Our Approach to Learning

Our Approach to Learning

Our curriculum approach is very clear. We believe that the curriculum must be challenge-based with a clear focus on the skills and knowledge that every pupil needs to learn over a period of time. In other words, it needs to be based on real-world problems, must capture children’s interests and choices, requires them to acquire and apply new knowledge and skills, and above all, result in a problem being solved. 

Creating something new and sharing the new learning as part of a public product is essential and at the heart of NICER. This could be in the form of a dance, short play, a digital app, a pop-up museum, short movie or whatever the children want it to be. To enable them to do this we created a number of challenge packs that form part of a child’s learning journey throughout school.

Each challenge pack is designed to stretch the children’s thinking. There is a perception that challenges can sometimes be too hard. They become too difficult to bother with because they require grit, determination and perseverance. Yet these are precisely the kind of skills we want all our children to develop if we are to prepare them well for the future. Such knowledge and character skills, alongside the ability to think critically and learn collaboratively with high levels of resilience, are all key features of the NICER framework.

When we created the NICER curriculum in 2012 at Victoria Park Academy, it was new and innovative. Over the past few years we have continued to review and refine it based on research to ensure the curriculum continues to meet the needs of all our pupils so that it provides a steady stream of memorable and exciting experiences for the pupils. We want each academy to retain it’s own autonomy and to meet the needs of its local community. Each school is therefore free to modify and adapt their curriculum so long as the key principles of NICER remain consistent with the trust-wide approach, particularly in regard to the ‘regional’. Any school that joins the trust is expected to buy-in to this fundamental belief that learning must be challenge-based, knowledge-rich, real, immersive and purposeful. 

There are five main strands to our NICER Curriculum:



Based on what is going on here-and-now in the young people’s lives, either at home, in school, the local community or on the news. It ensures the voice of the learner is heard through purposeful activities based on their interests and prior knowledge and understanding.



Ensuring that young people are taught to become confident, independent learners who are able to work collaboratively with others. By adopting a learning power approach, pupils are competent at tackling the learning challenges, using a range of critical thinking tools and digital technology.



In order for pupils to create new things, the curriculum ensures that the learning experiences encourage pupils to ask questions, face difficult challenges and solve real-world problems. Knowledge is essential to creating and so our skills ladders ensure continuity and progression.


Making sure that the learning challenges allow young people to develop the skills of social enterprise when solving real-world problems. Pupils are given ample opportunity to think like social entrepreneurs when developing their public product and to work collaboratively as a team.


Designing learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom that are based on the local community so that it is real and relevant to the learner. This means that each academy curriculum is unique with clear links with local businesses, partnerships and community groups.