National Curriculum Delivery
At St Thomas’ we follow the Early Years Curriculum and the National Curriculum for England and Wales (2014) published by the DFE. As a Catholic school our faith and adherence to British Values underpin the delivery of all we teach.
It is our intent that we provide a broad and balanced curriculum to all our pupils regardless of ability or any special needs. We strive for excellence in all areas of learning to help children fulfil their potential in a safe, nurturing and challenging environment. Within every subject we teach, we encourage children to acquire skills and develop their knowledge and understanding in order to enable a positive lifelong approach to learning. The curriculum is focused on progression of skills through re-visiting areas of learning as children move up the school. Prior learning is built upon, developed and consolidated using a mastery approach aimed at creating a deep understanding of subject matter.
We endeavour to develop children's love for the outdoors and maximise the use of our extensive outdoor areas for learning, whenever opportunities arise. Through a positive Growth Mindset approach and a key focus on mental wellbeing, we aim to develop children's character through resilience and a positive, healthy attitude to learning. As a faith school, our core values underpin our curriculum; we strive to ensure our children develop respect, understanding and tolerance, ensuring that our children are well prepared for life in modern Britain in a culturally diverse society.
The implementation of the curriculum in laid down in our long term and medium term planning which show how our curriculum is sequenced and developed to allow knowledge and skills to build on previous learning.
The impact of our curriculum is measured at regular intervals – half termly or at the end of topics. Assessment may be through testing or a summative piece of work that allows children to demonstrate new knowledge and skills acquired. We also regularly monitor progression of children within each area of learning to ensure that any gaps in learning or progress can be address with appropriate interventions.
At St Thomas we have mixed year group classes (Early Years – Nursery and Reception; Year 1 and Year 2; Year 3 and Year 4; Year 5 and Year 6) and as a result we operate a two year rolling programme of themes within each subject area (except maths) to ensure there are broad and balanced learning opportunities without repetition of work. Our long-term plans over the next two years can be found on the links below:
Further information around each subject area can be found through the following links:
We use the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework to plan and assess learning in our joint Nursery and Reception class. Learning is divided into the following areas: Communication and Language; Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Physical Development; Literacy; Mathematics; Understanding the World; and Expressive Arts and Design. Each of these areas is assessed against a goal that the children are aiming to achieve by the end of their Reception Year. All Early Years learning is aimed at preparing the children for achieving these goals.
We help children in Early Years to learn through play based activities. All Early Years staff observe children so that they can plan the next-step activities to develop children’s interests and learning further. Each child has an electronic Learning Journal which is regularly updated and shared with parents. Comments and photographs can be shared between home and school.
A more detailed explanation of Early Years can found in our Early Years Policy
We teach mathematics using a mastery approach whereby children study a skill in depth so that it is secured before they move on to another skill area. This includes application of learnt skills through a range of problem solving activities to develop their deeper mathematical thinking. Fluency with numerical operations is at the heart of the curriculum with a strong emphasis on securing number facts and times tables to enable children to be flexible in their choice of appropriate strategies when approaching problems.
We use the Abacus Framework scheme within the Active Learn (Primary) suite of resources published by Pearson to support the delivery of mathematics. This is supplemented with additional resources including White Rose material and PinPoint problem solving cards. Amongst other resources this includes the provision of high-quality textbooks for children and planning for teachers along with a wide range of interactive whiteboard activities and mastery checkpoints.
Problem solving is an area many children find difficult at first and to assist with this we have adopted a ‘Bar-Modelling’ approach to assist understanding. For younger children this involves the use of concrete resources leading to a pictorial representation of a problem. In Key stage 2 children gradually develop their own pictorial representations (bar models) to assist their understanding of algebraic expressions.
For details of our Maths curriculum and approaches to calculations, please refer to the links below:
The children’s English skills are developed through the ‘Wordsmith’ scheme of work published by Pearson. Units of work are delivered according to our two-year rolling programme to ensure full coverage and the development and progression of skills. A broad range of fiction, non-fiction and poetry units provide wide opportunities for both formal and informal writing styles leading to children having an appreciation for the intended audience of their writing. Spelling, grammar and punctuation are taught both discreetly and embedded throughout lessons.
Presentation expectations are high at St Thomas’ and we encourage the development of a fully joined cursive script through the use of the ‘Letterjoin’ handwriting scheme.
Reading is a strength in our school. We use a multi-sensory ‘Synthetic Phonics’ approach using ‘Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised’ supplemented by ‘Collins Big Cat' decodable books and resources. Once children have mastered early reading strategies in Reception and Year 1, they will move on to our main reading scheme, which is 'Oxford Reading Tree', although this is supplemented by many other high quality reading materials such as decodable and classic children’s fiction. Early Years borrow books weekly from our library which is also the site of our well-stocked Non-fiction library collections for the other key stages. Younger children have Little Wandle Group Reading Sessions three times per week in school and will take a book home to share with an adult. Older children take part in regular guided or group reading sessions using a range of high quality fiction and non-fiction resources. They will also take home a book each day matched to their current reading ability.
Although reading and writing are important we believe that good speaking and listening skills enhance progress in these areas. We constantly strive to develop and expand children’s vocabulary and confidence as communicators. Opportunities arise in paired/group work, role play, class questioning/debate, presentation in assemblies or school productions and class drama activities.
The Long Term Plans for delivery of the English curriculum may be viewed through the following links:
As a Catholic school our Religious Education follows the Curriculum Directory for Catholic Schools and Colleges in England and Wales. We deliver this using a published scheme of work – ‘The Way, The Truth and The Life’ (Early Years to Year 6). In addition, we use the "Come and See" scheme to guide our teaching of Other Faiths (Judaism; Hinduism; Islam; Sikhism).
We have a daily act of worship which may be a whole-school assembly, key-stage assembly, class assembly or a hymn practice. We celebrate key festivals in the liturgical calendar and attend masses in the parish church opposite the school. Through these opportunities we allow children to develop and explore their own faith and gain an understanding and tolerance of those from other denomination or faith backgrounds.
We teach science over a two-year rolling programme to ensure full coverage of all topics within the National Curriculum. To support the teaching of this we use the ‘Switched on Science’ scheme of work from Rising Stars, supplemented by other resources. Investigation and observation are embedded throughout the curriculum to engage children and develop a ‘hands on’ approach to science wherever possible.
Our extensive school grounds provide fantastic learning opportunities for science by use of our pond, wildlife area, allotments and forest.
In Key Stage 1 history is taught through a series of themes such as famous people, events or the history of our local area. In Key Stage 2 British History is taught sequentially from the Stone Age through to 1066. Children also study several ancient civilizations. Our teaching is supported by the Rising Stars History resources.
We always try to enhance our history teaching with visits to sites or museums or host workshops in school to give children real experiences linked to their learning.
In Key Stage 1 children develop their knowledge about the world, the United Kingdom and our local area. In Key Stage 2 geography is taught using a range of themes to provide a balance of skills including human and physical geography, map work, places and connections and fieldwork investigations. There is key focus around the United Kingdom, Europe, North America and South America. Our teaching is supported by the Rising Stars Geography resources.
We try to enhance our geography teaching with fieldwork using our school grounds, local area and visits to relevant sites such as the Lea Valley navigation system to study rivers or the Norfolk coast to study coastal erosion.
In this rapidly changing area of learning we aim to provide children with a balance of traditional ICT in addition to programming skills which embed a deep understanding of digital literacy (including e-safety). This is delivered using the "Teach Computing" scheme of work.
Children are exposed to a wide range of technology from desktop computers and laptops to iPads and programmable equipment as well as digital cameras and recording equipment.
We are always available to advise/assist parents with their child’s appropriate access and safe use of technology at home.
For years 1-6 computing is taught in individual year groups by a specialist teacher.
We have a specialist music teacher who delivers weekly lessons to all classes. We use an in-house bespoke music scheme, designed specifically to meet the needs of the children at St Thomas. A strong emphasis is placed on the role of music in various cultures, famous composers, music history alongside a basic understanding of musical notation.
Singing is a strength in our school evidenced though our lively hymn practices and active choir who regularly participate in collaborative events with other schools at the Royal Albert Hall or the O2 arena in London. All children participate in musical productions performed to parents at some point during the year.
All Year 2 children have the opportunity to learn an instrument whilst Year 5 children learn the ukulele from a peripatetic teacher. Additionally, we offer private lessons for guitar and piano.
We teach art through a range of media including: painting, sketching, clay sculpture work, collage, printing and photography. Where possible art is linked to other curriculum areas to provide stimulus and relevance. Children are exposed to the work of well-known artists to broaden their awareness of how different ideas can be interpreted and represented.
Our school grounds and forest school provide opportunities for outdoor art experiences. Upper Key Stage 2 visit the Henry Moore Foundation to explore the use of large scale sculpture in the landscape.
Design and Technology
Children have a wide range of experiences to support their learning in Design and Technology. Every class has opportunities to experience cooking using our bespoke facility sited in the dining room. Construction and sewing skills are delivered both in class and through our forest school. Children are encouraged to evaluate their designs and finished products to identify where further improvements could be made.
Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) including British Values and Relationship, Sex and Health Education (RSHE):
Our PSHE is delivered through the "Jigsaw" PSHE scheme of work, which includes a range of themes as follows:
- Being Me In My World (who am I and how do I fit?)
- Celebrating Difference (respect for similarity and difference, anti-bullying and being unique)
- Dreams and Goals (aspirations, how to achieve goals and understanding the emotions that go with this)
- Healthy Me (being and keeping safe and healthy)
- Relationships (building positive, healthy relationships)
- Changing me (coping positively with change)
We deliver age appropriate RSHE within the context of our Catholic ethos
Through the broader PSHE curriculum we help children understand our British Values – democracy is developed through engaging children in group/class decision-making including the School Council, Chaplaincy Team and Sports and Wellbeing Committee. Understanding the Rule of Law in developed though Golden rules and consequences for breaches. We teach children to respect the individual rights of others, developing mutual respect and tolerance for all.
French is taught throughout Key Stage 2 using half-termly themes taken from the Language Angels Primary French scheme of work. Basic vocabulary is constantly reinforced with an emphasis on oral practice. Children will also develop basic reading and writing skills in French.
We offer a wide range of sporting opportunities including: football, netball, basketball, hockey, rounders, cricket, athletics, tennis, dodgeball, handball, cross country, orienteering, gymnastics and dance. Some sports are also offered through after school clubs. We regularly compete in inter-school events and competitions with other schools in the Hertford and Ware Sports Partnership along with other Catholic schools in our Academy. We are lucky to employ a specialist sports coach to deliver PE lessons alongside lunchtime and after school activities.
Weekly swimming lessons are provided to Years 1-4. All children participate in a ‘Weekly Mile’ event on our Multi-Use Games Area.
Upper Key Stage 2 children take part in adventure, resilience and team-building activities during a residential trip to Norfolk.