This curriculum statement is designed to inform parents about what we teach and how we teach it. However, it is difficult to paint a clear picture of exactly what learning looks like across the school and how our teaching and enrichment activities come together to create an enriching environment for learning.
The information below will cover some of the basics, but a visit to the school will really help to give parents an understanding of how the curriculum evolves from nursery through to Y6.
At St. Francis de Sales Catholic Infant and Junior Schools Federation we attempt to follow the guidance given to us by St Francis, who said, “Be who you are and be that well. So as a Catholic school, we encourage our children to be unique, creative, open-minded and independent individuals, respectful of themselves and of others in our school, our local community and the wider world. We seek to develop the whole person and to nurture our children on their journey through life so they can grow into safe, caring, democratic, responsible and tolerant adults who make a positive difference to the wider community. This philosophy gives rise to our mission statement…
“At St Francis de Sales every child will achieve their own personal excellence by making outstanding progress in their academic, social and spiritual development. This will enable them to excel at secondary school and then attend a further educational institution should they choose.”
Children will have an entitlement to achieve well academically and at the same time to grow in equal measure in understanding Gospel values and living a rewarding Catholic life. The aim for our children is that when they leave in Y6, they are equipped to excel at secondary school and build the foundation for success in the world of post compulsory education. When they arrive in society with positions of power and authority, they will be prepared for those positions by the values instilled in them during their time at the school:
In addition to the schools focus on these ‘values for learning, the Department for Education have recently reinforced the need “to create and enforce a clear and rigorous expectation on all schools to promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”
There are certain values that have been attributed to being British, as set out by the government in the 2011 Prevent Strategy. These fall into the following broad areas:
The Rule of Law
Tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs
Our aim at St Francis is to provide our children with a culture and curriculum that effectively promotes all of these key values. This will create a values-driven school that achieves outstanding results for our pupils, stakeholders and for the wider community.
Our Beliefs about Learning:
We strongly believe that every child – given the right conditions – can make outstanding progress. To ensure we put the right conditions in place, we always use research evidence to guide the decisions we make about how we deliver the curriculum.
Our research has shown us that the following approaches really support pupil learning…
Our systems for praise and rewards focus not on the best work done in the class, but on the efforts pupils put into the work. Research shows that pupils who are praised for the effort they put in always try hard at their work – and consequently do much better than pupils who are praised for being clever.
Learning something new or hard causes every person to be confused, worried and anxious – in other words, they go into ‘the pit’. To get out of the pit you need to show resilience.
At St Francis we acknowledge that ‘the learning pit’ is an important part of everyone’s learning and it cannot be avoided. That you have to keep trying and never give up. With lots of effort you can get out of the pit to your ‘eureka moment’ – and you have learned something new!
Ways to get out of the pit are:
Think about what I know already
See if a friend can explain
Ask the teacher for support
Arranging your thoughts and structuring ideas can be a difficult thing to learn. Our ‘thinking maps’ help learners to organise, understand and present their ideas.
The Thinking Maps model program consists of eight maps that correspond with fundamental thinking processes.
The Circle Map is used for defining in context
The Bubble Map, describing with adjectives
The Flow Map, sequencing and ordering
The Brace Map, identifying part/whole relationships
The Tree Map, classifying/grouping
The Double Bubble Map, comparing and contrasting
The Multi-Flow Map, analyzing causes and effects
The Bridge Map, seeing analogies
These maps are a "common visual language" for students in all subject areas.
At St Francis we cover all seven areas of the Early Years curriculum through planned, purposeful play. Staff work together to plan a range of experiences or activities that children can play with and build their confidence exploring ideas, thinking about problems and relating to others. Sometimes children are learning by leading their own play and at others times by being led by an adult so we provide both child-led and adult-led experiences and activities.
We believe the characteristics of effective learning are:
Playing and Exploring: Children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’
Active Learning: Children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements
Creating and Thinking Critically: Children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things
In early years the learning concentrates on 7 areas split between prime and specific areas of learning.
The prime areas of learning are:
communication and language
personal, social and emotional development
The specific areas of learning are:
understanding the world
expressive arts and design
The Nursery is organised into areas such as a maths area, designing and making workshop and a role-play area with all relevant equipment to hand. Before the beginning of each session, activities are set up according to the needs and interests of the children and based on the goals (expectations of achievement by the end of Reception). Some activities are taught by Nursery staff as part of a curriculum focus, whereas others enable the children to initiate their own ideas and follow their own interests. Equal emphasis is given to outdoor play at all times – even in adverse weather – and this is planned to develop language, maths, science and creative skills, as well as the more obvious personal, social and physical ones.
During sessions, staff observe the children and record their interests and progress. These observations are fed into our weekly planning in order to ensure that the individual needs of all the children are met. Much of the work the children do has no end product. At this stage, the process of the activity is all important, learning new skills and developing skills already learnt, e.g. moulding and manipulating playdough to develop the fine motor skills essential for pencil control, playing with sand and water to learn about capacity.
As in the Nursery, activities are planned to cover the six curriculum areas and to enable the children to achieve the goals. Each classroom is organised into specific areas with relevant resources and equipment. The outdoor area is also used throughout the day in the same way as Nursery.
An important part of our work at this stage is settling the children to new routines and a new environment. This is time consuming, but vital to ensure future success in learning. For part of the day, the children will participate in activities with a specific focus, led by the teacher or other adult. These activities are differentiated for individuals or small groups, taking in to account the stage of the children’s development. At other times, the children participate in activities which they initiate themselves, with adult support where this is appropriate.
Again, these activities are based on play, which is the main medium for learning in the Foundation Stage. Much of what the children do is of a practical nature. As in the Nursery, the processes of learning are vitally important in the Reception year, although the children will be recording more and more as the year progresses, in a variety of different ways, e.g. through drawing, painting and writing.
From Year 1 to Year 6 the school offers a rich and varied curriculum with a global focus through incorporating the requirements of the national curriculum for English (DfE guidance can be found here) and Maths (DfE guidance can be found here) with the International Primary Curriculum. You can find more information about the IPC here.
To fulfil our mission statement, the school also offers an extensive range of after school clubs, academic booster sessions and many other enrichment activities.
This is a Roman Catholic School, and the religious education we deliver conforms to the doctrines of the Catholic Church. Religious education is provided within the timetable according to a syllabus authorised by the Diocese of Westminster called "Come and See". You can find out more about our RE curriculum here.
The School has an agreed policy for Education in Personal Relationships which contains arrangements for teaching Sex Education. Children's sex education is based on Christian principles and is related to the stage of their development as they move through the school. We always invite our Y6 parents to a meeting to discuss the approach we take and to share the resources we use for the delivery of the sex and relationships education we deliver in this year group.
Children make their First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion in year 3. Because these are important stages in the life of the child, our aim is to work with Fr Hector to involve parents as fully as possible in this sacramental preparation to strengthen and develop links between Home, School and Parish.
We believe that the ability to read fluently is the doorway to almost all other learning. Consequently, learning to read and then reading regularly and widely is at the heart of our curriculum design.
Systematic Phonics Teaching
In early years we use Letters and Sounds as our preferred scheme for the delivery of phonics. The teaching of phonics begins in Reception, where sounds are introduced at a rate of one a day throughout the autumn and spring term. Sounds are consolidated in the summer term. This knowledge is built upon in Year 1; more complex sounds are introduced and reinforced throughout Year 2. Should children need additional phonics support, we use Read, Write, Inc as a form of intervention.
During the summer term in Year 1, children nationwide are tested on their phonic knowledge. This test helps us to identify children who have gaps in their phonic knowledge and may need support in Year 2 to develop reading and writing skills. The test is very low-key and the children are not aware that they are being tested. Parents are informed as to whether their child has achieved the national expectation within the child’s end-of-year report. Additional tuition in phonics will be given to those children who did not achieve a pass during Year 2 and they will be tested again in the summer term.
We have no one scheme to cover all of our reading requirements. Currently we use a range of resources including Oxford Reading Tree and Collins as well as PM Benchmarking to support our assessment and needs analysis.