Learning & Teaching

Learning and teaching at St Mary’s challenges our students to become independent and lifelong learners, through using Inquiry Based Learning across all curriculum areas.


Students, in all subjects, are taught to inquire, think critically and solve problems. A St Mary’s education develops the mind, body, spirit, imagination and character.

This Learning & Teaching section outlines how a comprehensive education at St Mary’s prepares our students for life beyond primary school.

For further information, please contact the school.

 

Learning and Teaching

St Mary’s is a dynamic, caring educational community which offers a comprehensive and exciting curriculum for all K-6 students, in line with the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) policies and the Catholic Education Office, Parramatta.

  • We endeavour to bring to life the stories and messages Jesus gave us. The children are encouraged to develop their relationship with God through the examples given by members of a welcoming and pastoral school community.
  • We have a child-centred and literature-based approach to literacy instruction. In recent years, teachers have engaged in exciting professional development in this area.
  • The aim of Mathematics at St Mary’s is to develop students’ thinking, understanding, competence and confidence in the application of Mathematics. Over the past two years, our school has been an active participant in the Diocesan initiative known as EMU. EMU stands for Extending Mathematical Understanding. Our maths programs emphasise the importance of mental strategies, visualisation skills, written computation and problem solving using a range of concrete materials and other manipulatives. They also provide reflection time for students to share and value their work and to make connections with past learning and learning beyond the classroom environment.
  • We are continually building upon the school’s English, Mathematics and other teaching and learning resources.
  • Technology is an important tool we use in 21st century learning. We have a strong commitment to the development of skills and attitudes in the use of Learning Technology throughout the school. Technology is embedded into the curriculum. This commitment is demonstrated through:
  • every classroom having access to the school and Diocesan network, providing them with access to the internet
  • children being skilled in the use of various forms of technology, e.g. computer applications, data projector, digital cameras, interactive whiteboards, flip cameras, ipods and ipads
  • the use of laptops, which are used in every learning space to assist with teaching and learning
  • the use of interactive whiteboards located in every learning space throughout the school to enhance student and teacher interaction
  • In 2012, we continued professional development in the area of Inquiry Based Learning. We have engaged an expert in this field, Ms Kath Murdoch, to work with the staff in making St Mary’s an Inquiry School. Learning, using the inquiry approach, involves students forming their own questions about a topic and having time to explore the answers. The students are both problem posers and problem solvers within inquiry learning. Inquiry Learning encourages learners to examine the complexity of the world and form concepts and generalisations instead of being told simple answers to complex problems.

Education at St Mary’s is not limited to academic performance. It includes the development of mind and body, spirit, imagination and character. We aim to develop in our students the skills of inquiry, critical thinking and problem solving to be used across the key learning areas. In 2010, every room was refurbished and our new learning spaces are fully equipped for twenty first century learning. Teachers work collaboratively in grades, utilising a variety of different teaching strategies to cater for individual differences.

As a Catholic Primary School, we are committed to curriculum development at the school level.

We have implemented the NESA English, Mathematics, Science & Technology, Human Society and Its Environment, Personal Development, Health and Physical Education, Creative and Practical Arts curriculum documents. We have specialist Drama, Sport and Music teachers who work with the children in each class every week.

We are currently teaching the Parramatta Catholic Education Office Religious Education Curriculum, “Sharing our Story” syllabus. This is mandatory across the Parramatta Diocese.

We have a particular focus on improving students' literacy competence to help them become confident lifelong learners. Our approach to literacy instruction is child-centred and literature-based.

The features of our literacy focus include:

  • an analysis of each child’s reading so we know what they need to learn next
  • reading instruction conducted in small, needs-based groups
  • writing challenges that are carefully designed to help each child develop as a writer
  • provision of structured talking opportunities to increase our students’ skill level

 

Mental strategies are the basis for all mathematics skill development and are practised everyday in every classroom, Kindergarten to Year 6.

Numeracy skill development includes:

  • collecting, analysing and organising information
  • communicating ideas and information
  • planning and organising activities
  • working with others and in teams
  • using mathematical ideas and techniques
  • using technology 

Each year, our involvement in cutting edge educational developments increases. 

In 2004-2005, we implemented the use of a Speech Therapist and Occupational Therapist in our orientation programme, and in the first term of the school year. This was funded by a federal government initiative, the Quality Teaching Project (QTP). Our aim was to further develop our teachers’ abilities to identify and support speech and motor difficulties in the early months of schooling, ensuring greater success for all learners. This project is now complete, and we have been so delighted with the results that we have continued to implement the initiative each year.

Since 2005, we have been refining and evaluating the use of the Quality Teaching Framework (University of Newcastle) in our classrooms, using a grant from the Catholic Education Office, Parramatta. This means we will continue to refine the teaching strategies used by staff to improve student outcomes across the Key Learning Areas.

Sport within St Mary’s plays an important part in the holistic education of the individual. The major emphasis of the Physical Education (P.E.) Program is that of skills development. The children are taught and practised in a wide range of skills, covering a large number of sports.

The P.E. Program is one that is geared to the needs, interests and development level of the children. Therefore, it is expected that all children participate at all levels. It is compulsory, and children will only be excused from sport with a written note. The situation may arise, due to carnivals or games such as T Ball, where it will be necessary for teachers to take the children across Victoria Road to the oval.

There are four Sport Colour Houses – MacKillop, McCaffery, Tarrant and Mackinnon. Children are put into a Sport House when they start at St Mary’s. Families are kept in the same colour.

Children compete first at the school level, and then progress to Zone, Diocesan, Inter-Diocesan and State levels in athletics, swimming and cross-country. We participate in Gala and Knockout Days in a variety of team sports, such as soccer, netball, cricket and touch football.