Teaching & Learning


Teaching & Learning at St Mary's

Mission and values

At St Mary’s, every teacher is keenly aware that the delivery of high quality teaching and learning is his or her core function. We are clear that Jesus Christ worked among us as our teacher and as such He is our role model and inspiration, reminding us of the dignity and value of our work. In our approach to teaching and learning, we seek to follow Our Lord’s example, keeping the needs of our children at the heart of all we do.

Teachers at St Mary’s are tasked to deliver lessons which are fast-paced and challenging, which are carefully planned to meet the needs of pupils of all abilities – stretching and scaffolding as the need arises, and which are relevant, engaging and provide opportunities for pupils to develop independence and resilience in their learning. The importance of asking questions cannot be overestimated. Through questions, teachers can stimulate discussion, prompt exploration and address misconceptions; pupils can enquire and interrogate, query and consolidate.

Training and development

We don’t spend large sums of money on buying in ‘expert’ speakers at St Mary’s, or on sending our staff out to expensive commercial training courses. Our recent rapid development has been built upon the qualities, skills and expertise of our own teachers. Under the encouragement of our headteacher, teachers read widely around their craft (all teachers are required to report annually on their pedagogical research and reading) and are supported in learning from this and from each other. In addition, the expertise available in other schools in the local area and across the Archdiocese, is valued highly and opportunities to access support and work collaboratively through networks and teaching alliances are embraced regularly by teachers at all levels.

Each year, analysis of the school’s outcomes and development leads to the identification of two or three focus areas for our teaching and learning work. Project leads are appointed to guide and support staff in development work aimed at school improvement. The project leads, along with nominated middle leaders, work alongside the deputy headteacher responsible for teaching and learning, as a senior leadership teaching and learning sub-team. Project work over the last three academic years is outlined below.

Academic Year

Focus Area

Project Lead

2014 – 15


M Richardson & J Thornhill


S Webb

2015 - 16

Engaging the Disengaged

J Thornhill

Stretch and Challenge

L Tanner

2016 - 17

Boys’ Achievement

C Wilson

Stretching the More Able

S Silcock

Effective Deployment of Teaching Assistants

C Blundell

There are three key forums for continuing professional development:

Teaching and Learning Groups are entirely voluntary informal discussion forums at which colleagues can pose questions, explore hypotheses and share good practice. These vibrant discussions take place half-termly and are regularly attended by large numbers of colleagues.

Teaching and Learning Surgeries link to the school’s focus areas for that particular academic year. They are also half-termly and comprise two or three short inputs from teaching colleagues followed by the opportunity to work on developing resources and applying learning in curricular or cross-curricular groups. Each department is enthusiastically represented, sometimes by several delegates. Our surgeries are led by project leaders.

Teaching and Learning Insets are offered as part of full day insets or as twilight sessions between 3 and 6 times per year, according to need. All teachers and Level Three teaching assistants attend. These sessions are the principle drivers for our whole school focus areas. Once again, they are led by the relevant project leader.

In addition to the above, there is a wide range of other development opportunities including Teaching and Learning Briefings, which take place every third week and are led by sub-team members, middle leaders and other teachers; regular developmental observations, peer observations, visits to other schools, network meetings and work scrutiny.

Classroom Expectations

High quality teaching and learning at St Mary’s is underpinned and safeguarded by rigorous expectations regarding classroom behaviour. It is prerequisite for all pupils to treat members of staff with respect and obey the rules set by the school and upheld by classroom teachers. At St Mary’s we also expect all pupils to acknowledge the right of others to learn and to treat their peers with respect and tolerance, thus enabling everyone to flourish in an environment which is conducive to learning. Any pupil who falls below these expectations will be subject to the sanctions which can be applied in line with the school’s strong disciplinary system.

Pupils are expected to arrive to lessons on time and in an orderly manner, ensuring that their uniforms are immaculate. Pupils must then take out their equipment for the lesson, including their planners and pencil cases.

It is a requirement for all pupils to have their pencil cases and planners out on their desks during all lessons, including form time. At St Mary’s, we believe that it is really important that all teachers are consistent in these expectations, on a daily basis. This consistency will allow lessons to start efficiently and progress much more smoothly.

If a pupil has forgotten his or her planner or pencil case, then a temporary one will be provided by the form tutor. However, there are sanctions if this becomes a regular occurrence. A stationery shop, run by the Year 11 senior prefect team every break and lunch time, affords pupils the opportunity to buy further stationery if and when needed.

Behaviour Learning Walks

Members of the SLT team support teaching staff in monitoring the behaviour of pupils and in maintaining consistently high standards by conducting behaviour learning walks focusing, when necessary, on areas where there may have been low level disruption in previous lessons. Where pupils are found to be persistently displaying low level misbehaviours, this is acted upon quickly and further sanctions are put in place. This support mechanism is very much appreciated by staff and pupils, as it offers valuable support and allows strong teaching and learning to take place. The behaviour learning walks also enable the SLT team to see the great work that goes on by teachers in classrooms and offer praise and support to pupils if and where necessary. Members of the SLT team also visit classrooms where new staff / supply staff are teaching, to ensure that pupil progress and standards of behaviour remain high.

Please click on the links below for more information about Teaching & Learning innovation at St Mary's.

Each file can be downloaded as a PDF file.

With thanks to @Teacherhead for several links seen on his site for the first time (highlighted *)

A copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader can be downloaded for free.

Rosenshine - Instructional Approaches

The Revolution that Could Change the Way Children are Taught

Essentials, Non-Essentials and Critical Non-Essentials - P Mooney

Using Technology in your teaching - AM Doran

* John Dunlosky: Strengthening the Student Toolbox

Rob Coe et al:  What makes great teaching

Dylan Wiliam: 9 things every teacher should know- via Times Educational Supplement

* James Ko et al:  Effective Teaching

* John Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory, summarised by Oliver Caviglioli for How2

* CESE in New South Wales on Cognitive Load Theory: Page 7 Matthew Benyohai- summary

* Yeager, Walton and Cohen: Addressing achievement gaps with psychological interventions

* Chris Husbands and Jo Pearce: Nine claims from research

* American Psychology Association Top 20 Principles from Psychology

Get feedback on your teaching from your class: WORD Doc - P Mooney

Book mark to support better questioning - P Mooney

2015-16 Literacy at St Mary's Document-S Webb