Learning at SHSG


The Trivium of ‘Grammar, Dialectic and Rhetoric’, formed the basis of a classical education from ancient Greece up to Shakespeare’s time at school and beyond.  In the 21st Century, it remains a powerful framework for formulating ideas about learning, pedagogy and the curriculum.


Trivium for the 21st Century

At Southend High School for Girls these ideals, set out and achieved through the ‘Trivium for the 21st Century,’ underpin our core purpose and values as articulated in our curriculum intent and school motto:

The School Motto

‘So enter that daily thou mayest become more learned and thoughtful.
So depart that thou mayest become more useful to thy country and mankind.’

Our Trivium

Our Philosophy & Methodology

The Trivium is the philosophy and methodology that forms the bedrock of our curriculum and the three ways of the Trivium, Grammar, Dialectic and Rhetoric, inform our pedagogical approach.  The Trivium embodies the pursuit of wisdom from a knowledge rich foundational curriculum; It combines hard work to foster learning.

The Trivium is ‘tailor made’ for bright, high attaining students.  Its three pathways support the movement from knowledge gains, to integration of knowledge and on to the skilled use of knowledge, developing ‘swashbuckling, philosopher kids’ who are rich in cultural literacy.

A knowledge-to-skills, enabling curriculum

At Southend High School for Girls we know:

The importance of a well-planned curriculum sequence, so that subject knowledge (the ‘grammar’ of the subject) is acquired and retained usefully, in an incremental manner

That the useful retention of the knowledge ought to be established as secure, concrete, factual knowledge AND as part of the integrated, conceptual and abstract features of long-term memory.

That learning happens when the long-term memory is altered

That the changes in long-term, useful memory support the development of skills which are specific to the subject(s) being taught and learned

That Assessment should support the above and be proportionate

It, therefore, follows, that pedagogical approaches take account of the following at Southend High School for Girls:

Teachers’ subject knowledge and their confidence. This includes support for the development of their subject knowledge and/or confidence

Teachers’ confidence regarding the above learning process and aims

Specific forms of technique and delivery so that subject knowledge is gained, retained and can be used:

  • Teaching to sequence
  • Introducing new knowledge
  • Linking new knowledge to old knowledge
  • Presentation of knowledge, concepts and ideas
  • Linking concepts and ideas, as well as knowledge
  • Explaining
  • Demonstration
  • Taking account of the type of knowledge being covered and relative challenges and difficulties
  • The use of discussion, debate and other engagement to help secure understanding
  • The crucial role of the LINGUISTIC DISCOURSE of the subject
  • The CRITICAL ROLE OF QUESTIONING in all of the above
  • Live adaptation to probe and clear misconceptions
  • Suitably demanding work, well-matched to the sequence
  • Assessment primarily supporting long-term retention, understanding and use of knowledge

The Trivium provides a staged support/scaffold for the knowledge to memory to skills curriculum, with questioning as an essential part of the repertoire.

Our belief is that if we teach in a way that enables learning, our students will be well-educated, knowledgeable and resilient enough to do well regardless of whatever external benchmarking they may be measured against; this embodies the Trivium ideals.

The pedagogical concepts linked to the three Trivium pathways are exemplified below:

GRAMMAR – knowledge & skills

  • Direct transmission of knowledge & explicit teacher instruction
  • Retention & recall: teaching from memory, learning by heart, low stakes testing; knowledge for its own sake & practice
  • Connecting ideas
  • Explicit teaching to build cultural capital; explicit teaching of subject specific terminology & the skills of reading texts.

DIALECTIC – enquiry & exploration

  • Opportunities to debate, question & challenge
  • Opportunities for hands on authentic experience & experimentation
  • Opportunities for enquiry, analysis, critical evaluation & problem solving
  • Developing understanding

RHETORIC - communication

  • Strong emphasis on structured speech events to share & debate ideas with others
  • Opportunities to perform to make things & to showcase the products of learning
  • Opportunities to contribute to the discourse about the values shared in the school & the wider community
  • Oracy & literacy
  • Connecting ideas and applying them across subjects

Southend High School for Girls

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