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St Mary's Catholic Primary Schools Trust

RE Monitoring Visit

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NOTE OF VISIT

School/College: St Mary’s Infant and Junior Catholic Schools

 

Visit made by: Daniel Coleman

 

Headteacher: Linda O’Callaghan

 

Date of Visit: 28th September 2016

 

 

Reason for Visit:

RE / Catholic Ethos monitoring visit. Targeted Visit. Post Section 48 visit

 

 

LA: Croydon

 

 

Person(s) met:

Miss O’Callaghan (Executive Headteacher)

Mrs Pears (Deputy Head, Infants)

Mr McDonald (Deputy Head, Juniors)

Mr Chappell (Subject Leader, Juniors)

Mrs Fernandes-Pinto (Subject Leader)

 

Forms of Entry: 2

 

NOR: 225 (Inf.) 270 (Jnr.) Approx.

 

 

Outline of visit:

This visit took the form of an annual monitoring visit. During the day I had the opportunity to spend a good amount of time in both the junior and the infant school. As part of the visit, I met with the headteacher and the deputy heads of both schools. During the visit, I also held discussions with the subject leaders from both phases. I had a chance to join one class from each school for their RE lesson. During the meetings with the subject leaders, I was able to undertake, with them, a book scrutiny, looking at a range of books of children of mixed abilities, across all year groups.

It was a pleasure to join one of the infant classes for their morning liturgy and then to be with the juniors for their class assembly. It was a great experience to join both of these groups for their collective worship. It was also a joy to have lunch with a group of children from the infant school, on the Golden Table. I ended the day meeting with the headteacher to review the visit and to share some areas that the school may wish to consider going forward.

 

Areas of strength:

  • On entering the school there is a clear sense of a community that is driven and guided by Gospel values. They are not merely displayed on the walls but they are clearly lived out by all members of the community.
  • The main entrance to the school has been designed for the Year of Mercy, it is a wonderful example and is a bold statement of the key values of the school. On entering the school, the sense of family is made clear with a wonderful tree, introducing all members of staff to visitors. What is commendable is the fact that there is no sense of hierarchy and all members of staff have a place in this display. This is a wonderful demonstration of how everyone is equally values.
  • As part of the reception area of the school there is a beautiful statue dedicated to Mary, the patron of the school.
  • The main hall in the infant school provides an indication of the importance of faith in the school. There is a series of wonderful displays around the walls, celebrating the class saints and other aspects of faith. At the entrance to the hall there is a focal area looking at the papal encyclical, Laudato Si. It is a great chance for the children to reflect on this message. During my walk around the school I was able to witness one of the children add her reflections to the board. This was carried out spontaneously and without any adult prompting. The children also have access to a quiet prayer area at the entrance to the hall. Once again, this is a wonderful addition to the space and provides an amazing opportunity for the children to engage in silent prayer, something they value, from my discussions with them.
  • The hall in the junior school also demonstrates the faith life of the school. The Stations of the Cross are clearly visible and the hall is dominated by the words of Oscar Romero, ‘Aspire not to have more but to be more.’ From my time in school, these words are not just decoration for the walls. The children have been able to reflect on them and they are the cornerstone of all the school looks to achieve.
  • In both halls the school have commissioned two large three dimensional Romero crosses. They are a prominent feature and they have been beautifully designed by the children.
  • The school have made good use of their outdoor space and they clearly see the environment and these areas as places to celebrate their faith. There is a very poignant remembrance garden dedicated to a former member of staff and a former pupil. As with the prayer space in the infant hall, this area provides a lovely space for the children to pray and develop their relationship with God. Once again the children speak of the importance of these areas and the opportunities they provide for them to pray. In addition to the garden there is also a quiet area reserved for prayer.
  • The school provides ample opportunity for the children to develop and recognise their social responsibility. During the junior class assembly, the children spoke of their duty in these areas and the importance of the help they provide to those less fortunate in their local area and in the wider world.
  • Infant Liturgy – The focus of the liturgy was the family and how we are all members of different families. It was wonderful to see so many parents at the liturgy and how involved they all were in supporting their children in celebrating deeply. Scripture and prayer were central to this act of worship and it was impressive to see these young children praying silently for their own intentions. The children read well and clearly and it was good to see a mixture of the traditional prayers of the Church and prayers that the children had composed. The singing was joyful and enthusiastic. It was a privilege to be part of this celebration. It was just another example of the wonderful sense of family and community present in both schools.
  • Junior Class Assembly – As with the infant liturgy there was clear message, centred around the Gospel values. The children were looking at the Harvest Appeal run by CAFOD. The children were enthusiastic in sharing this message, reading fluently and acting out the scripture to demonstrate the importance of this appeal. The singing was once again enthusiastic and they were ably supported by the orchestra, who were joined by the headteacher. It was great opportunity to celebrate the talents and skills of the children. The link to the motto of the school was woven into the assembly and the children who attended were clear on the key message.
  • It is abundantly clear the importance placed on prayer in the school. The children in both schools have abundant opportunities to pray as classes, groups and individually. The school run a wonderful programme of prayer buddies, where children inn Year 6 partner children in Year 2 and support them in developing their own prayer life and relationship with God.
  • The focal areas in all classes are of a good quality and provide both prompts for learning and opportunities for the children to reflect on the topic and their faith. They are used as an integral part of the learning. They are all current and offer a celebration of the childrens’ work. Once again, prayer is central to these areas and they are used to display traditional prayers and books are displayed, with the childrens’ own prayers and intentions.
  • Year 3 – The lesson focused on home. The lesson was beautifully paced and the children were enthusiastic and engaged throughout the session. The learning was made relevant and the children had ample time to reflect and share their responses. The relationship between the teacher and the children was warm and positive and this provided an environment where the children felt able to share their thoughts. Their peers listened respectfully and carefully. This was a common theme in all classes I visited.
  • Year 4 – the questioning seen in this lesson was a real strength. They were used to probe learning and to really extend the children. The use of secondary questions to deepen the responses and really challenge the children was effective.
  • Year 6 – The use of scripture was central to the lesson and passages from the Bible are used well across all classes. There was a wonderful range of activities offered in this lesson and all of the adults worked really effectively to make the most of the small group sessions. The children were fully attentive and engaged and the high quality questions and discussions enabled them to work at an impressive level. The use of art was a lovely addition to the lesson and I had been able to witness many examples throughout the school where this medium is used to enhance the learning.
  • In response to the last inspection, it is clear that teachers collaborate well in their planning, delivering lessons that provide wonderfully creative activities, with clear evidence of differentiation, challenging children at all ability levels. The lessons that I witnessed were of a consistently high standard and the expectation across both schools is consistently challenging.
  • Throughout my time in the classrooms I was able to observe lessons where the children were being challenged to think deeply about their faith and relationship with God. There was a strong sense of enthusiasm in all rooms. The children spoke positively about their learning and valued the time that they were given to discuss and reflect on their faith.
  • The artwork around the school is beautiful and bears witness to the level of creativity used when teaching the subject. Again, this is something that the children appreciate and value highly.
  • The leadership and staff at both schools have clearly worked incredibly hard to build the relationship between the juniors and the infants. The success of this work is clear to see in all areas. So much so, that I did need to keep reminding myself that they were two separate schools. All members of the community are to be commended for achieving this.
  • I had the privilege of joining some of the infant children on the Golden Table. In my discussions with the children, they demonstrate a strong sense of pride in their school and they enjoy the time they spend there. They are wonderful ambassadors for the school and they fully appreciate the role they play and the responsibility they have in nurturing and developing the faith community of which they are a part.
  • The school work hard to engage and support their wider community. They have offered a pre-school drop-in club for young children in the local community. This is something that is highly valued by the families who use this facility. This is yet another example of the school’s work in living out their Gospel values and sharing them beyond the confines of the school. The school are to be highly commended for the efforts that they undertake in this area.

Areas for development:

  • During the visit we discussed the idea of bringing the wonderful focal areas into the learning more, so they are used to their full effect. With prayer being such a cornerstone of the school, we talked about how this could be extended through prayer books created by the children being extended and becoming a feature of the focal areas.
  • Given the fact that questioning and class and group discussions are such a strength and so effectively used, there is ample evidence of understanding and insight beyond what is recorded in books. We discussed possible ways of capturing these discussions and the key points made so that they can be added to the body of evidence used in assessing the progress of the children. One suggestion would be the introduction of class journals or some form of scrap book.

 

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