Being a Catholic school, the teaching of R.E is given a high priority. Home, school and parish work together. The spirit of the school's mission statement affirms this with its emphasis on a Catholic community; a welcoming and all inclusive family, valuing the role and contribution of each member. Our commitment to this means that R.E is a vital, central part of our curriculum. It consists of our pupils experiencing the faith of the church in lessons, in worship and in relationships within the school.
We teach the National Curriculum using a creative, skills-based approach. We use termly over-arching themes for the whole school, with teachers and children choosing specific topic areas and subject content appropriate for their age-group. Whilst our teaching is skills-based, children also learn facts and build up their knowledge of the topic areas covered. Each termly topic starts with a whole school launch event and ends with a whole school exit event. For example Spring Term 2012 was a history themed term entitled 'Horrible Histories'. For the launch event, the children dressed up as a character from history and took part in a range of activities including making a whole school timeline, learning about knights and storytelling. Individual classes then studied Dinosaurs and fossils, Vikings and Tudor Explorers across the term. The whole school exit event was a 'museum' of work for parents to view. We link as many subject areas into the termly topics as possible and where meaningful links can be made. English, mathematics and Religious Education (RE) are generally taught separately, although cross-curricular links are made with English and maths.
Children are taught to communicate orally and in writing from Foundation stage onwards. English is broken down into 4 areas: Phonics and reading, Spelling, Grammar and punctuation and writing.
We teach children phonics and reading following the letters and sounds programme. This is supported through the use of ICT programmes such as Nessy. The children practise sounding out the words (segmenting) and then blend these sounds together to read the whole word. As well as this, we teach tricky words which cannot be phonetically spelt and in Foundation stage and KS1 phonics sessions are taught and revised daily with Key Stage Two having weekly SPAG lessons and phonics sessions where needed.
We have a high quality range of levelled reading books which are colour coded to match a reading level. These books start from red colour, where books are fictional stories with little or no words in, to Diamond level, where our more able readers are reading classic novels like Black Beauty. We recognise the need to continually challenge our readers, through these levelled books which run up to Year 6. The children choose their own books from colour boxes, so they can find a text that will motivate them to read. As well as this, children are encouraged to visit our school library and choose their own ‘free reading’ book.
We use a range of publishers from Pearson press, to Oxford Reading Tree, who provide books that support and inspire all ages, abilities and genders. Reading is taught at least three times a week through ‘text talks’ sharing of a variety of fiction and non fiction texts, that are read together, and explored in detail, using reading assessment focuses (AFs) which teaches children how to understand a text on a deeper level (comprehension).
Spelling is taught weekly from Year 1 to year 6. Children are taught spelling patterns and rules, as well as common spellings. Spelling is taught through dictation, handwriting and through interactive games.
At St Mary’s we recognise the importance of explicitly teaching correct grammar and punctuation from Year 1 up to year 6. This is taught discreetly and through text level work.
The development of children’s ability to communicate in writing is given high priority and we achieve good standards in this important skill. We teach a variety of genres and ensure that writing is linked to other curriculum areas.
Mental mathematics and oral work feature strongly in these lessons. As well as the learning of mathematical concepts, children are taught instant recall of addition facts and multiplication tables to ensure that they are well equipped with good basic numeracy skills.
Teaching which is lively, interactive and stimulating forms the basis of these lessons. All children learn science through observing, investigating and experimenting. As children progress through the school they are taught to use their scientific skills, understanding and knowledge, when applying scientific processes and practice to new topics.
In this subject, children learn about the rich heritage of our country and ancient civilisations. We make good use of visits to places of historical interest and visitors to school, including actors and drama groups who bring history alive for the children.
We aim to give children an understanding of their own and different environments, the use and misuse of natural resources, and other environmental issues such as pollution and conservation.
We have a seperate ICT suite equipped with 25 laptops computers. All classrooms are equipped with interactive touchscreens, which enable teaching and learning to take place in an exciting, stimulating way that was unimaginable a few years ago. We also have a number of iPads for use in class.
From early work using construction toys and scrap material, children develop the skills to design, plan, make and evaluate their own creations using a variety of tools and materials.
We encourage children to develop their artistic skills in a creative and imaginative way, giving their ideas visual form.
We teach the children about the work of famous artists and help them to gain an understanding of their visual heritage.
We enjoy an excellent musical tradition and there are many opportunities for children to take part in musical activities both inside and outside of the classroom. From the earliest years, children are encouraged to take part in and enjoy musical activities. In year 3 and 4, children learn a musical instrument for a term. In the past, this has included Samba drums, flute and brass instruments. The school offers musical instrument tuition in brass, strings, woodwind, keyboard and percussion, taught by specialist teachers.
Children are encouraged to keep fit as part of their education for a healthy lifestyle. Gymnastics, games, dance and swimming are taught in each year group.
We have school teams for football, netball, and cricket which regularly take part in matches with local schools. We offer an extensive range of after-school sports clubs.
In partnership with parents we prepare children for future adult life. Our personal, health and social education deals with all the issues relating to the physical, social and emotional well-being of each child. As part of this, the school has a programme of sex education which follows guidelines from the Catholic Diocese of Plymouth. Parents of children in Year 6 are invited to view teaching materials before they are introduced to the children and may, if they wish, withdraw their child from all or part of sex education, except for those elements taught as part of National Curriculum science.
Teachers use the outcomes of our assessments to summarise and analyse attainment and progress for their pupils and classes. Teachers use this data to plan the learning for every pupil to ensure they meet or exceed expectations. Teachers and leaders analyse the data across the school to ensure that pupils identified as vulnerable or at particular risk in this school are making appropriate progress and that all pupils are suitably stretched. The information from assessment is communicated to parents and pupils at parent consultation meetings.
We celebrate all achievements across a broad and balanced curriculum, including sport, art and performance, behaviour, and social and emotional development.
We expect all children to spend an age-appropriate time each evening completing homework, and we ask all parents to co-operate with this policy. The expectation is that all children will read at home at least four times a week and complete a set piece of literacy and numeracy homework weekly.