Our Approach to Student Learning

An all-together NICER© learning experience

As a Trust we believe that learning should be irresistible; that all our pupils have the right to access a continual stream of learning experiences that are real, immersive and purposeful. In order to enable this, all our schools ensure that their curriculum is based on the principles of NICER©, our unique and bespoke challenge-based learning framework.

About NICER©

We believe that learning must be challenge-based. 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 26 challenge packs (or topics) that form part of a child’s learning journey from Nursery to Year 6.

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 and are what employers are crying out for. Such character skills, alongside critical thinking, resilience, collaboration and resourcefulness are all learning approaches that are at the heart of the NICER© framework.

There are five main strands to the NICER© framework:


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.

To find out more about our Curriculum Policies, click here.