At St Mary’s Catholic School we pride ourselves on providing an exemplary curriculum for all students, including our students with special educational needs.  Our Year 7 to Year 13 curriculum is ambitious, broad and balanced, allowing all students to know more and remember more in lessons, and to achieve exceptional progress.  Our curriculum is planned to stretch and challenge all learners, with highly effective scaffolding in place to ensure our students with SEND and other additional needs also achieve highly.  Our curriculum meets and exceeds all national curriculum requirements.  Due to the numerous strengths and sustained success and impact of our curriculum year on year, St Mary’s supports many other schools within the Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust and more widely to share this exemplary practice.

The English curriculum is exemplary because:

  • The English department at St. Mary’s consists of a highly skilled and deeply committed staff whose academic expertise centres on Literature, English Language, Linguistics and Film and Media studies. Our English curriculum is precisely sequenced, knowledge rich, innovative and engaging.
  • The department aims to provide all students with opportunities to explore a broad range of literary genres, periods and writers in order to develop an understanding of the power of language and literature.  They should also become confident and articulate writers who understand how to harness the power of the written word and communicate with clarity and skill. The aim of the curriculum is to develop students as critical readers and skilful writers who appreciate and enjoy reading and creating texts.   We encourage students to read a broad range of texts in order to gain cultural capital and an aesthetic appreciation of literature as a form of art, which will enrich their lives beyond their school years
  • We believe that reading is transformative. Reading and the reading curriculum is at the heart of our curriculum and practice. Our schemes of work place texts are their centre and use these texts to foster a love of reading and literature, reaching beyond the taught curriculum to encourage our students to become lifelong readers. Through our reading club, annual events such as World Book Day and our close work with our school library, reading is celebrated and thriving at St. Mary’s.
  • Our English curriculum results in outstanding outcomes in attainment, literacy and the holistic development of the whole child. Through our high expectations we ensure that all learners, regardless of background, achieve their very best throughout their time at St. Mary’s.  We choose texts and authors that teach our children British Values of tolerance, mutual respect and the importance of individual liberty. Our authorial choices celebrate diversity, champion marginalised voices and draw on art, philosophy, history and classics to widen and expand students’ cultural capital.
  • Components and composites are precisely sequenced to maximise the retention of knowledge and the application of this knowledge in an incremental manner. Regular interleaving is used to reinforce the importance of this knowledge. As students arrive at St. Mary’s from a range of feeder primaries, our English curriculum is built on carefully selected texts, engaging and thoughtful planning and meaningful assessment to ensure that all of our learners receive the knowledge they need to make exceptional progress. Core terminology, concepts and assessment foci are clearly outlined across all scheme of work.

The English curriculum is ambitious, broad and balanced:

  • The English curriculum at St. Mary’s embraces five central strands: Shakespeare, prose, poetry, the nineteenth century and non-fiction. We teach challenging and mature genres such as dystopia, crime, satire and the gothic that enable our students to study canonically important authors such as Shelley, Orwell, Conan Doyle, Stephenson and Dickens. The notion of the literary genre is central to our teaching, enabling students to place texts in their literary context as well as exploring a wide range of socio-historical and cultural influences.
  • Our English curriculum far exceeds National Curriculum requirements and is rooted in the teaching of canonically and culturally significant texts. Across years seven, eight and nine students study all three genres of Shakespeare and a diverse and engaging range of prose, poetry and non-fiction.
  • Our text choices broaden students’ perspectives allowing them to consider complex moral, ethical and philosophical questions. Teaching centres on the delivery of a range of challenging composites, achieved through the teaching of ambitious components.
  • Our English curriculum celebrates and promotes marginalised voices. In keeping with our cohort, our curriculum embraces texts by a diverse range of authors, exploring subjects such as identity, colonialism, power, autonomy, justice, love and human nature.
  • This ambition extends to A Level. Choices of texts (A Level Literature), films (A Level Film Studies) and linguistic topics (A Level English Language) are challenging, academic and provide an excellent foundation for those wishing to continue their studies within Higher Education. A Level reading lists deepen students’ knowledge and help prepare them for the world of academia.

The English curriculum has effective scaffolding to support our SEND students/other students with additional needs:

  • Our English curriculum is expertly delivered by a team of passionate practitioners who draw on a wide range of pedagogical practices to enable our learners to thrive.
  • We firmly believe all of our learners should access the same topics and threshold concepts and thus SEND students follow the same curriculum across all key stages.
  • We use tools such as knowledge organisers across all topics and provide core terminology banks to support all of our learners.
  • The practice of reading is central to how we teach. Staff have excellent knowledge of a wide range of decoding and comprehension strategies and such strategies are embedded within our curriculum. Using research by bodies such as the Education Endowment foundation, the English curriculum is enriched by practices and strategies that rapidly improve reading, writing and oracy. We pride ourselves on our dedication to expanding our students’ knowledge of vocabulary and etymology, developing not only their individual lexicon, but also ensuring students that are confident readers, ready to read texts at the highest academic level should they wish to progress to Higher Education. 
  • Teaching is underpinned by detailed curriculum plans and schemes of work that offer thorough examples of how lesson activities can be differentiated and scaffolded to fully support all learners. Suggested strategies include but are not limited to: live modelling, pre-teaching vocabulary, planned questioning, word banks, teaching of word roots and etymology, modelling, exemplar responses, regular reading aloud by all learners, writing frames, talking frames, use of diagrams and regular opportunities for rich discussion.

The English curriculum is worthy of sharing more widely with other schools because:

  • The teachers within the English department are outstanding practitioners who have a real passion for their subject and their students. They are ‘reading teachers’ who embody the reading ethos within the school, promoting and celebrating a love of reading and literature at every opportunity.
  • Through our exemplary curriculum, students make excellent progress and attainment is outstanding across Years Seven to Thirteen. Students arrive at important Key Stage points having learned and consolidated a wide bank of knowledge. Clearly sequenced components and knowledge ensure that progress is demonstrable and clearly evidenced. Interleaving and regular retrieval practice helps to reinforce core composites and knowledge.
  • We firmly believe that our curriculum teaches the very best texts. These texts develop and enrich students both academically and holistically.
  • Our curriculum equips students with the knowledge they need to flourish and achieve. Regular focus on literacy skills ensures that our students develop and mature into articulate, confident young people.