experimental
 find the right approach for an enquiry;
 choose information from a range of sources and the best equipment for an investigation;
 carry out an investigation fairly, taking into account variables (for example, energy values of
 when it is possible, make predictions;
 make observations, comparisons and measurements as accurately as possible; record them
systematically, using graphs when these help to explain the information;
 give conclusions that fit the evidence;
 make practical suggestions about how they can improve their working methods;
 use the right scientific language to communicate information.

Life processes and living things

 describe the main functions of human organs (for example, the lungs);
 describe the main stages of the life cycle of humans and flowering plants, saying
how they are similar and different;
 understand why classifying animals and plants is valuable;
 explain how environmental conditions (for example, the amount of light or
water) affect where different kinds of animals and plants can live.

Materials and their properties

 describe some properties of metals (for example, all metals conduct electricity) and use these to
sort metals from other solid materials;
 describe how changes such as evaporation take place;
 use their knowledge about how a particular mixture can be separated to suggest ways to separate
other mixtures (for example, oil and water).
Physical processes
 use ideas about physical processes to explain how to make a range of changes (for example, we
can increase the current in a circuit by using a larger battery, or reduce the loudness of a sound
with insulation);
 use abstract ideas to describe familiar things (for example, ‘forces are balanced when an object is
 use their knowledge of simple models to explain effects caused by the movement of the Earth (for
example, the length of a day or of a year).

‘I secretly liked science but I didn’t really understand all of it. What I particularly liked about
physics was the mystery of it and things being so small, and I liked the way things changed before
your very eyes. It was exciting.’ Simon Scholes, 30

Homework tip: check the timetable, check the diary

Your child’s year has a routine for homework (for example, maths on Monday,
etc), set out in a timetable, which changes each year. Make sure you have the
timetable. Make a large copy and put it in a visible place, perhaps near where
you eat - the fridge door is a popular choice. Now you can talk to your child
each day about their homework.

West Island School uses a homework diary in which your child writes down
what they have to do. This is an important and useful form of communication
between you and the school, so do check it regularly. You are asked to sign the
diary weekly to say that your child has done the homework. You can also use
the diary to tell the teacher whether you think your child found the work
difficult, whether they enjoyed it, or how long it took.

Homework tip: ‘I don’t understand what I have to do!’

How can you help if your child is not clear about what they have to do?
If you know the subject - and can explain it patiently - then take a look
If you don’t know the subject, you could offer to help with searching for
relevant information in books or on the internet.
Another strategy is to encourage the child to ring a friend who may be able to
help. A network of classmates can benefit them all.
If none of these has solved the problem, either you or your child should let the
teacher know about the difficulty.

Design and technology

Why do we teach design and technology?

A video recorder that’s easy to programme or a

desk that’s just right for the home computer ...
good design makes things easier and more
enjoyable to use. Design and technology lessons
give students the opportunity to investigate how
well familiar products and objects actually work,
and who they’re really aimed at. By answering
questions such as ‘Is this the right tool for the job?’
they learn how to solve practical problems
skilfully, creatively and with imagination.

Design and technology at West Island School at key stage 3 is in three parts: food technology; textiles
technology; and resistant materials/systems & control. Students take all three subjects throughout
key stage 3.

Teaching for every student

Students are taught to:

 look at products to see how they work, how they are used, whether they meet their users’ needs,
whether they use materials efficiently, and what environmental impacts the products might have;
 practise practical skills and tasks, such as moulding and forming;
 design and create their own products. Before starting a project, students think carefully about
what they have been asked to do, and how to meet the needs of the end user. Students learn to
plan their projects responsibly, making their own decisions about how best to use time, money
and resources, using computers at various stages in their work, and working in teams when the
project is suitable. They also test the properties of materials to see how they can be best used.
The products use plastics, textiles, food, metal, wood, ‘smart’ materials such as heat-sensitive
fabrics, and electrical, electronic and pneumatic parts.

Students at this age are learning to design and make proper,

working products. Although these will usually be one-off, they
also compare their work with mass production techniques. For
example, in a project about researching and designing a new kind
of loaf, they might make bread using traditional ingredients, then
compare the results from a ready-made bread mix, and finally,
after research into mass food production, plan a small batch
production method.

Targets for every student

Around age 14, most students are able to:

 draw on different sources of information (for example, students might conduct a case study into
the properties of a new material, such as Lycra, and use their findings to inform their design of an
item of clothing);
 make models and drawings to develop their design ideas, and communicate them to others;
 plan design projects carefully;
 draw up a list of aims and features for their designs (taking into account the needs of the user,
environmental issues and health and safety issues) when planning a project;
 show that they understand the characteristics of the materials and equipment they work with;
 check their work as it progresses and change their approach if necessary;
 test their products, judging how well they work and whether they could have made them more
 check that they have made good use of information sources.

‘Design and technology was great fun. I enjoyed designing and

engineering new things and exploring how to fix objects, different
tools, machines. You learn how to work with a range of products.
Design and technology teaches you to analyse a problem and to
try and come up with a solution. Now I’m doing a Diploma in
computer network administration so those skills are quite useful.’
Anthony Cross, 19

Learning tip: the year 8 dip

Research has shown that some students in year 8 (around age 13) tend to lack
motivation. Year 7 is exciting because everything is new. At the end of year 9 students
begin to make option choices and think about their GCSE’s.

In between, year 8 lacks these focal points. To overcome this, you can generate interest
in school work by involving your child in activities that are interesting but related to
school (for example, trips to places of interest, visits to the theatre or cinema, borrowing
a video that links to school work).

In relation to Food Technology, students could be encouraged to take an interest in

cooking at home and try out skills such as peeling, chopping, dicing, grating, frying,
simmering or baking.

English as an Additional Language

Why do we teach English as an Additional Language (EAL)?

The EAL department at WIS recognizes that students for whom
English is a second or additional language have to negotiate a
significant cognitive and academic language leap from primary
school to Key Stage 3 and then onto the GCSE examinations in
years 10 & 11. Although it is equally crucial that students maintain
their proficiency in their first language, they are required to access
the curriculum through the medium of English. Students are
required to cope with a number of difficult tasks across the
curriculum and the language demands of subject areas are high.

From years 7- 9, students’ language needs are identified through admissions tests and teacher
referrals, student work and information from previous schools. Depending on their language needs,
some students may be advised to opt for EAL support instead of studying one of their modern foreign
languages. The EAL department encourages families to maintain foreign or mother tongue language
development outside the curriculum, however, and recognizes that EAL support might be essential to
enable students to achieve their full academic potential across the curriculum.

The support options offered to students at Key Stage 3 are:

 Language tuition and support through the EAL Centre ( for students with intensive needs or
from different school systems who need time & support to adjust to Hong Kong & the ESF)
 EAL discrete group instruction to consolidate language and academic content in smaller
 In-class support in language intensive subject areas like English, humanities & science

All EAL lessons are facilitated by specialist staff who are highly qualified in the differentiated
teaching of English language for academic purposes. Students are taught in a wonderfully supportive
and caring atmosphere which is extremely collaborative and interactive.

EAL teachers and coordinators liaise with subject teachers and Heads of Year
to provide frequent advice on students’ language development and possible
subject options and pathways through the ESF system.


1. Identify your child’s strongest first language and make sure that they
have opportunities to maintain it if it is not offered at an appropriate level within school. This
includes reading and writing in the first language.
2. Model high quality language use at home. This can be in your first language or the one you as
parents are most comfortable in.
3. Make sure that students have access to high quality, academic and fictional reading materials,
films, DVDs and so on, in both English and their first language, at home or from libraries.
4. Share literacy experiences with your child in their first language and encourage transfer to
5. Encourage fluency and ease of use before accuracy – language is a constructive process and
students need to make mistakes to learn; in both languages. Language learning takes TIME.
Information and communication technology

Why do we teach information and communication


You can email through your TV, surf the internet from a mobile
phone, or do the shopping from your home computer:
technology is changing the way we live and work. Students
need to learn how to manage it all - how to get hold of
information, store it, share it with others and tailor it to their
own needs.

ICT is taught as a core subject to all students at KS3 and KS4. In addition to this, Key Stage 3
students have a Multimedia Madness Innovation day once a year.

What is Multimedia Madness (MMM)?

MMM is a cross-curricular approach to introducing how ICT can help students reinforce the learning
that takes place in the classroom. For a whole day each tutor group at Key Stage 3 will work on a
video project in one of their subject areas. The aim of the day is for students to create a video that
will help not only with their understanding of the topic, but to produce a viable teaching resource for
the school. MMM also promotes team work as students work in teams of 4 - 6 students. They must
work co-operatively in order to manage their time efficiently and complete the task. We also expect
students to have fun!

ICT - the Core Subject

ICT is also part of the core in years 10 and 11. The focus here is on developing practical software
application skills in addition to an understanding of the common ICT tools used, how they work and
the impact that these have on our lives. Students will be introduced to the ICT tools provided by the
school and our Student Acceptable Usage Policy that outlines how we expect students to behave
when using our ICT resources.

Targets for every student:

Whilst realising that each student will progress differently in their learning there are some common
expectations and targets that we have for students to achieve by the end of Key Stage 3. Students
should be able to:
 Use information from a range of sources to improve their work
 Use ICT to present ideas in different ways to suit different audiences
 Make up sequences of computerised instructions to carry out different tasks.
 Use models to make predictions and be able to test their predictions to check their accuracy.
 Discuss the impact of ICT on themselves and on society
 Use appropriate ICT to find, process and share information.

‘Studying ICT at school led me to become a web designer. For me it was a creative thing. You can
experiment: there are things you can do on a computer that you can’t do on a piece of paper and
there’s such a wide range of tools at your disposal. I also love the precision. Now with the internet
and the world wide web, if you’re computer literate you have the whole world at your disposal.’
Nichola Philips, 26

Homework tip: try teaching me!

Revision for tests has to be active to be productive. If your child just reads, they
won’t retain all the information. They need to work example questions, test
themselves and practise. This can be a very lonely and demoralising process. Be
ready with support and encouragement.

Offer to help - by being a student. Explaining something to someone else is one of

the best ways of consolidating learning: if your child can teach you, they really know
and understand it.


In year 7, students will study history, geography and religious

studies through a programme called the “mini-school”. During
years 8 and 9 they will study these three subjects separately.


Why do we teach history?

How did we get here? Where do we come from? History helps shed
light on some big questions by unearthing evidence about the past.
Students are often interested in how different their lives might have
been if they’d lived at some other point in history. Learning about
some of the people and events that have shaped the wider world over
the centuries can inspire them to think about what they want to do as
they get older. As history fires their imagination, they begin to
understand and remember a framework of big events and important

History is taught to Key Stage 3 students in mixed ability groups. In Year 7 History forms part of the
Humanities Mini School where one teacher is responsible for the teaching of History, Geography and
Religious Studies to one tutor group. We feel that the Mini School works well on both an academic
and pastoral level. Students find the transition from Primary to Secondary education a little
smoother, as only one teacher is responsible for the Humanities education. We also feel that the Mini
School offers the chance to make cross subject links within Humanities.

Within History we aim to develop the students understanding of the World in which they live. It is
hoped that by studying the past students will be able to understand present day issues from a more
objective standpoint. It is also hoped that students will develop a tolerant understanding of different
societies and cultures.

Teaching for every student

In Year 7 the students begin by acquiring the basic skills of History. They learn about chronology,
source analysis and empathy. The second topic of the year is Medieval Realms, in which they focus
on life in medieval Europe. This covers issues such as the feudal system and a project on Castles. In
the last term the students study Imperial China.

In the first term of Year Eight the students study the Native Americans. They focus on the way of life
of the Native Americans and the clash of cultures that ensued after the arrival of the Europeans. This
is followed up in the second term by looking at the Black Peoples of the Americas. This topic will
range from Slavery to the Civil War. The last term will focus on Empire, Trade and Industry. This
covers the impact of Industrial Revolution and the wider impact this had on world trade and Empire.

Year Nine focuses solely on the Twentieth century world. There are many issues and events that are
covered but the main structure of the course is as follows. We start by examining the causes, key
features and consequences of World War One. We then examine “Boom and Bust” in America. We
look in detail at the rise of the dictatorships and the causes of World War II with a focus on the fall of
Hong Kong. After looking at World War Two we study some of the key events of the post war world.

Targets for every student

Around age 14, most students are able to:

 know about past events and people
 describe the important features of the societies and periods they have studied
 make links within and between some of these features
 explain the reasons for and results of events, situations and changes
 give explanations about why the past is depicted and interpreted in different ways
 use different sources of information before coming to a view about an historical issue
 Collect their thoughts and put them in order to produce structured work, using dates and special
historical terms.


Why do we teach geography?

Students need to understand the world around them, in both a local and
global sense. All of us make a mark on where we live, and where we
live leaves its mark on us. One of the more important issues students
learn about in Geography is their effects on the environment and how
to minimize negative effects. Students also learn about and compare
different places and societies around the world. This helps them to
understand the inequalities that exist and hopefully enable them to
become responsible citizens of the world.

Teaching for every student

Students learn to use geographical skills to find out about:

 different places
 patterns in natural and human environments and what causes them (for example, why different
kinds of housing are found in different parts of cities; why it rains more in Singapore than in
Hong Kong)
 how environments change, and ways in which they can be looked after and managed sustainably.

Students study a range of economically developed countries around the world and others that are less
developed, but with a focus on the Asian region.

Students study the following themes:
1. weather and climate - the difference between them, and how and why they differ from place to
2. ecosystems - the different conditions that allow different types of plants and animals to live in
harmony together, and how people can upset that balance
3. economic activity (for example, hi tech industry and tourism) - how and why the locations of
activities change, and the effects of these changes
4. development - how places develop and how this affects the people who live there
5. environmental issues - the ways in which environments may be damaged or improved, and how
people try to manage them in a sustainable manner
6. resource issues - how people use and manage natural resources such as oil and water, and how
this affects the environment
7. tectonic processes - how and why earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur, and how they affect
landscapes and people
8. geomorphologic processes - the effects of water and ice on landscapes, as well as the causes and
effects of hazards such as floods, typhoons and landslides.

Students learn about these themes at different scales - local, regional, national, international and
global - and in different parts of the world. They carry out fieldwork investigations outside the
classroom (for example, how and why beaches are formed and how the tourist industry in Hong
Kong compares with other countries). To support their study, students ask questions, gather, record,
analyse and present geographical information, and draw conclusions. They learn how to use a range
of resources, including satellite images, aerial photographs and information from the internet.

Targets for every student

At the end of each year, students will have acquired particular knowledge and skills, as follows:

Year 7:

 basic skills of Geography

 through a study of the tropical rainforest, students learn:
 how environments change and ways in which they can be looked after and managed in
a sustainable manner;
 to describe and explain some of the ways that the natural and human worlds interact
with each other;
 the basic processes of weather and climate and why the climate in Hong Kong differs from
the climate in Britain
 where and why people migrate, with a focus on Hong Kong and mainland China

Year 8:

 how natural and human processes lead to changes in places, through a study of the water
cycle and flooding in the Mississippi River basin
 the natural and human processes of natural hazards, such as volcanoes and earthquakes, and
how the effects can be minimized
 the scarcity of natural resources and the importance of their sustained use

Year 9:
Studies of Hong Kong tourism, coastal processes and management, and the hazards of typhoons,
developed and developing countries, will lead students to:
 understand how the views and opinions of different groups of people may make them respond
in different ways to the same issue;
 ask relevant questions and organise their own investigations;
 present their findings clearly;
 base their conclusions on evidence.

Religious Studies

Why do we teach religious studies?

To be able to understand their own beliefs and values, students

need to learn about and respond to the beliefs and values of
others. In religious studies students learn about the main
religions of the world. The subject aims to help students to
respect the beliefs and practices of others as well as discover
more about their own.

Teaching for every student

Religious Studies has a slightly different assessment scheme from other subjects as we expect the
students to not only learn about religion, but to learn from it as well.

For example children consider some of the deeper questions about life, ‘What’s our purpose in life?’
‘Why do people suffer?’ They find out about the ways religions answer these questions, and relate
this to their own experiences and ideas.

Religious Studies is taught to all students in Years 7 – 9. Students will develop their knowledge,
understanding and evaluation of a variety of religious beliefs and practices.

In Year 7 we introduce the students to religions through looking at their sources of authority, their
ways of remembering and celebrating, and their special places of worship and pilgrimage.

Year 8 builds on this understanding to teach the students about the importance of story in shaping
beliefs, the ways in which religious people live their lives and the students analyse people as
representatives of their religion.

Year 9 extends students’ understanding of this subject as we learn about philosophy of religion and
ethics. This includes an in depth study of religious persecution. We end Year 9 with an analysis of
cults and the students consider what we understand by ‘truth’.

Targets for every student:

 Students should be able to explain how the principal beliefs, ideas and teachings of religions
may have an impact on the lives of believers.
 Students should be able to explain their own values and understand and begin to evaluate
religious perspectives on a range of ultimate questions and moral issues.

Homework tip: music but no TV!

Where does your child do their homework? They may already have done some of it in
school, at a homework club, or in a study support room. For the work they do at home, they
will benefit from a well-lit table where they can spread out books, pens and pencils.

Children won’t give homework their best if they spread it out on their lap in a room where
the television is on. But if your child likes to listen to CDs or music on the radio alongside
homework, don’t assume this is bad: for some children, it can help. The real test is how well
your child is doing at their homework.

Learning tip: look back

Keep your child’s old exercise books and look back over the work they have
completed to help them see how they have improved over the last few years,
celebrating what they have learned. You might want to frame a particularly
nice piece of work.

Modern foreign languages

Why do we teach modern foreign languages?

At West Island School, we believe it is important to foster a spirit of

internationalism in the hearts and minds of our community and nurture the ability
to function effectively in an international context.

The learning of a foreign language means being able to interact in a new cultural
context, enabling us to function in a society different from our own. It increases
our own personal opportunities for work, entertainment and travel as well as
expanding our awareness of the world as we know it, a world that is shrinking due
to high speed international air travel, the Internet and our own understanding that
cultural diversity is what makes us human.

Teaching for every student – different pathways

Most of our students study two languages at Key Stage 3 – Chinese with either French or Spanish. In
Year 8, we have recently introduced an Italian ab initio course as part of our drive to diversify and
work towards personalising our curriculum.

Students are taught the basic building blocks of the language, including grammar and vocabulary,
and how to pronounce words and phrases properly. They learn how to listen carefully, how to ask
and answer questions, how to start conversations and how to read texts for information.

Students are taught the skills they need to develop their learning. For example, they are taught how
to memorise words and phrases and how to use dictionaries effectively. They also learn about the
countries and cultures where the language is spoken. They learn to communicate with native
speakers of the language and work with authentic materials - such as newspapers, books and satellite
TV programmes - written or spoken in the language they are learning. They practise using the
language in different types of situations: for example, talking with other students and with the
teacher, writing letters and making phone calls, and reading for personal interest and for information.
This equips our students with language learning skills which are transferable; they can therefore
apply these when they learn other languages. All students with only a few exceptions will pursue at
least one of the languages studied in KS3 to GCSE level and some will study two.

In Chinese, while most of the students are following the foreign language programme, a growing
number are following a more challenging curriculum which teaches Chinese as a first language. This
incorporates the study of literature and more sophisticated language which will give our students the
skills and opportunities to take the bilingual IB diploma later on in KS5 or to study the language as a
near-native speaker if they opt for the A2 Chinese course.

The KS3-4 experience provides our students with a number of different options when they reach Year
12. If a language is studied at GCSE level in Years 10 and 11 students have the opportunity to
continue their study of that language by opting for the Language B course at Standard or Higher
Level of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. A student may also opt to take up a
new language ab initio (from the beginning) at that stage if they prefer.

Targets for every student

Students make progress in four key areas: listening and responding, speaking, reading and
responding, and writing. Around age 14, most students are able to:

Listening and responding

 understand spoken language and written extracts covering a range of familiar topics, and dealing
with events in the past, present and future
 cope with language spoken at normal speed
 pick out the main points and the details of what someone is saying without needing much


take part in conversations, talking about events in the past, present and future
 use the language to find out most of the day-to-day information and
explanations they need (for example, finding out street directions, asking for
prices in shops, and so on)
make themselves understood fairly easily.

Reading and responding

 read and understand writing about events in the past, present and future
 pick out the main points and the details in an extract of writing
 skim a piece of writing to pick out the information they need
 read on their own, for enjoyment as well as for information.


 use sentences, paragraphs and descriptive words

 write about events in the past, present and future
 make their meaning clearly understood, although they may make mistakes from time to time.

‘If you speak a different language you can be a different person - you can interact in a whole different
cultural environment. You can go to a country and immerse yourself in their culture, their way of
thinking. You adopt a different mentality and you learn new concepts and ideas.’ Behram Nasir, 19

Homework tip: lasting the course

Some parents are surprised that the flow of homework gradually seems to ‘dry up’ when their child is about
13 or 14. This can be followed by a second surprise: their child suddenly announces a large project needs
to be handed in - ‘tomorrow morning’!

As your child grows older, homework that needs to be done over a longer period will become more
important. Between the ages of 14 and 16, longer projects are often used in assessment for exams. When it
is used for assessment, it is called ‘coursework’. Your child’s school will be able to let you know the
coursework plan. Your child needs to learn how to do this kind of work regularly and evenly.
Art and design

Why do we teach art and design?

Whether they’re digitally manipulating images on the

computer or getting the feel of textiles or clay, students use
art and design to look afresh at the world around them.
Experimenting with colours, materials, textures and patterns
or trying out new processes helps them communicate what
they see, feel and imagine. They study different sorts of
artwork from murals to sculptures and discover how images
can tell stories or express ideas. They learn how art, craft
and design enrich our lives and can lead to many kinds of
interesting and creative jobs. The fundamental purpose of
art and design is to develop visual understanding and the
creative potential of all students to the best of their ability.

Teaching for every student

Students are taught to:

 explore and develop ideas drawn from their imagination and
experience, from their own observations and from the material
they have collected in their sketchbook;
 develop ideas to suit different purposes and audiences;
 draw on an expanded range of materials, tools, techniques and
processes (for example, drawing, designing and print making),
mixing and adapting them to achieve effects;
 review their own and others’ work, saying what they think and
feel about it, and use critical feedback to develop their work
 look at art, craft and design in different times, in Western
Europe and the wider world. They begin to think about the
ways in which audiences and art works change each other.

They do this on their own and through working with others,

using a range of starting points (such as their own
experiences, natural and made materials and objects, the
local environment). They look at a range of work (for
example, looking at originals and reproductions, going to
galleries and museums, researching on the internet). During
key stage 3 pupils develop their creativity and imagination
through more sustained activities. These help them to build
on and improve their practical and critical skills and to
extend their knowledge and experience of materials,
processes and practices. They engage confidently with art, craft and design in the contemporary
world and from different times and cultures. They become more independent in using the visual
language to communicate their own ideas, feelings and meanings
Targets for every student

Around age 14, most students are able to:

 gather information to help them develop ideas for different purposes and audiences;
 mix materials, tools and techniques, using their different properties to express ideas;
 analyse art works critically, thinking about how and why works of art, craft and design change
over time and from place to place;
 adapt and improve their own work.

‘I liked art at school because it was creative. I went to college and did a BTEC national and then I
did an HND course. I love art. In my spare time I still do art, writing and creative work. What I
learnt has helped with my work - how you present the items you’re selling in a shop. It taught me the
power of how things look.’ Mukesh Sharma, 24

Homework tip: create a routine

Homework is always more successful if it is

built into a routine at home. If your child has
a regular commitment after school - such as
going to a youth club or the mosque, going
round to a friend’s house or watching a
favourite television programme - they will
need to organise their evenings and weekends
to fit homework alongside. This is all part of
learning how to manage their time and
develop self-discipline.


Why do we teach music?

We’ve all got our ‘desert island discs’, songs that remind
us of places we’ve visited, or tunes that always cheer us up
when we’re feeling down. Making music together helps
students to explore and express their thoughts and feelings.
Learning songs from times gone by or from different parts
of the world helps students learn about other times and
other cultures. And getting to grips with listening carefully
is going to help them in all sorts of different lessons
throughout their school career.

Teaching for every student

Students at this age develop their musical skills and broaden their musical interests. They perform
and compose music in different styles, with a growing understanding of musical techniques. They
work on their own and in groups of different sizes, becoming aware of how each member’s
contribution affects the whole performance. Students explore music in different styles and traditions.
They listen critically, piecing together how and why the music was composed and what other types of
music might have influenced it.

Targets for every student

Around age 14, most students are able to:

 pick out the characteristics of different styles of music, and recognise how one type of music can
influence another;
 use musical features (such as pitch and rhythm) confidently and expressively in their
 make changes to their own performance to fit in better with a group performance;
 re-create, improvise and compose music in different styles;
 use suitable musical notation when planning or revising compositions;
 explore how venue, occasion and performance affect the way music is created, performed and
 improve their own and others’ work.

‘I’d have to say that music was my favourite subject. I’ve

just started a new indie band and I play guitar. I play all
sorts of stuff, drums and keyboard as well. I like performing
in front of people, because I’m a bit of an exhibitionist.’ Jeff
Tate, 18

Homework tip: keep it neat

Students will always be encouraged by their teachers when their work is

neat and tidy and where they have tried hard to underline headings, put the
date, and rule off the last piece of work. When you look through your
child’s homework, encourage them to do these things.

Step by step

Your child can learn from your thought processes. Next time your child asks you to help
them with something, talk them through it step by step.

It could be anything:
• gluing together a model plane
• fixing a shelf
• finding reference materials to help with homework.

Describe the steps you go through:

• how you plan to do the task
• why you are doing it in a particular way
• how you will be able to tell whether or not you’ve done it successfully.

It’s particularly helpful when you point out your mistakes - and how you know they are


Why do we teach drama?

Whether in the theatres of ancient Greece or on the television

sets of modern Hong Kong, people have always used drama as a
means of exploring and understanding the world around them.
By working as a team, improvising, devising, reading and
interpreting scripts, and by analysing the work that they see,
students are encouraged to respond to the ideas current in the
world and to express their own opinions. We emphasise the need
to acquire dramatic skills and carefully to structure their work in
the lessons.

Teaching for every student

Students at this age will have opportunities

to explore and use drama in a range of ways
including: the adoption of simple roles;
manipulation of space to create meanings;
simple forum theatre; thought tracking;
simple narration; ensemble skills; mime and
improvisation; scriptwriting and reading
techniques, and working with masks. At all
stages students will be encouraged to think
carefully about the organisation and
presentation of the drama that they do.

Targets for every student

Around age 14 most student are able to

 explore issues, ideas and feelings with sensitivity and

perception in an expressive and personal way;
 work creatively to adopt, sustain and develop a variety
of roles;
 demonstrate an imaginative use of language, movement
and space;
 reveal a command of the language of drama;
 identify and resolve problems;
 evaluate the drama that they do and see;
 edit and improve their work;
 choose appropriate genres and styles for their drama;
 work effectively as part of a group and have fun while
they are learning.

Physical education

Why do we teach physical education?

Whether regular exercise is swimming or Sunday afternoon basketball, we know

keeping fit is important. And physical education, or PE, is where students learn
key life skills like teamwork, co-operation and the spirit of competition. PE aims
to show students that we all need exercise and we can all enjoy one variety or
another, vital messages to help them lead active and healthy lives as they grow
up. P.E. is for life!

Teaching for every student

Between the ages of 11 and 14, all students will learn about:
 games - striking/fielding games (for example, softball and cricket), invasion games (for example,
basketball and water polo) and net/wall games (for example, badminton).
We also teach:
 gymnastics - creating and performing patterns of movement in different gymnastic styles, on the
floor and using apparatus;
 swimming and water safety - using a range of strokes such as front crawl, back crawl and
breaststroke, personal survival skills and some life-saving skills;
 athletics - including running (long and short distances, sometimes over hurdles), jumping (for
height and for distance) and throwing (shot, javelin, discus);
 biathlon: a combination of swimming and running.

By taking part in these activities, students develop their skills and techniques, learning to use them
confidently in different activities.

They understand the principles that make a performance effective

and apply them to their work. They take responsibility for their
personal development, making decisions about what to do to
improve their performance. At this age students also begin to
choose which activities they want to be involved in and try out a
variety of roles, such as leader and official.

Targets for every student

Around age 14, most students are able to:

 put together different skills and techniques they have learned
with their own ideas to suit different physical activities;
 perform physical activities fluently and with control;
 use strategy, taking into account their own and others’
strengths and weaknesses;
 analyse their own and others’ performances and suggest
ways to improve them;
 warm up before activities and cool down after them;
 explain how different types of exercise help their fitness and
 exercise independently outside of school.

‘PE complemented my other school work: after PE, I was quite happy to sit and listen to something
academic - I’d had my release of energy. PE lessons encourage you to have a go at things, and to
give it your all. That’s been a good lesson to learn. It also taught me leadership skills. I still play
cricket and basketball, things that I did at school.’ Nabeel Bhatti, 22

Homework tip: a team approach?

If your child does ask for help with a particular piece of homework -
and of course, there are many times when they should work on it by
themselves - get them to think about which member of the family is
better able to help. They can draw on the different strengths of family
or older friends.

Homework tip: keeping it together

Not all subjects use exercise books. Some subjects use a lot of A4
photocopies and handouts - students will use a ring-binder to keep
them together.

If so, your child will need to be methodical in making sure they file
all the pieces of paper in a sensible order. Some homework will
require plain paper, some lined. Check any comments from teachers
and help your child to make sure they have the right paper, folders
and other equipment.

Learning to Learn

Learning to Learn is a course which is expanding from year 7 (in 2006-07) to years 7 & 8 (in 2007-
08) to years 7, 8 & 9 (in 2008-09).

Students are introduced to the concept of learning to learn and are asked to consider questions such
as, “What does good learning look like? Does everybody learn in the same way? How do I learn
best?” They use a learning profiler which helps them to consider when, where and how they learn
best and who they learn best with. They use this information to set themselves learning goals.

Students learn about the human brain – the organ for learning. They learn about the basic parts of the
brain and their relationship to learning as well as the importance of nutrition and exercise in
maintaining a healthy and active brain. They consider how the brain stores information in long term
memory and are introduced to strategies and tools for remembering and thinking.

Students also consider the characteristics of highly effective teams. Students are introduced to the
concept of effective group work and form “Home Teams”. They discuss and agree a set of criteria
for effective group work and have the opportunity to put these into practice in practical challenges.

Students go on to look at characteristics of highly successful people as a vehicle for introducing the 5
R’s. We believe that successful learners are Resilient, Reflective, Resourceful, Reasoning and
Responsible. Students study some successful individuals and analyse personal characteristics that
helped them accomplish extraordinary things.

Students develop specific memorisation and learning skills, such as the Roman room method and the
Buzan memory mapping techniques. They apply these skills to the work that they are engaged in
across their school subjects.

As the course continues, students develop further team learning, coaching and problem solving skills
and go on to refine their approach to finding, using and communicating information in the 21st

Lifeskills - personal, social and health education

Why do we teach Lifeskills?

To lead independent, happy lives, students must develop their self-confidence. This involves taking
responsibility for their own health and well-being. At West Island School we aim to provide students
with these skills for life in school and in the outside world, once they leave us. We believe that this is
a vital part of any school curriculum.

There are no targets for Lifeskills at key stage 3.

The aims of the Lifeskills programme at West Island School are:

 to provide a forum to express viewpoints sensitively and with respect;
 to develop a sense of identity in relation to family, friends and the wider community;
 to provide students with knowledge skills and attitudes to make informed decisions;
 to develop independence both personally and academically;
 to foster a sense of moral and social responsibility.

What about sex and relationships education?

The National Curriculum for science says that students must be taught
about human sexual reproduction and the transmission of disease.

The emotional and moral dimensions of a sexual relationship will be

taught within the Lifeskills programme.

Other issues covered in the Lifeskills programme include:

 the importance of loving and stable relationships;
 taking responsibility and being aware of the consequences of one’s actions;
 contraception, safe sex, and where to find advice and help;
 the arguments for delaying sexual activity and how to resist unwanted pressure.

What about drugs education?

The National Curriculum for science requires that schools teach students that
the abuse of alcohol, solvents and other drugs affects health. Beyond this,
Lifeskills lessons will provide the setting for your child to develop the skills
they need to:
 make informed decisions;
 decide who to trust;
 resist unwanted pressure.

West Island School has a drugs education policy and a policy to manage drug-related incidents.

“Lifeskills lessons have really helped me to become more tolerant. I now understand that people can
have different viewpoints but still treat others with respect. That’s really important in a multi-cultural
world.” WIS student, 23

Homework tip: talking it over

Talking with your child can help their thinking skills. Conversation with your child
should be fun, but if these feature as well, so much the better:
 take your child seriously;
 listen to their opinions;
 push their thinking: ask them about the opposite view, to consider ‘what if ... ?’;
 encourage them to develop a line of thinking by building on what they have said
before, but also by taking into account what you have said.

CAS - Learning beyond the classroom

What is CAS?

CAS stands for Creativity, Action and Service, which are the three different
categories of activities that students are expected to be involved in. CAS is made up
of all the activities that students are involved in, both inside and outside school, as
well as Horizons Week.

At West Island School, we are committed to a full and broad CAS programme
involving both regular scheduled activities and an annual Horizons Week. We
encourage students to grow to their full potential by challenging them with new
experiences and a diverse range of activities beyond the academic curriculum.

Involvement in a broad range of CAS activities is an expectation of, and entitlement

for, all students. Students who challenge themselves to their own personal limits are
better able to grow into compassionate, caring individuals who perceive their self-
worth as more than just their academic qualifications. Students actively involved in
CAS are more willing to have their voice heard, be rational risk takers and aspire to be the leaders of
tomorrow, both within the school and the outside community.

As students progress through the school, it is expected that they

demonstrate greater initiative and independence by finding their own CAS
opportunities. Senior students should be more willing to operate outside
their ‘comfort zone’ and should take the lead in self-generating, long-term

Weekly Co-Curricular Activities

West Island School has an extensive activities programme. This programme offers Creative, Action,
and Community Service activities that include sport, music, the arts, debating, Model United Nations
and the HK Award for Young People.

This broad choice offers students a variety of experiences, which will help students to develop their
talents and encourage them to take up an activity that they could
pursue for the rest of their lives.

Through our activities programme, students develop a spirit of

adventure and discovery, genuine interest in the well-being of
others, an understanding of environmental issues and the
importance of teamwork. West Island School views the co-
curricular activities programme as a central and essential part of
the students’ school experience. Activities provide enriching and
challenging experiences for our students.
For students to fully realise their potential, a broad curriculum
including academic and extra-curricular is essential. Our
activities programme, in conjunction with “Horizons Week”
gives students the opportunity to get just that. Through our
activities programme students work with their teachers in a
variety of different roles. This further develops the excellent
student-teacher relationships: a relationship that transfers itself
into the classroom and enhances student effectiveness in the
learning environment.

We expect all our students to take advantage of the programme, to become involved and make our
school as vibrant outside of the classrooms as inside.

Horizons Week

A unique feature of West Island School is our Horizons

Week. This takes place in the autumn term and is a time
when the daily timetable is suspended for camps, expeditions
and in school activities. It is an opportunity for students to
try something entirely new, to develop skills and experience
in an area in which they already have an interest, which will
extend them beyond the weekly curricular and co-curricular

The Horizons Week experience:

 broadens the horizons of students;

 provides opportunities to gain experience away from the home and school
 promotes a sense of responsibility to the school and wider community;
 improves and enhances self-confidence and
 enhances a student’s social and cultural awareness.

Key Stage 4

Key stage 4 - Choices for students aged 14

Around age 14, your child will be able to make choices for study from 14 to 16 (key stage 4). This
stage of your child’s education calls for more choices than at earlier stages:

 your child has to make choices about subjects, and might end up studying a unique mix of
 there are choices to be made about styles of assessment: should your child choose an option with
lots of coursework, or will they be better off with exams?
 and at the same time as studying for exams, you and your child will be thinking about the next
steps: what do they intend to do after age 16?

This section gives information you will find useful when your child is about 14. It also gives some
answers to questions parents have about study and coursework during the two years that follow.

The options booklet

When your child is aged 11-14, most of what they study is set by the school, broadly following the
National Curriculum. But between the ages of 14 and 16 things change: students study subjects in
more depth. This means they must choose some and stop studying others.

So your child will have choices to make. In the autumn term of year 9 (your child will be around 14
years old at this point), they will need to think about options for the next two years of study. Around
this time West Island School will also help students to think about what they will do after 16 through
careers education. By the end of the term, your child will need to have made their choices.

We will give your child an options booklet. This will explain the subjects your child can study, and
the kinds of qualification they can aim for.
Compulsory subjects and options

The options booklet will give you information about compulsory subjects and
the optional subjects:
Key Stage 4
Compulsory subjects Options 2007
 English language
 English literature
 mathematics Form _____
 science
 physical education
 lifeskills


Optional subjects
In most years, there are over 20 optional subjects and students choose four of these. Details are
found in the Key Stage 4 Options Booklet.

Most of the courses will lead to a qualification. Some courses may not lead to qualifications - for
example, lifeskills.

West Island School will offer as much choice as possible, but there are two practical issues all
schools have to face:
there are several types of qualification, but it would be unmanageable for schools to offer them
for all subjects. So schools decide which kinds of qualification best suit their students and
teachers and become expert at teaching them.
timetabling everyone’s needs becomes very complex. If the school cannot give your child all of
their first-choice options, this is because the teacher responsible for a particular subject would
need to be in two places at once, or because the timetable simply cannot fit in a particular choice.

West Island School will offer opportunities to discuss the options at a special evening.

Which subjects?

In the days when a very large percentage of students left school at 16, the choice of subjects for their
final exams was all-important.

Now, the subjects your child chooses for 14-16 are important as a foundation for further learning -
lifelong learning. Even if you are certain your child is going to leave school at 16 to find a job, they
will still need to learn new skills and knowledge throughout their working career. They may well
have to do more formal study. More and more students will stay on at school after 16 to take one of
the ESF’s diplomas and then go on to higher education.

Foundations for buildings need to be broad and strong so that they can support what is built on top of
them. Study at 14-16 is the same - most students do better studying a broad range of subjects. Later
they can build on this broad foundation by specialising.

With the exception of English and maths, most jobs don’t require your child to have studied a
particular subject at GCSE or GNVQ. Most employers and universities will probably be more
interested in your child’s range of study, grades achieved and enthusiasm for learning, than in the fact
that they did or didn’t study any one subject at 14-16.

So unless your child wants a career that requires particular GCSEs, their best path is to study as
broad a range of subjects as possible - subjects that they enjoy.

The National Curriculum and the school’s options policy are designed to encourage this, by ensuring
every student studies a good range of subjects.

Some things for your child to think about.

What do I enjoy studying? What are my strengths?

Am I choosing the best way of working? (For example, some students do better with regular
assessments, others perform well in examinations, and others do well in courses that have a lot of
work-related learning.)

If I choose this option now, will it keep more options open later for further study, training, work?

Some things to consider with your child.

Some students say that they like a subject when they are really motivated by a belief that it won’t
involve much work. But your child will have to work hard in all subjects to get a good qualification.

Some choose a subject to stay in the same class as friends - but because timetabling everyone’s needs
is complex, your child might well be split from their friend for a particular subject.

Another easy mistake for students to make is to think they like the subject because they like the
teacher. But again, timetabling (and the possibility of staff changes) can place them with a different

Your child should be confident that they will enjoy the subject no matter who teaches it.

Which qualification?

Between 14 and 16, your child will spend most of their school study time working towards
qualifications. West Island School offers mainly GCSE’s and their international equivalent, IGCSE’s
at KS4.

The information that follows explains how these qualifications work.

GCSE’s - General Certificates of Secondary Education

IGCSE’s – International GCSE’s

GCSE’s replaced O-levels and CSE’s in 1988. Most students take GCSE’s in most of their subjects.
It usually takes two years to study for a GCSE. Coursework is part of most GCSE’s: work over an
extended period, which could include essays, field work reports, art work, making products, or

GCSE’s are graded A*-G. The grade your child gets will depend on coursework and exam marks.
Students might take exams only once (at the end of year 11, aged 16) or twice (at the end of years 10
and 11).

GCSE tiers

At some time during year 10, when your child is aged 15-16, teachers will decide which tier they
should enter in each of their GCSE’s.

Each tier has a target range of grades that can be awarded. The aim is for your child to take an exam
in which their ability will be tested, without their being thrown off course by questions that are much
too difficult or much too easy. Some GCSE subjects are not tiered: art and design, history, music, PE
and religious studies, for example. Other GCSEs have tiers.

West Island School will decide which tier is right for each student around the January before the final
exam, after the bulk of work has been covered and they have the results of a mock examination.

Studying from 14-16

Coursework and exams

The descriptions of the various subjects in the KS4 Options Booklet

will give you an idea of the different styles of study and assessment
your child may meet. Some qualifications award more of their final
marks through exams - but even for GCSE’s your child is likely to have
to present a substantial amount of coursework. Find out what the mix is for
each qualification your child is taking.

Coursework is different from homework, although to parents the activity may look much the same.
The difference is simple: if it’s coursework, the mark your child gets for it will count towards their
final grade.

This guide can’t generalise about the amount of homework and coursework your child will have to
do every week because it will vary according to the ebb and flow of individual subjects and
qualifications. Your child’s teachers will be able to give accurate advice.

It is very important that students pace and organise their work through the two years. It is tempting
to organise your child if you think they are not doing the right amount of work on time, but
remember that your child needs to learn to organise their own work, and interference can sometimes
be very counter-productive. It is more productive to help your child sort out the big picture. For
example, you might look through the scheme for each qualification with your child, noting when they
will have to hand in coursework, when they will have to sit exams or tests, and how much each of
these is worth. You and your child could draw up a timetable covering the two years from 14 to 16
showing the critical points for each qualification. Your child is then free to organise their work week
by week, but can ask for more help from you when they feel they need it.

The homework tips dotted throughout the key stage 3 section of this guide are also relevant for
parents of 14-16 year olds.

Spelling and punctuation

Some parents who have been asked to look at their children’s work wonder whether they should
correct punctuation and spelling if the subject is not English.

When assessors are marking coursework and exam scripts, some of the marks available will be
deducted for English errors - typically 5 - 10%. This means that if your child writes incorrectly, they
will lose a significant portion of the marks.

So in marking terms there is a limit to how much your child can lose with poor spelling, punctuation
or grammar. If your child asks for your help with geography you will need to spend more time
talking about the key concepts and knowledge for geography than about incorrect English.

But writing correctly is essential for English GCSE and it plays an important part in almost every job
in adult working life. This is why the government has put a lot of emphasis on literacy for every
student. So if your child is making a lot of errors they will need to spend some extra time improving
their skills. Take advice from your child’s teacher.
Use of calculators

Another worry for parents is how much their child should be using a calculator.

A general principle of maths teaching is that students should start by trying to do a sum in
their heads. If that proves too difficult, they should work out the sum on paper or use a calculator. In
these cases, students should still try to estimate a rough answer in their heads to give a check on
whether their answer is accurate or not.

But calculators are important tools and the mathematics curriculum requires students to be taught:
 how to use calculators effectively, including how to enter complex calculations and use keys for
reciprocals, squares and powers.
 how to enter numbers that don’t start out as decimals (for example, fractions of an hour) in a
decimal format
 how to interpret a calculator display correctly, and to wait until the end of a calculation to round
any figures up or down.

Your child’s mathematics teacher will be able to advise you about which model of calculator it is best
to buy. West Island School’s PTA bookshop sells suitable models.

Computers: to buy or not to buy?

The National Curriculum requires that all students be taught how to use
information and communication technology to enhance their work between the
ages of 14 and 16, as well as to learn about it in its own right. ICT is about much
more than computers, but a common question for parents is whether their child
will miss out if they don’t have a computer at home - or have access to the internet.

ICT is similar to literacy. You can learn to read and write, then only ever read or write junk. But if
you don’t learn to read, you will certainly be cut off from a world of information and ways to present
your own ideas. Your child may have access to a computer at home - but if they don’t use it for a
good range of activities, the computer may benefit their leisure much more than their learning! A
good range of activities would include:
asking: is this information relevant and accurate?
testing information: is it useful?
changing information (words, pictures or numbers) to make it useful for another purpose or reveal
new information.

Playing games and web surfing can achieve some of these aims, but on their own they are unlikely to
achieve all of them.

Your child will certainly learn through using the computer and internet access provided at school.
Beyond this, quality is more important than quantity: a few well-spent hours on a computer in a
public library, or at an internet café, may be a very cost-effective way to enhance your child’s
learning out of school hours.

Choices beyond 14-16

This guide doesn’t aim to deal directly with career choices. Its focus is on learning at school and
there is already a wealth of careers information published by government and private publishers.
West Island School offers students careers education at this age through the Lifeskills programme.

Parents’ tips

‘I pulled down the syllabuses from the internet. It would have been
good to do that earlier, so we could check through together what
Hannah had covered. But that meant when it came to the exams, if she
got a bit anxious, we were able to say: look, you’ve revised, you can’t do
any more, go to sleep! She then went over a few key points in the
morning and went off to her exam.’ Malcolm Fry, 49

‘We have one rule for revision: Samantha’s only allowed to do one hour at a time. Even
one hour a day is better than five hours all at once without doing any for five days. It’s
breaking it down into bite-size chunks.’ Lorraine Butler, 36

‘The best thing we can do for Nick is provide the equipment, space and
time he needs. From 4.30 until we sit down for dinner it’s homework
time. After that he can relax. We make sure he’s got everything he needs -
pens, graphics equipment and so on. We also bought a PC with internet
access. He’s put more effort into his work because he’s been able to use it
for presentation as well as research.’
Jas Janda, 38

‘It was very important that Simon carried on some of his out-of-school activities like the drama
group he did at weekends, because, with his dyslexia, written work is quite a struggle. So I wanted
him to be confident and have a balance. I didn’t expect him to do that well and I made it clear it
wouldn’t matter so long as he’d done his best. Then, of course, it came as a nice surprise when he
did do well.’ Helen Elliott, 48

‘Some parents get over-involved and that’s not what coursework is about. I see it as giving my
children a chance to show what they know, and develop their own strategies to cope with deadlines
and so on. I also give them exam tips, like look for the little trigger words, and don’t spend two
hours writing about why something happened when the question asks ‘when’.’ Lindsay Farquhar, 50

‘The increase in workload from year 9 is quite a jump. Joe has become a bit disaffected, but you
can’t push it. It’s destructive, especially with teenagers who don’t like being told what they have to
do. Hopefully, he’ll decide it for himself, but, however bad it gets, it’s good to know you’re not the
only one going through it. Getting together with other parents gives a chance to swap experiences
and pick up ideas.’ Michael Poon, 40

Help! Answers to questions

Frequently asked questions

‘This guide says that most students reach the ‘target for every child’ by age 14. But I’m
worried that my child won’t.’

In the key stage 3 section of this guide, the ‘targets for every child’ in each subject described what
children should be able to do and know. Levels 5 and 6 are the National Curriculum target for 14
year olds.

The aim of the targets is to give a level that most students should have reached by a certain age.
There will always be some students below and others beyond the target. If your child finds their
work easy, talk to their teachers about what target they should be aiming for - they may need to aim
higher. If your child is likely to find level 5 or 6 hard when they get to age 14, the school will tell
you in good time.

Qualifications taken at 16 are not assessed using National Curriculum levels. Although National
Curriculum levels are not used at 16, the levels your child reaches at 14 give schools a good idea of
how well your child is progressing towards the challenges of GCSEs and other qualifications.

If the school says that your child is likely to find it hard to reach the target, remember: students
develop at different rates. Some may not reach the level at the given age, but will catch up later. At
the moment, however, your child may need extra help from their school and from you. Talk to their
teacher about how you can help.

‘Where can I find help if my child has health or social problems at school?’

School is about much more than learning: it’s about your child growing up, making friends, growing
in confidence. School might bring all kinds of questions: for example, what kind of books and
uniform do you need to buy? How can you get through to your child when they are moody, bored or
resentful? This guide focuses on learning between the ages of 11 and 16, and there isn’t space to look
at many other questions. West Island School has a well organised pastoral system. Each student is in
a tutor group and your child’s form tutor is the first point of contact for any concerns or problems.

‘I see there are tips in this guide, but I don’t have time to do them all - will my child be left

No. The tips in this guide are there for you to help your child as they plan their homework and
coursework, but at this age children need to learn to take responsibility for their own study. So the
tips will come in useful from time to time, especially when your child asks for help. The main thing
is always to show an interest in what your child is learning at school.

‘My child seems to have difficulty keeping up at school and finds the work difficult. What can
I do?’

Talk regularly to your child’s teachers. You don’t have to wait for a parents’ evening: you can ask the
school for an appointment with your child’s teachers at any time. Find out more about what your
child is doing at school and ask the teacher what your child could do at home to help their learning at
school. See also ‘special educational needs’ in the ‘Teacher talk’ section.

‘Will my child be taught sex and relationship education?’

Yes. Find out more in the “Lifeskills” section of this guide.

‘My child just wants to watch television instead of doing homework. Help!’

Television can encourage learning if chosen carefully. For example, some wildlife documentaries are
excellent explanations of important topics in science and geography. Schools don’t always have time
to show these kinds of television programmes in full. So if your child watches them, this will add to
their school learning.

However, homework is important and sometimes it may be demanding. On many occasions it will
be best simply to turn the TV off (or record the programme!), and give your child both
encouragement and support when they are not motivated.

Teacher talk

Here are some of the words and phrases you may hear teachers use - and what they mean.

attainment target

Each National Curriculum subject has one or more attainment targets. Attainment targets help
teachers decide how well students have learned what they have been taught. Each attainment target
is made up of eight level descriptions and ‘exceptional performance’. They are a kind of measure.
Each level is like the rung of a ladder - students should move up through the level descriptions as
they grow older and make progress


National Curriculum subjects have a section about ‘breadth of study’.

This says that your child is entitled to be taught through a range of important learning experiences.
For example, in English the National Curriculum says that your child should study drama, fiction and
poetry, from classic and contemporary writers, and from different cultures and traditions. These
deepen and broaden your child’s experience of the subject.


Cognitive Abilities Tests. These are tests which we run for all students at the start of year 7 and year
9. They come from the British based National Foundation for Educational Research and give a
snapshot of students’ acquired abilities in thinking with number, with patterns and with words. We
use these to help us to identify and build upon students’ particular strengths and preferred ways of
working and to provide an indication of their potential in various areas of the curriculum in order to
set challenging but realistic targets. Broad results of these are reported to parents with the usual
school reports.

English as an additional language (EAL)

Students who speak English as an additional language, rather than as their first language, may need
extra help with their reading and writing tasks across the curriculum. They will need lots of
opportunities to talk with English-speaking adults and other students about their work, thoughts and
feelings. Often what they need most is varied, vibrant teaching that involves visual resources, sound,
speaking and writing to make it easier for them to learn in English while developing their academic
skills in the language. We may recommend that some students take separate EAL lessons while
others receive extra support in their other lessons. Some students for whom English is an additional
language may also have special educational needs.


This stands for information and communication technology, which includes the use of computers, the
internet, and video and sound recording equipment. This subject used to be called ‘information

key stage

A key stage is a block of years in your child’s schooling. Key stage 1 covers the first two years a
child spends at school (aged 5-7), key stage 2 the next four (aged 7-11), key stage 3 ages 11-14, and
key stage 4 ages 14-16.

levels (level descriptions)

Each level is a measure teachers use to check how much your child knows, understands, and can do.
See ‘attainment target’ above.

Programme of study

Every National Curriculum subject has a programme of study. This sets out what your child is
entitled to be taught in schools. The main part of this guide summarises the programmes of study
and the attainment targets (see above).


Many people call National Curriculum QCA tests and tasks by the name of ‘SATs’. Some schools
use National Curriculum optional tests in other years, to track students’ progress.

Special educational needs (SEN)

Students have special educational needs if they have learning difficulties that make it much harder
for them to learn than most students of the same age. SEN includes students with a range of physical
or sensory difficulties, emotional and behavioural difficulties or difficulties with speech, language or
social interaction. These students may need to be helped more than other students of the same age,
and perhaps in different ways. If you think your child has SEN your first step should be to talk to
your child’s form tutor. West Island School has a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO)
who will be able to provide more advice about how you and the school can help your child.

year 7, year 8 (etc)

Because students in a school year have birthdays in different months, it is simpler for schools not to
talk about the year by referring to the age of the students in it. Instead, they talk about the number of
years since students began key stage 1.

West Island School
250 Victoria Road
Hong Kong

 +852 2819 1962