Our curriculum

Learning to read

Our school curriculum is founded on four basic principles which underline what we teach and the way we teach at St Mary’s. They are:

  • Broad - It introduces pupils to a wide range of knowledge, understanding and skills.
  • Balanced - Each part of our curriculum is allocated sufficient time relevant to the children’s age and experience.
  • Relevant - Subjects are taught in a way that relates to the children’s lives and experience, now and in the future.
  • Differentiated - What and how the subjects are taught matches pupils’ individual needs, abilities and aptitudes.
  • Children may be taught as a whole class, in smaller groups or on an individual basis.


English is a core curriculum subject and is taught every day. We use a variety of teaching and learning styles to teach English skills. We aim to develop children’s ability to listen, speak, read and write for a wide range of purposes, including the communication of their ideas, views and feelings. We do this through daily English lessons in which children experience whole-class reading or writing activities, guided group or children independent activities, and whole-class sessions to review and assess progress and learning.


Our Aims

  • For pupils to develop a love of reading
  • For pupils to be able to read with confidence, fluency and understanding
  • For pupils to read a wide variety of genres within fiction, non-fiction and poetry
  • For pupils to be able to evaluate reading material and justify their preferences
  • For pupils to read across the curriculum to support independence of learning in all subjects

Teaching reading skills at St Mary’s

A set time everyday is timetabled to teach reading skills. Reading is taught:

  • in guided reading sessions daily with a teacher. This is when the children read in a small group of 5-6 pupils who are all reading at the same level. The teacher is teaching reading explicitly to the group.
  • during 1:1 reading sessions with support staff
  • during 1:1 reading sessions with volunteer readers

How do we teach phonics at St Mary’s?

Children are taught a range of strategies in order to help them read, including phonics (the sounds letters make). We use the Letters and Sounds scheme to teach phonics. You can find out more about this scheme if you Google search ‘Letters and Sounds – The Department for Education.’ Discrete phonics lessons are taught daily in Reception, Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3. Children are assessed and then streamed into relevant phases depending on their ability.

  • Phase 1: Phonics lessons take place daily (this phase is mostly taught in Reception class). Children explore sounds and develop their listening skills.
  • Phase 2: Phonics lessons take place on 4 days of the week. The Letters and Sounds scheme is used to deliver a progressive programme of word reading skills. By the end of phase 2, many children should be able to read some VC (vowel- consonant) and CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words and to spell them. They start to learn to read and spell some high frequency ‘tricky’ words.
  • Phase 3 and 4: Phonics lessons take place on 4 days of the week. Letters and Sounds is the scheme used to deliver a progressive programme of word reading skills. Children begin to read and write one grapheme for each of the 44 phonemes. They blend and segment CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant), CCVC and CVCC words for reading and spelling and use their phonic knowledge when trying to read and write more complex words.
  • Phase 5 and 6: Phonics lessons take place on 4 days of the week. Letters and Sounds is used to deliver a progressive programme of word reading skills. Children are taught to read words automatically if they are very familiar; decoding them quickly and silently because their sounding and blending routine is now established and to decode them out loud. Children are taught to read 100 of the most frequently occurring words in English.

Resources to teach Reading:

Children use a reading scheme which is graded according to the level of difficulty of the book. Teachers assess where children are and give the child the level of book to match their ability.

  • Books are graded with colour bands according to their level of challenge.
  • Fluent readers select appropriate reading material from class reading areas and the school library.

Developing independent reading

  • In Reception and KS1 while the children are taking part in the group guided reading session, the rest of the class will be doing the same with another trained adult such as a member of support staff or a parent volunteer, or logging on to read their books on Bug Club.
  • In Year 3 and Year 4 while the children are taking part in the group guided reading session, the rest of the class will be doing quality reading activities in their read and respond exercise books or logging on to read their books on Bug Club.
  • In Year 5 and Year 6 children take part in whole class guided reading sessions. Children read and discuss a quality novel with key questions.
  • Some children in years 5 & 6 who still need extra support will have small group guided reading sessions instead of joining in with the whole class guided reading sessions.
  • Selected children take part in 1:1 reading lessons using the 10 minutes a day reading programme. These children are selected by their teachers for extra reading help.

What kinds of books to children take home from school to read?

Children at the early stages of reading

Children take 3 reading scheme books (at an appropriate level assessed by the class teacher) home each week. Every week, children also take home a new book from the class book area or library to share with their parents or carer (sharing book). This book may be one that is too difficult for the child to read alone. This book is for the parent or carer to read to the child and enjoy and discuss.

Fluent readers

These children take home a novel chosen from a selection of books in their class or from the school library which is appropriate to their reading level. They also take home a book from the class book area or library to share with their parent or carer (sharing book). These books are changed when the child finishes the book and this is monitored by the class teacher.

Teaching comprehension skills

Comprehension means understanding so teaching these skills is central to reading. Children are given opportunities to improve their comprehension skills throughout their time at St Mary’s. This ensures they are better able to understand the books they are reading. We teach comprehension skills as outlined below.

  • REC: Children are asked questions orally during and after texts are read as word recognition is still being developed. From Year 1 to Year 5 children are taught for one week per term.
  • Y1 and Y2: Everyday and in all subjects children are taught to comprehend (understand) what they are reading. However during one week per term, discrete comprehension skills are also taught. Children are asked questions orally during and after texts are read as word recognition is still being developed. Written comprehensions are also given to children to enable them to read and then respond to questions about a text. Comprehensions are given for homework as the children develop their fluency.
  • KS2: Everyday and in all subjects children are taught to comprehend (understand) what they are reading. However during one week per term, discrete comprehension skills are also taught. Written comprehensions are given to children to enable them to read and then respond to questions about a text. Comprehensions are given for homework. N.B. Sometimes children are required to take part in comprehension interventions. These are given as extra homework or as a whole class intervention if need be.


Children produce a complex extended piece of writing each week. In order to do this they plan, write, edit and rewrite during the week. We want every child to leave school as effective and confident communicators who love writing. High quality texts are chosen to help ensure that children are inspired about what they are writing about. Where appropriate writing is linked to topics for example year 4 children write their own non-fiction texts about Tutankhamun while learning about The Ancient Egyptians. Children also take part in drama and other speaking and listening activities to formulate ideas about what to write. There is a focus on planning ideas as well as thinking about the task, audience and purpose. Children are taught to write in a variety of styles in context such as narrative, persuasive, journalistic, recounts and reports. Children learn how to vary sentences, make interesting and ambitious word choices, and use grammar and punctuation correctly. Each piece of written work is carefully scaffolded through using ‘success criteria’ to guide a child and then marked by highlighting real successes (‘yellow for sunshine’) and an area for improvement (‘green for growth’). Children are taught explicit grammar skills in weekly grammar lessons. These grammar skills are then practised during the weekly writing lessons. Children also have weekly spelling lessons, where children are taught spelling rules and conventions. The children are then given spellings to learn for homework which they are tested on the following week.

Poetry recitation

Every half term every class from reception to year 6 read, discuss and learn off by heart a poem that they perform in an assembly to the rest of the school. The children really enjoy showing off their acting and presentation skills.


Mathematics is one of the core subjects and is taught every day from Reception to Year 6. The children are taught the most efficient methods of calculation: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. They are also taught the other areas of mathematics: number, fractions, geometry, measures and data in a structured and systematic way. There is a daily mathematics lesson and a dedicated part of this lesson is given to mental maths where children are taught number facts such as number bonds and times tables. The children practise how to recall the number facts quickly. There is a strong focus on children being fluent in maths and being able to problem solve and reason so that children are able to apply the maths they have learnt to a variety of real life scenarios.

Religious Education

As an Anglican school, we place great emphasis on Religious Education as part of our curriculum. St Mary’s is a multi-ethnic school with a Christian ethos underpinning everything that we teach. Each class takes part in at least two Religious Education lessons weekly. We teach the children through stories, drama, looking at the Bible and discussion in class about: the life of Jesus; Christian ideas about God; the role of the church and also about other world faiths. We visit St Mary’s Church, several times during the school year.

Collective Worship

We hold a daily act of collective worship in classrooms, in key stage groups or as a whole school. We say a morning, lunchtime and evening prayer. We hold a Christian Meditation session daily for one or two minutes where we listen to God. We celebrate mass in classes and collectively to celebrate important events in the school and the Church calendar, e.g. Advent . We hold assemblies to reflect on the Gospel stories, share songs and reflect on, spiritual, moral and social issues.


Computing is taught in two different ways. Children are taught a variety of computer based skills ranging from programming to editing photography in a Computing lesson. They then have the opportunity to use computers (iPads and laptops) within other subjects in the curriculum e.g. year 2 designed posters about pirates in their cross curricular topic Hidden Treasure, year 3 consolidate their times tables learning by playing online times tables games. We further help pupils develop their computing skills at home by setting homework which involves them accessing Bug Club, an online reading and comprehension resource, Maths Whizz, an online maths resource and Purple Mash.


Science is part of the cross curricular work called Understanding the World which takes place in Reception and is taught through exploring real objects and experiments e.g. looking at which of a series of objects might float or sink. In the rest of the school, from year 1 to year 6, the children cover a range of Biology, Chemistry and Physics based topics every year. For example in year one children learn science through a topic called Animals Including Humans, and in year 4 children learn about electricity and sound. The internet is used to research and also to look at virtual experiments or give access to learning which can’t take place in school such as watching experiments in the NASA space station. During each topic the children plan and carry out a scientific experiment. They record their results and are encouraged to learn through these experiments and their observations of them. They also study the life of one famous and noteworthy scientist linked to their topic e.g. when studying the topic “Evolution” the children will learn about the life and work of Charles Darwin.


Children from year 1 to year 6 are taught Spanish weekly by a specialist Spanish teacher. The children learn Spanish through mostly oral work and through fun interactive games that they play in pairs and in small groups. Some written work is produced to consolidate their learning. Children learn the common everyday language and key vocabulary used in Spain e.g. numbers, greetings and emotion words. Children in year 6 have the opportunity to attend an after school Spanish club.

Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education

PSHE and citizenship is underpinned by our school’s values and aims:

  • St Mary’s CE Primary School aims to provide a caring, stable, stimulating environment for learning.
  • Staff are committed to ensuring that the children’s time at school is productive and successful.
  • We aim to raise achievement through all aspects of the curriculum; developing self-confidence, motivation, self-reliance and co-operation.
  • We are committed to equality of opportunity and serve the local community by welcoming children from all backgrounds and faiths. Whilst our ethos is positively Christian, we value and respect the diversity of our community and aim to set all children on life’s path through compassion, thoughtfulness and understanding of one another’s differences.

We believe that parents and teachers have a responsibility to ensure that children leave primary school with:

  • good basic skills in reading, writing, mathematics and computing
  • a love of learning
  • good social skills
  • a sense of responsibility towards society
  • the confidence to stand up for themselves
  • the knowledge that they are special in God’s eyes

So that they are well equipped for a successful future.
We structure our PSHE and Citizenship around the aims set out in the framework for PSHE and Citizenship to help pupils:

  1. Develop confidence and responsibility and making the most of their abilities
  2. Prepare to play an active role as citizens
  3. Develop a healthy, safer lifestyle
  4. Develop good relationships and respecting the differences between people

We want pupils to gain knowledge and information, explore attitudes and values and develop skills to help them live healthy, safe, fulfilling and responsible lives.

In particular the outcomes of our PSHE and Citizenship scheme of work aim to help our pupils:

  • Understand and manage their emotions
  • Make and maintain effective relationships
  • Value and respect themselves and others
  • Get on with one another and not bully others
  • Respect equality and diversity and be sensitive to the needs of others
  • Appreciate the range of religious and ethnic identifies in the UK
  • Contribute to the school and local community
  • Be responsible for their behaviour and learning
  • Feel confident about themselves and their abilities and be positive about learning
  • Make informed decisions that lead to a safe and healthy lifestyle
  • Deal with problems positively and know where to get help
  • Be resilient and able to resist pressure
  • Be assertive and keep themselves safe
  • Take responsibility for themselves and the environment around them
  • Know the importance of managing money
  • Develop enterprising skills
  • Understand the importance of rights and responsibilities

Relationship and Sex Education

We aim to prepare children to grow up as responsible and well informed adults. Our programme of personal, social and health education (PSHE) includes relationship and sex education. We take much care to match the teaching to the age and maturity of pupils.

We teach older children about human reproduction during science lessons and about the emotional side of growing up through the PHSE curriculum. Our teaching and policy plans are available to parents upon request. Although you have the right to withdraw your child from the curriculum covering relationships we ask you first to speak to the Headteacher about your intentions.


Reception and Key Stage One children learn musicianship skills through a series of progressive activities linking movement and singing to key musical processes such as pitch, rhythm and pulse, tempo and dynamics. Skills are developed in Key Stage Two through a topic-based curriculum, as children learn about Classical, popular and world music through performing, composing and listening. Children have the opportunity to participate in an orchestra and choir and a group of children are taking part in a performance at the Albert Hall with pupils from schools across the Camden borough. Our Wider Opportunities programme offers year 4 children the opportunity to learn recorder and guitar in whole class music lessons run by skilled music tutors. Some children also take additional instrumental tuition on piano, guitar, recorder and violin. Children showcase their music to parents through our popular music concerts at Christmas, Easter and at the end of the school year.

PE and Swimming

Children in key stage one takes part in two hours of PE every week. This comprises of gymnastics, dance and indoor and outdoor games. When children enter Year 5 they are taught to swim at Swiss Cottage Sports Centre by qualified instructors every week for the whole of the year. By the end of the year the majority of them can swim! When children enter key stage 2, they take part in Big PE. Big PE sessions are longer sessions of PE. Each Key Stage 2 class are involved in a whole morning or afternoon of sport. This is taught by a qualified PE instructor. During the first part of each of these lessons, children are taught a specific skill (e.g. dribbling). During the second part of this lesson a competitive game is played where this skill might be practised (e.g. football). These longer PE lessons really get the children’s hearts beating and promote fitness. We have a competitive Sports Day annually, which is held at a local park. We run different sports based clubs termly, e.g. gymnastics, football and martial arts, which are open to all children. We also have boys and girls teams who compete in borough inter-school competitive sports events. In the summer term of 2013 we are extending the school day for KS2, introducing an extra compulsory PE lesson every week

Cross Curricular Topics

We teach the subjects of Art, Design Technology, History and Geography through Cross Curricular Topic lessons. These lessons also teach children the skills linked to each subject e.g. in a historical topic the children are taught the chronological skills needed to understand time-lines. The children explore and learn through one topic a term and the work is planned to link together, to make the learning relevant and meaningful. The children take part in out of school visits to places of interest linked to their topic e.g. Year 2 studying Hidden Treasure visit the ship HMS Belfast to learn about life on board or the London Aquarium. We also book visitors to come into school to share their expertise and give the children a fun, real and memorable learning experience e.g. Building a Viking longboat, or hosting a Tudor banquet. By the end of their topic, children become “experts” and we invite parents to a “Presentation to Parents” session where the children can demonstrate their expertise to their parents!

Curriculum Maps