The Holy Spirit MAC Curriculum
In the Holy Spirit MAC, we believe the curriculum is central to ensuring every child achieves their human potential. We know that each young person is different and will therefore learn differently and so we know the curriculum design and content is never a finished project. Instead, we commit to continually reviewing and evaluating the curriculum to ensure it is matched to the needs of pupils in the Holy Spirit MAC. We encourage staff to innovate and be creative in their delivery of the curriculum and we allow them the professional freedom to teach to the needs of the pupils. Rather than viewing a pupil’s education in six distinct key stages, we view their education as an entire journey from the age of 3-18, at the end of which we hope have supported each pupil to have achieved their academic potential and to recognise how they will make a positive contribution to the adult world.
At St. Thomas More, we ensure every student has access to a broad and balanced curriculum throughout KS3 and KS4. Pupils are taught every subject until the end of Year 9 and are then supported to choose the most suitable personal learning pathway.
Our curriculum is a Catholic curriculum which is rooted in the teachings of the Catholic Church. The word ‘Catholic’, meaning ‘universal’ underpins our curriculum aims as we strive to ensure every pupil has access to a full and rounded curriculum which goes beyond the requirements of the National Curriculum and beyond the end of the school day. The Holy Spirit Experience outlines our commitment to providing opportunities beyond the basic curriculum which we believe support the formation of the whole person. In this document, I am pleased to be able to outline the principles and values that underpin the curriculum design in the Holy Spirit MAC and to share our aspiration for every young person.
Senior Executive Principal
‘A rich curriculum for everyone’
The curriculum design is driven by our uncompromising desire to do the very best for every pupil and family in the Holy Spirit MAC. We know and understand our local communities and we aim to ensure we address any known barriers our young people might face. In order to do this we aim to:
- Develop a fifteen year partnership with parents from the age of 3-18.
- Ensure a consistent education and smooth transition at every stage from the age of 3 to 18.
- Know our families well and build trust which enables them to share any challenges they face.
- Learn from the best practice across the MAC and mirror the best practice in every school.
- Go far beyond the basic expectations of the National Curriculum and provide learning opportunities which prepare pupils for life.
- Make the right decisions for the right reasons rather than responding to external pressures.
- Always strive for excellence.
- Make a positive difference to the life chances of every pupil.
- Provide a high quality Catholic education.
- Communicate well with parents, pupils and the wider community.
- Use our financial and human resources for the good of pupils and families in the MAC.
We continually strive to ensure our curriculum is:
We want pupils to understand the world they live in and to have an awareness of current topical issues. We know there are certain challenges facing the young people in our schools and we aim to support pupils to be able to understand and respond to these issues through high quality learning opportunities.
Whatever a pupil’s academic starting point, we want to ensure they are appropriately challenged and they learn how to manage challenge and to see the value in pushing themselves beyond what is comfortable.
We know that some of the most valuable learning opportunities arise by chance. For this reason, we are always open to reacting to local, national or international events. In an increasingly changing national landscape, we want to be able to support pupils within the Holy Spirit MAC to make sense of the world they are living in.
Learning happens best when we enjoy what we are learning. Our curriculum is designed to ensure pupils will be interested and engaged in their learning, ensuring we are enabling them to recognise the value of lifelong learning.
Regardless of a pupil’s academic ability, our curriculum is designed to ensure it is relevant and appropriate for all learners. We work to identify each pupil’s learning needs and we plan to ensure these needs are met and that every child can access the curriculum at a level that is appropriate for them.
Our approach to the design and delivery of the Holy Spirit Curriculum is:
- Adaptable & Personalised
No group of pupils is ever the same and for this reason, we adapt our curriculum regularly to match the needs and interests of individual and groups of pupils.
We are always seeking to improve the curriculum and we encourage staff and pupils to focus on what didn’t work so that we can improve it next time around.
- To balance learning knowledge and skills
We distinguish between the knowledge and skills we teach pupils and we ensure that from a very young age, all pupils are aware of whether they are learning new knowledge or acquiring a new skill.
The Holy Spirit MAC curriculum is designed to engage and inspire! We encourage all staff to be creative and to think outside the box because we know that pupils learn best when they are most engaged.
We not only ensure there are lots of opportunities for pupils to work collaboratively but we recognise that our staff learn from each other too and so curriculum development is a collaborative activity. We create regular opportunities for staff from all schools and all key stages to work together to learn from one another.
- Organised and systematic
Whilst we value creativity, adaptability and the need to sometimes be reactive, our curriculum is regularly reviewed to ensure it is well organised and systematically addresses the teaching of new concepts.
- About memorable experiences
Learning in the Holy Spirit MAC is framed around a series of memorable experiences. Whether participating in a residential trip or a sporting activity, we aim to maximise each learning opportunity and ensure there are opportunities for learning through new experiences to be applied across the curriculum.
- Research based
We choose the content of the curriculum in the Holy Spirit MAC based on what we know is right for the pupils in each school. However, we are always keen to learn from new research about the best ways for staff to teach and the ways in which pupils learn.
Our aim is to ensure the curriculum is always relevant to pupils and therefore purposeful. For this reason, we encourage staff to be responsive to unforeseen world events the pupils will benefit from learning about. We also encourage regular feedback on the curriculum so that we are able to remove content which is not considered purposeful.
Our aspiration is for every pupil in the Holy Spirit MAC to be:
The ability to rise to a challenge requires confidence and a belief that you can be successful. For this reason, we consciously teach pupils to be confident and to believe in their own ability.
- Open minded
We live in a fantastic, diverse society and we want pupils to view difference positively. We aim to ensure every pupil has an open mind and is open to new ideas and differing opinions.
The ability to learn independently is a skill we associate with lifelong learning. From encouraging our youngest children to dress themselves and to be curious about the world, to ensuring our oldest students are prepared for life beyond St. Thomas More, we see independence as an essential life skill.
In life, we all suffer setbacks and disappointments but in order to achieve our goals we have to be resilient and try again. For this reason, our curriculum is deliberately challenging and we celebrate pupils rising to a challenge and showing resilience, even when they find learning difficult.
Pope Francis said, ‘A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just’. We encourage all young people to show love and compassion both to their peers, staff and the wider community.
We aim for every pupil to develop the following life skills:
- Money management
Young adults have so many decisions to make when it comes to managing their own finances. We believe it is essential to ensure pupils know how to organise their money and how to budget effectively.
- Understand the British rule of law and the importance of democracy
Knowing how to be a law-abiding citizen is of vital importance. We teach pupils about common laws which are relevant to them and we explore the democratic use of sanctions to respond to law breaking.
- Know how to stay safe
We are conscious of the many societal challenges facing our pupils and we want to ensure they know how to stay as safe as possible. For instance, we teach our youngest pupils to phone 999 in an emergency and share the government strategy of ‘Run, hide, tell’ with older pupils.
- Understand self-care and healthy life choices
We teach about everything from hygiene and self-care to the importance of sleep, exercise and adopting healthy lifestyle choices. In doing so, we encourage pupils to pay attention to their own physical and emotional needs.
- Know the importance of the right to vote
In learning about living in a democracy, pupils will explore why it is important to exercise their right to vote. They will also be taught how to form evidence-based opinions and to articulate the reasons for their opinions.
- Speak confidently
Being able to speak confidently both on a 1-1 basis and in front of an audience are essential life skills. We ensure the curriculum provides a range of opportunities to develop the skills and confidence that enable pupils to speak articulately and with ease.
- Manage communication through technology
We know that the young people in the Holy Spirit MAC are growing up in an increasingly technological world. Whilst new technologies and social media have many advantages, pupils must also learn to manage the challenges they can present.
- Time management and organisation
Being able to manage your own time effectively and be organised are not just essential skills for learning but also for the world of work. For this reason, even our youngest pupils learn self-management and organisation and we aim to develop these skills as pupils progress through the Holy Spirit MAC.
We aim to overcome the following challenges:
- Limits to aspiration
We believe the sky is the limit for every pupil in the Holy Spirit MAC! For this reason, our curriculum is designed to ensure that every pupil recognises their potential and aspires to be the best they can be.
- Financial barriers
We aim always to remove financial barriers that could limit opportunities for some pupils. We offer many exciting learning opportunities both within and beyond the curriculum and we work to ensure that pupils who want to participate in any aspect of school life are enabled to do so. From ensuring that parents have plenty of notice and extended payment periods, to offering cost free extra-curricular opportunities, we do all we can to remove financial barriers to learning.
In teaching pupils to be open minded and tolerant, we aim always to address the barriers caused by prejudice, which can negatively affect pupils’ ability to learn and contribute positively to society.
- Mental health
We place great emphasis in the curriculum and beyond the curriculum on supporting the mental health and well-being of pupils. We always aim to recognise the individual needs of pupils and ensure they receive the right guidance and support to address their mental health and well-being needs.
- Physical needs
We aim to ensure that every pupil, including those with physical or health related needs, is enabled to access the full curriculum. We devise individual learning plans where necessary to ensure every pupil can access rich learning opportunities.
- Language barriers
We are delighted that our MAC community is diverse. We recognise that for some pupils, particularly those who do not speak English as a first language, support may be needed to ensure language is not a barrier to accessing the full curriculum.
We teach key skills through:
- Revisiting & revising
We believe in the power of regular revision and revisiting in order to embed knowledge at each stage of a pupil’s education. For this reason, our curriculum is designed to cyclically revisit prior learning and our staff are well trained to assess the extent to which prior learning is properly embedded.
- Systematic, sequential teaching
We ensure that new learning builds on prior learning and that the sequence of teaching is well planned to ensure a systematic acquisition of knowledge and skills. This enables us to quickly identify and address any gaps in learning, enabling pupils to maxmise their progress.
- Opportunities for application
Learning new knowledge and skills is the first stage of the learning process. However, we believe that it is only through application that knowledge and skills become truly embedded. We plan many opportunities throughout the curriculum for pupils to apply their learning, with a particular emphasis on real life application of skills.
- Tailored modelling
Many of us learn best when we have seen a high quality version of the intended finished product. For this reason, all staff model all aspects of the curriculum for pupils and they tailor the modelling to match the needs of the pupils they are teaching.
- Rigorous assessment
Knowing what stage every pupil is working at and what they need to learn next in order to progress is essential. For this reason, we use a variety of forms of assessment to ensure both staff and pupils understand the next steps in learning.
- Appropriate resourcing
In the Holy Spirit MAC, we commit to prioritising our financial resources for what matters most- pupils! In doing so, we invest in high quality learning resources and the best staff we can get to teach our pupils.
We teach reading by:
- Ensuring access to high quality texts
We don’t just want pupils to learn to read, we want them to love reading! To achieve this we always invest in high quality texts, both for phonically decodable reading schemes and texts for school libraries which pupils can access freely.
- Systematic teaching of phonics
A sound phonetic knowledge is the key that unlocks the door to reading. All primary schools in the Holy Spirit MAC teach phonics systematically from pupils begin their education with us. Our youngest pupils benefit from learning through the Read, Write Inc. programme and as they progress through KS1 and KS2 we expand the phonics provision to ensure we meet the needs of every learner.
- Use of reading journals
We don’t expect that opportunities for pupils to learn to read will happen accidentally. In our primary schools, pupils are explicitly taught a range of reading skills and are enabled to apply them in their reading journals. Reading journals provide a great record of progress and allow staff and pupils to recognise their next steps in learning.
- Million word challenge
Our older pupils in KS3 and KS4 continue to develop their reading skills and a love of reading by engaging in a range of challenges. We celebrate each time pupils read 1,000,000 words and we see great enthusiasm when pupils read a book and then take an online quiz to check their understanding of what they have read.
- Daily reading interventions
We know that some pupils just need to read more often to make the progress they are capable of in reading. For this reason, pupils of all ages within the Holy Spirit MAC are supported, where necessary, through daily reading intervention. In short bursts, we allow pupils the opportunity to read independently or to an adult and we closely monitor their progress and ensure the book each pupil reads is closely matched to the stage of their reading development.
We encourage a love of reading by:
- Regular use of a school library
We are always working to make our school libraries places that pupils want to be. We aim to ensure access to the best texts and to develop a library environment which is calm and conducive to concentration.
- Visits to a local library
Whilst we value our school libraries, we know there is no substitute for visiting a public library and exploring the many literary wonders it has to offer. For this reason, pupils of all ages have the opportunity to visit a local library.
- Reading to pupils
For many of us, we have great childhood memories of being read to and some of our favourite books will undoubtedly have been read aloud, either at school or at home. We believe being read to is a great way to support pupils in developing a love of reading. From Early Years to the end of KS4, pupils have a class/ form novel which is read to them regularly by a member of staff.
- Engaging parents
We don’t just want to engage pupils in reading, we want to make the enjoyment of reading a family affair. Our curriculum allows many opportunities for parents to get involved in their child’s reading development- from story workshops for our younger pupils to recommended family reads for our older students, we aim to get everyone involved!
- Use of online resources
Our pupils are learning in an age of exciting technology and we know that much of their learning and communication is done online. We reflect this in our reading provision and so use online reading resources for pupils of all ages.
We aim to develop good citizens by encouraging pupils to be:
- Active contributors to charities and social action
We teach pupils of all ages within the Holy Spirit MAC to think beyond their own needs and to consider how they can support the most vulnerable in society. Our curriculum has a significant emphasis on providing opportunities for all pupils to engage in charities and social action and to learn how they can make a difference.
- Confident to challenge
We encourage all pupils to be confident. In doing so, we aim to enable them to be active in making the world a better place by speaking out when they believe something is wrong.
- Aware of people in society who need our help
We believe that good citizen recognise the needs of others, particularly the more vulnerable, and so we teach an awareness of the needs of other people and we encourage pupils to engage in activities which support the most vulnerable wherever possible.
- Understanding of other peoples’ opinions but confident to share their own
Learning to listen to and respect the opinions of others is an essential life skill but we want pupils to be confident to share their own opinion, even when it differs from other peoples’. We encourage pupils to have evidence based opinions and not to solely rely on information they see in the media.
- Aware of and active in addressing climate change issues
We know that climate change is ever emerging issue and we know how crucial the younger generation will be in actively protecting the planet. For this reason, we teach pupils practical ways they can adapt their habits and behaviours so they are doing their best for the environment.
We expect our staff to:
- Teach with flair and creativity
We are fortunate to have some outstanding practitioners across the Holy Spirit MAC and great teachers know that creativity captures the attention of pupils of all ages. We encourage our staff to be creative and to develop their own individual style.
We have a calendared programme of professional development opportunities which all staff are involved in and which provide the opportunity for staff to learn from one another and to share the best practice.
- Be enthusiastic
We believe that happy, enthusiastic teachers engage, motivate and inspire pupils. With this in mind, whilst we know that teaching is often a challenging job, we expect our staff to be enthusiastic.
Knowing the curriculum is ever developing, we encourage all staff to be reflective on their own practice and to contribute to improvement wherever possible.
- Have high expectations
Regardless of a pupil’s academic starting point, all staff are expected to have high expectation of what each pupil can achieve. We have high expectations of pupils’ learning within the curriculum and their participation in opportunities beyond the curriculum, including those outlined in the Holy Spirit Experience.
- Respect pupils
We expect all pupils to respect school staff and to have manners and in return, we expect staff to model respect and courtesy for pupils.
- Go the extra mile for pupils
We require staff in the Holy Spirit MAC to give that little bit extra when needed to ensure they meet the needs of all pupils. Whether a student needs support with their learning or just a listening ear, all staff make time to do what is needed.
- Show empathy and compassion
Kindness is an essential requirement of all staff in the Holy Spirit MAC. We model the skills of empathy and compassion and in turn, we expect pupils to show empathy and compassion to each other.
- Encourage vocation
Our curriculum is designed to encourage pupils to recognise their calling in life and to we provide opportunities for all pupils to learn about themselves and what they might choose to do or be in the future.
- Commit to their own learning
We want our pupils to leave the Holy Spirit MAC as lifelong learners with an ongoing thirst for knowledge. To achieve this we know that it is essential all staff in the MAC also value their own learning and continually strive to improve their knowledge and skills.
The Holy Spirit Experience
To complement and enhance the Holy Spirit Curriculum, we have published a series of opportunities and experiences available to pupils in the Holy Spirit MAC, which stretch beyond the curriculum. The commitments are detailed in a document entitled ‘The Holy Spirit Experience’. The commitments made cover the following six areas:
- Catholic Life
As a Catholic MAC, we play a key role in the faith formation of every child. A student’s experience of the Catholic life of the school will undoubtedly influence their faith as an adult and so it is important we offer an experience which is truly outstanding.
- Charities and Social Action
Our aim for every pupil in the Holy Spirit MAC is to ensure that they are compassionate young people who recognise and support the needs of those who are vulnerable. For this reason, we place great emphasis on charities and educating all pupils about their potential to make a positive contribution to society.
- The Residential Experience
One of the greatest experiences a young person can have is the opportunity to take part in a residential trip. For many pupils a residential school trip will be their first experience of being away from home and it is a memory which lasts a lifetime. We aim to ensure that every pupil experiences a residential at primary school and at least one more at secondary school.
- Sporting Opportunities
Whether pupils demonstrate a natural aptitude for sport or whether they just enjoy occasionally experiencing the enjoyment of competing against their peers, we believe that every student should have access to high quality sporting opportunities.
- Cultural and Creative Experiences
We place huge importance on providing numerous opportunities for our pupils to experience as many cultural and creative experiences as possible. Beyond school we aim to broaden pupils’ horizons by regular visits to art galleries, the theatre, museums, musical performances, historical sites and places of educational interest. Within school we are passionate about art, drama, music, physical education and technology and have created a faculty to ensure all pupils receive their full entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum.
- Vocations, Journeys and Destinations
We want to ensure that every pupil in the Holy Spirit MAC aspires to achieve their full potential. We encourage all pupils to recognise and develop their unique skills and talents and to know how they can make a positive difference in the world. For this reasons we have included a range of commitments which support each pupil’s understanding of their personal vocation and the possible destinations and career paths available to them.