Teaching, Learning & Curriculum

Whole School Curriculum Matters

Teaching and Learning is the central purpose of our school.  It is the means through which we offer a curriculum which is broad and balanced and meets the requirements of the National Curriculum and Religious Education. We believe every child is unique and special and can achieve in some educational endeavour. We recognise that one of the most important contributions we can make to the lives of our pupils is to develop positive attitudes towards learning and confidence in themselves as learners. Therefore our primary curriculum is designed to be as broad as possible so each child may find their strengths, achieve and grow in confidence and self esteem. 

The curriculum is personalised to enable our pupils to maximise their achievement. We do this by providing appropriate challenge; delivered in a way to make learning accessible to learners with a variety of learning styles (VAKT: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and tactile) and intelligences. We encourage our pupils to take risks with their learning and always be willing to try new ideas or experiences. As the children grow we equip them with the tools for life so they can explore creativity across the curriculum. We expect our children to take increasing responsibility for their own learning to 'become thinking and caring human beings'.

P4C (Philosophy for Children)  has been taught at St. Mary's for many years from nursery to year 6. Philosophy for Children  aims to encourage children  to think critically, caringly, creatively and collaboratively. P4C is an invaluable tool to help children to cope with ambiguity and to formulate, justify and explore philosophical questions. Through exploring ‘Big questions’, children are taught to reason and provide evidence for their ideas and 'learn how to learn' in the process.

Computing technology is deployed to support learning throughout the school and its curriculum where it can achieve learning outcome more efficiently than more traditional means or where it is the only means of achieving these goals. The school also uses a virtual learning environment (VLE) Fronter as its learning platform to bridge learning between school and home.

The school suppliments its teaching using specialists in Music, Dance, P.E. and Foreign Languages. 

Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) Education is implicit in the school ethos and is planned into all aspects of the curriculum.

In addition Christian Values are identified in teachers' planning to ensure our formal curriculum supports our ethos. 

As a Church of England aided school, RE at St. Mary’s School is taught in line Chester Diocesan guidelines and follows its scheme of work. The scheme of work is concerned with 'learning about religion' and 'learning from religion'. Approximately two thirds of the RE curriculum taught is specifically related to the Christian faith and a third to other world faiths such as Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. Emphasis is placed on understanding how the Christian faith and other world faiths influence the way people lead their lives. A Christian ethos underpins all that we do at St. Mary’s. However, we believe it is vital that children have an understanding of other cultures and faiths if they are to be prepared for life in a diverse society.

Whole class music appreciation, composition and performance are part of the National Curriculum. Individual instrumental music lessons are not part of the normal school curriculum. Peripatetic teachers, come to school to provide music lessons for which charges are made.

The School and its curriculum is formally divided into the Foundation Stage (Nursery and Reception), Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2) and Key Stage 2 (Years 3,4,5 and 6) as defined by the National Curriculum and the Early Years Foundation Stage. Children experience seemless transitions across and between these stages.

Early Years and the Foundation Stage (EYFS)

Our main aim in the Foundation Stage is to ensure that learning is fun, effective and that the children are confident and socially settled with their peers by the time they progress to Key Stage 1. The Foundation Stage encompasses 0-5 years of a child’s life. The learning in both the Nursery and Reception years occurs through child initiated, adult modelled play activities and direct teaching. The classrooms are organised into areas of continuous provision e.g. water, sand, role play, writing, small world, small and large construction. It is in these areas that the children are given opportunities to explore the prime and specific areas of learning as identified in the Foundation Stage curriculum. The prime areas are: personal, social and emotional; communication and language; and physical development. The specific areas are: literacy (including reading and writing), mathematics, understanding the world; expressive arts and design. Learning also takes place in the ‘outdoor environment’ on a daily basis. You have as a parent an opportunity to share your child's learning during 'Stay and Play' sessions which are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays 8.40am - 9.10am in Reception. In  Nursery stay and play can be daily at the start of the morning or afternoon sessions. 

Assessment in the Foundation stage, through observations, short recorded individual assessment and group assessments informs the learning experiences the children receive.  These feed into the individual assessment record for each child against the age related expectations. This assessment evidence provides the 'next steps' for your child's learning.  The assessment evidence is collated in your child's ' My Thinking' book.   As parents you have an opportunity to share this book regularly with your child during 'stay and Play ' sessions or at home. Additionally parents are able to share their child's achievements at home using the online 'Tapestry' system. A summative assessment of your child's attainment is made at the end of the Reception year against the early learning goals. This assessment is shared with parents in the summer term of Reception.  It is not unusual for some children to need additional time to consolidate on the Foundation Stage curriculum on entering Year 1.

Key Stages 1 and 2

Key Stage 1 is very much a transisition phase where the children have opportunities to consolidate their learning using the principles found in the EYFS. The EYFS profile will usually be complete by the end of the Autumn term in year 1. Most children will then be ready to start the National Curriculum. The teaching and learning becomes more formal by the end of year 2 when the children are prepared for the more formal style of education found in Key Stage 2.

At St. Mary's much of our learning is delivered using Accelerated Learning techniques. The term Accelerated Learning can be misleading. The method is not for a specific group of learners, or for a given age range, or for a category of perceived ability. From Gifted and Talented to SEN children, all benefit from Accelerated Learning techniques. It is advocated that lessons which follow the accelerated learning format contain four stages: Connect, Activate, Demonstrate and Consolidate. The brain develops best in environments with high sensory stimulation, sustained challenge and low threat. Teachers teach imaginatively, their attitude is positive and children are praised frequently to provide the optimum learning environment. This is in line with our ethos and we believe it to be good practice.

Mornings remain essentially formal in terms of English and Mathematics teaching. Although there will be occasions where the teacher will decide to deviate from this to allow for extended activities in a particular area of interest.

We use a phonics first approach to teaching reading following the governments 'Letters and Sounds' programme. Our school reading scheme comprises of  a mixture of literature, some of which specifically written to teach and reinforce phonic knowledge. We use a broad and varied range of schemes including: Bug Club, Oxford Reading Tree Songbirds, Floppy Phonics and Read Write Inc.

Differentiation can be achieved by many means and classes may be divided into ability groups, often for some aspects of English and Mathematics. Class teaching is advocated wholeheartedly for many areas where appropriate e.g. where differentiation can be achieved by outcome. Opportunities for investigative work in many areas of the curriculum is soughtt regularly. Also, whole class teaching may be appropriate in other areas deemed suitable by the class teacher, e.g. Shared reading, mental arithmetic where teachers may extend and support pupils through appropriate questioning. Where appropriate, children may be taught in small groups to meet specific needs. This provision is flexible and changes according to need. There are currently small groups throughout Key Stage 2 for the teaching of English, mathematics, synthetic phonics and timestables. The school considers Bloom's Taxonomy a useful tool for differentiation, ensuring complexity of tasks and challenge where appropriate. 

Large parts of the National Curriculum are taught as cross curricular topics with a specific bias of science, history or geography.  The topics are organised into weekly questions to engage the learner. Texts which relate to topics are used in English lessons to strengthen cross curricular links, make learning meaningful and allow objectives in English and history/geography/science to be taught efficiently

We believe that physical education is an important contributor to a pupil’s physical and emotional health, wellbeing and development. The PE programme aims to provide a safe, caring environment in which all children, irrespective of their physical ability can learn effectively through physical tasks and activities. The teaching of PE develops physical and creative skills; promote fitness, engender enjoyment and enthusiasm; develop a responsible attitude towards safety; foster cooperation with other people and an appreciation of all movement.

At Key Stage 1 children are introduced to simple games and develop coordination through multiskills. These skills will be built upon through Key Stage 2 where the children are introduced to a variety of games. In Key Stages 1 and 2 the children will develop their gymnastic and dance skills. Swimming is compulsory  in Years 4 and 5. To further enhance the children’s experiences in PE and School Sport we run a wide variety of after school clubs throughout the year. All children join in PE lessons unless there is a medical reason for being excused.

St Mary’s is very proud of its achievements in the arts: dance, drama, music, orchestra, choir and visual arts. We stage an annual Performing Arts Festival in the spring and end of year musical productions. Successes in the arts allow children to develop confidence and participate in corporate ventures which they thoroughly enjoy.

We have many visitors to school and after school activities to enrich many areas of the curriculum (see separate area of this site).

The National Awards the school has achieved in sport (School Games 'Gold'), the arts (Artsmark 'Gold'), health (Healthy Schools) and challenge across the whole curriculum (NACE Challenge Award), which all relate to our excellent currriculum, are testement to the high standards the school sets itself for the benefit of all its learners.

If you would like to know more about the curriculum of the school then please email our office who will be happy to answer any questions you may have.