In New Zealand, schools are charged with developing a localised curriculum that is relevant to and representative of its learners and its community, that is, a curriculum that reflects the New Zealand Curriculum, but is also designed with the particular context of the school in mind. At St Mary’s, we regularly consult with our community in relation to a range of aspects of our school and we respond to the information collected by building a strategic plan that outlines our collective goals and aspirations for the school.
Our curriculum is built around the needs, passions and strengths of our learners and is focused on engaging them through a range of rigorous academic learning, as well as the opportunity to apply the learning in practical ways. We construct and design learning in collaboration with the learners and their whānau, with a focus on learning contexts that are authentic and relevant to the children.
As a multicultural Catholic school, learning contexts integrate aspects of our special Catholic character, in particular Catholic social teaching and environmental themes, with learning that is responsive to the cultures of the many ethnic groups in our community. We also incorporate contexts that enable all learners to gain an understanding of our New Zealand bicultural heritage in relation to te Ao Māori (Māori worldview).
In the junior school (Years 0 – 2), children undertake authentic learning with a focus on play. This enables them to acquire the oral language knowledge and skills that support them in developing the numeracy and literacy foundations that they need to be successful in their current and future learning. The authentic learning contexts are inclusive of the wider curriculum and we believe in giving children access to a broad curriculum, incorporating all of the New Zealand Curriculum learning areas. Digital technology learning is an important aspect of our curriculum and we are well-resourced in this area.
Alongside authentic learning, we also take an integrated approach to the teaching of literacy and use a phonics and early words programme, in conjunction with explicit teaching of reading and writing through small group and whole class sessions, as appropriate to the identified needs of the learners.
In the middle and senior schools, our authentic learning is developed further, with a focus on a ‘Learning Without Walls’. approach. ‘Learning Without Walls’ allows the learners to use their interests and wonderings to inquire into areas of interest to them. Again, it is our intention to ensure that every learner has access to a broad and relevant curriculum, incorporating all of the New Zealand Curriculum learning areas. The digital technology learning area is an important aspect of this learning, as is ensuring that the learning undertaken is relevant and meaningful for all learners.