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 Science curriculum is exemplary because:

  • The Science Department at St Mary’s consists of a diverse and highly skilled staff, each staff member teaches the different science strands to an exceptional standard, while supporting and challenging all students in the classroom. All staff also contribute to the curriculum in lots of different ways, for instance staff will include real world examples from their degrees, PhDs or jobs prior to teaching. Alongside supporting staff and students in their understanding of difficult concepts.
  • Here at St Mary’s we teach the Key Stage 3 national science curriculum to Years 7, 8 and into 9. This ensures that we cover the content required, while tailoring the curriculum to include many extra opportunities for learning and enthusiasm for science.
  • For Key stage 4 into Year 10 and 11, with some foundation concepts being covered in Year 9, we use the AQA Separate science route or the AQA Trilogy route both courses provide a broad, assorted and engaging curriculum for all students.
  • Students will cover all three sciences on each GCSE route, taught by subject specialists. The specification allows many areas of Biology, Chemistry and Physics to be explored, whilst including real world links to promote curiosity and high engagement. Science teachers here at St Mary’s will also regularly include links to topics that are not on the specification. This is to inspire our students and create a real zeal for science and STEM.
  • Our intention for our science curriculum is to inspire and challenge our students, whilst fostering a love for science. All of this, alongside teaching to national curriculum and specification content, is always connected back to the real world. We feel that this is very important for lots of reasons, but to give two examples would be the COP26 conference and the Covid pandemic. These are two huge examples of how important science will be for future generations. By being exposed to this cultural capital we are also promoting British values such as: democracy, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance. COP26 and the connections it has with our science lessons is a fantastic example of all of these British values in practice on a global scale.

The Science curriculum is ambitious, broad and balanced:

  • Our curriculum is at St Mary’s is balanced in many ways, firstly we have an equal number of each science lesson spread over the year groups. This ensures that all three sciences have dedicated time to cover the national curriculum and our chosen AQA specifications but it also ensures we have time to factor in support and extension of the curriculum with real world examples, links to careers and more practical work.
  • Our teaching is balanced due to the shared schemes of work that teachers follow, these are regularly updated and reviewed by expert staff to include any new advances in science and the latest teaching techniques and strategies.
  • Here at St Mary’s we teach the Key Stage 3 national science curriculum to Years 7, 8 and into 9. This ensures that we cover the content required, while tailoring the curriculum to include many extra opportunities for learning and enthusiasm for science. For example, to make our curriculum broad and ambitious we look to incorporate as much practical activities as possible, this allows students to embed their knowledge and apply it to practical situations. In addition to this we work with numerous partners to make connections to STEM providers where we enhance our curriculum. This exposes students to career ideas, professionals and practicals that they would not normally complete as part of the curriculum, in addition to promoting cultural capital and British values.
  • We teach all of the national curriculum, specifications and beyond we have also considered very carefully the sequence of lessons. This is important to support the understanding and learning of the knowledge in science. This is because the science curriculum is in a spiral, where topics are introduced and reviewed in some detail in KS3 and then are studied at a higher level again at KS4 and KS5. The importance of this foundation knowledge means that sequencing each topic is very important, at St Mary’s we ensure that topics complement and connect to the one before and after it to facilitate as much review, recall and retrieval of knowledge to maximise understanding.
  • The thought and care that has gone into our planning and teaching in the science department is reflected in our outcomes and results, but also in the uptake and passion for science in our sixth form. We have a growing cohort for all sciences and are always looking to see if we can offer any other science qualifications.

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

  • Our science staff work closely with the SEND department and the pastoral team to ensure that every student with additional needs has these needs met. This tailored approach ensures that each individual student can access and engage with the science curriculum.
  • Support in the science department comes from the pupil passports, where students work with the SEND department to express what they feel works best to support them. These strategies are incorporated into lessons and adjusted over time in accordance with the changing needs of the student and alongside the progress that they make. We also use scaffolding and other strategies to help support student understanding, such as: sentence starters, dual coding (where instructions are given in multiple forms, including visual, verbal and written), demonstrations and practicals to name a few.
  • The science curriculum is split into higher and foundation tiers, much of the content is the same, however there is slightly less on the foundation scheme of work. This gives another option for some students who have additional needs, because there is slightly less content students are able to have more time to review and master their knowledge and understanding. 
  • All students are regularly monitored and intervention can be used if necessary, this can take on many forms, for instance: in class changes, invitations to revision and one to some support groups, provision of materials and more.

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

  • The staff in the science department are fantastic ambassadors of science. Through their expert area they are able to support and stretch students beyond the specification.
  • We also have a fantastic reading curriculum in science, this is both in lessons but also a reading list for students who are interested in science in general. We recommend a myriad of non-fiction books that document some amazing scientists and their discoveries, as well as other books that provide a commentary and opinions on many areas of science.
  • Our curriculum is worth sharing and is used in an alliance with other schools, providers and is part of many new teachers who are training to join the profession.