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 – 3), 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.
In the senior school (Years 4 – 6), our authentic learning is developed further, with a focus on an approach that 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. 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.
Alongside authentic learning, we take a structured approach to the teaching of literacy and use a number of resources that support explicit, systematic and cumulative teaching. All children will be taught literacy for at least 45 minutes per day and this will include reading, writing, handwriting, spelling, phonemic and phonological awareness according to the needs and age of the children.
Mathematics will be taught for at least 45 minutes per day. We teach number and algebra, geometry, measurement and statistics and as with literacy, mathematics teaching is explicit, systematic and cumulative and focused on meeting the identified learning needs of each child.
St Mary’s learners are powerful learners who are explicitly taught what good learning looks like and what good learners do. We use Guy Claxton’s Powerful Learning Qualities as the skills and dispositions of effective learners. This ‘language of learning’ is explicitly taught from Year 1 and by the end of their time at St Mary’s, all children are able to describe themselves as learners and know what their strengths and areas for development are. This sets them up well for their transition to secondary school and for lifelong learning.