Students study a broad three year key stage three in most subjects.
Creative subjects cover the breadth of the National Curriculum in two years to allow Year 9 pupils an opportunity to study two creative subjects of their choice in greater depth. They also have the opportunity to choose a second language and additional computer science (alongside that studied as part of ICT in Year 7 and 8).
At key stage four, students study 9 GCSEs including 3 options subjects where students get to choose from a wide variety of courses. We believe that students should be able to select subjects which are academically rigorous and which best meet their interests and career aspirations and match local and national labour markets. Option groups are arranged to allow students to study the Ebacc should they wish. Students are guided throughout the process to ensure that their curriculum remains relevant and appropriate.
At St Mary’s, we strive to ensure that every student can read with fluency and comprehension. We believe that this is key to unlocking the curriculum. We take a deliberate and intentional approach to language development. This involves dedicated reading time four times each week for students in Years 7 to 10. Students read from a carefully selected canon of books that make up St Mary’s Literary Canon. Our Literary Canon is made up of challenging texts that cover a range of genres, cultures, eras, and offer exploration of a range of themes. This allows for rich discussion and exposure to a wide cultural capital. An extended Literary Canon stretches our most able readers, with a particular focus on our disadvantaged students. We want all our students to successfully navigate reading with confidence. This is supported by vocabulary enhancement using the Bedrock platform for home learning, and explicit vocabulary instruction across the curriculum. Each curriculum area takes a deliberate approach to disciplinary literacy, based on the Education Endowment Foundation ‘Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools’ guidance report, and all staff are provided with evidence informed continuing professional development opportunities related to literacy development. Students who need further support with literacy benefit from a range of literacy interventions, some designed to develop students understanding of word etymology and morphology, and others to support those in the lowest stanines with reading fluency and word mastery.
At St Mary’s, our curriculum is a knowledge-rich curriculum. We have refined our pedagogy to ensure that the development of long-term memory and the ability to retrieve key knowledge and learning from long-term memory sits at the heart of our approach to lessons. Blackpool Research School, based here at St Mary’s, has worked with our staff in CPD sessions, in order to develop our understanding of how students learn and how they store and retrieve learning in their long-term memory.
At KS3, each student receives a personalised knowledge organiser booklet containing a knowledge organiser for each of their subjects. Homework is largely based on these subject knowledge organisers, and the practice of knowledge retrieval is supported by regular low-stakes quizzing at the start of most lessons.
At KS4, students continue to receive a personalised knowledge organiser booklet. From February of Year 10 through to the end of Year 11, reading time is replaced by revision and practice time. In revision and practice time, we work with our students to develop their study skills and their revision skills, introducing them to a variety of study and revision techniques, which they then put into practice in this 30-minute period each day, using their knowledge organisers and other revision materials available to them. We help our students to develop revision timetables for their end of year and mock exams, ensuring that they understand the importance of interleaving and spaced retrieval practice, and, following each set of exams, we work with our students to reflect on their performance and where their future areas of focus lie. Through these sessions, it is our hope that our students learn vital study skills that will stand them in good stead throughout their academic journey, at St Mary’s and beyond.
Many students continue their learning in our Sixth Form where they have a choice to study 3 or 4 A level or level 3 courses, alongside General RS and the opportunity to complete an EPQ (Extended Project Qualification). Students in Y12 also have the opportunity to join our Health Academy or Sports Academy. This allows students to gain valuable experience and qualifications in fields which offer significant employment in the local area.
During the lockdown period St Mary’s teachers worked hard to ensure students were not disadvantaged by providing high quality lessons via Google classroom. Google classroom is now the platform of choice for home learning and is still utilised to support students affected by isolation due to COVID. Following both lockdown periods departments have re-visited their curriculum plans and schemes of learning and made adjustments to ensure that key content is re-taught at the appropriate time to ensure students can access new content.
We have identified a gap caused by lockdown in the numeracy skills for students coming from Y6. We have therefore made a one year decision to increase the amount of Maths curriculum time for students in Year 7. This allows them to develop their numeracy to ensure they are able to access the KS3 Maths curriculum.
The Academy is using the recovery premium funding from the government to cover small group and one to one tuition in addition to appointing academic mentors.