At St Mary’s we teach phonics throughout the school using the ‘Letters and Sounds’ scheme. This allows the children to develop knowledge of and build confidence in using phonics to help decode letters, sounds and words and then begin to apply this to their reading and writing.
Children are grouped according to where they need to be on the scheme following regular assessments of progress. Phonics sessions are daily and last for 20 minutes for children who are in Early Years (Reception and Nursery) and Key Stage 1 (Year 1 and Year 2).
Our reading scheme is the Oxford Reading Tree scheme that covers children from Early Years right through to Year 6. Children who have become confident readers can also access reading materials from class collections and the school library and children who have advanced sufficiently through the scheme move on to free reading from a variety of different sources. In Key Stages 1 and 2 the children also have weekly Guided Reading lessons to help develop their comprehension skills.
Children in Key Stages 1 and 2 have daily Literacy and Numeracy lessons. In Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2) children learn in their class groups but work is set according to their needs and abilities. In Key Stage 2 we ability group the children in each year group to ensure teachers can focus more specifically on smaller groups and their learning needs and targets. All children in a year group cover the same topics and themes but the tasks they may do will vary according to their current levels of knowledge and understanding.
The rest of the curriculum is broadly taught through subjects or topics with an increasing move towards joining up areas of learning into wider topics that allow the children to apply reading, writing and maths skills into other areas of their learning. The school is currently developing a more creative base to the children’s learning and topics will change and develop over the next academic year to reflect both the children’s needs and interests and the teachers’ new approaches to learning. Each term parents receive information from the year group teachers outlining their plans for topics and areas of learning to help parents talk about and support their child’s learning at home and in school. Some lessons, such as RE, PE and Music are taught more discretely as specific subjects but wherever possible links with the main theme or topic are used.
Every class currently spends at least 1 hour in the ICT Suite developing their ICT skills but other opportunities are taken throughout the term to use computers to enhance and reinforce learning as well apply new skills learned in ICT lessons.
Home-learning is an important part of a child’s learning and each week tasks and activities are set by the teachers to assess progress or extend learning as well as serve to encourage the children to independently find out more about an area of learning or the topic being covered in school. These are set every Thursday with an expectation the tasks are completed by the following Tuesday. Every Thursday after school we make the ICT Suite available to pupils during our ‘homework club’ to provide access to computers and the internet to children who may not have them at home as well as a quiet space and time for children who may have difficulty finding these in a busy home.
The New Curriculum
The new National Curriculum (September 2013) states that: “Every state-funded school must offer a curriculum which is balanced and broadly based and which promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.” It also says that: “The school curriculum comprises all learning and other experiences that each school plans for its pupils. The national curriculum forms one part of the school curriculum.” St. Mary’s new curriculum will provide all of this through a topic based approach, offering real life opportunities for all of our children throughout their learning.
The national curriculum itself is only a part of what should be happening in school. Our curriculum will be much broader and offer many more opportunities for teaching and learning. In planning our new curriculum, we have considered not only the statutory items of the national curriculum, but also those little extra things which we know will improve the quality of both teaching and learning in our classrooms. We aim to enhance our teaching with both our passions and those of the children in our care.
This has been a very real opportunity for us to reinvigorate our curriculum and offer opportunities which will both engage and enthuse the children. This year, we will be teaching subjects that we want to teach, so that our enthusiasm for the subject is infectious. The new curriculum offers us the opportunity to teach subjects that the children will want to learn about, therefore providing the vital engagement that learning requires.
Whilst this is OUR curriculum, there are some areas which are non-negotiable. These include:
- Statutory Guidance from the new National Curriculum
- Thematic teaching in every year group, every term
- Whole School Themes
- Progression of skills, throughout both Key Stages
- A clear and consistent approach
- Doing less, better.
This year, we have created whole school themes. These are:
Autumn Term – At Home and Abroad
Spring Term – The Time Machine
Summer Term – Our World
At first glance, these whole school themes seem to have a geographical (Autumn), historical (Spring) and scientific (Summer) basis, which have been designed to provide the springboard for each year group’s topics. Within the three termly themes (which are fairly generic in their tone), there is room for each year group to come up with their own topic. This allows us the opportunity to focus more closely on something that we want to teach, or, better still, something that we know will excite the children. Although it must link to the overall theme, there is plenty of scope for every teacher to do their own thing and create a stimulating and inspirational curriculum.