Years 3-6 (Prep and Elements)
In the Jesuit tradition, KS2 at Stonyhurst St. Mary’s Hall focuses on developing the whole child into an independent learner, who is given the opportunity to express their talents and skills across a broad-based curriculum.
In addition, the school strives to give each child a firm foundation in the core subjects ensuring that our most able pupils exceed the national average levels in both English and maths. Classes are small to ensure that each child receives plenty of individual teacher time and, wherever possible, especially in the upper years of the Key Stage, the children are in ability sets for maths and English. A specialist teacher from Stonyhurst College leads a weekly problem-solving session for the most able mathematicians in Year 6 who are also entered for national maths competitions alongside pupils from Years 7 and 8. All children are encouraged to improve the speed and accuracy of their times tables knowledge and the school uses 'Times Tables Rock Stars' as a sequenced programme of daily practice and consolidation to increase fluency of recall of tables in a fun and engaging way. The 'Abacus' maths toolkit is used throughout the Lower School as a framework by which children master the National Curriculum expectations and develop a love of maths, and there is also encouragement for the children to think outside the box and extend their problem-solving skills, not only in maths, but across the whole curriculum.
The school places great emphasis on developing a high level of spoken language, reading and writing skills. Authors and poets are regularly invited into school to share their experiences with the children and The Tolkien Library, to which all pupils have regular access, offers a huge choice of the best of children’s literature. Here they are encouraged to read for pleasure and to extend and diversify their reading, for example by sampling a book by the featured author of the month. Reading for information takes place in a wide range of ways, not only in English, but across the whole curriculum. Writing across a range of genres is taught through themed units designed to enable pupils to write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences. Writing is assessed on a regular basis, with the children being given individual targets for continued improvement. There are carefully structured programmes which ensure a consistent and systematic approach to the teaching of spelling, handwriting and grammar.
Assessment in both English and maths takes place at the end of every year using SATs equivalent assessments: the results of these are analysed to inform future teaching and assess progress.
History and Geography
The teaching of history and geography is delivered through the school's own carefully designed thematic humanities curriculum units, drawing upon some elements of the International Primary Curriculum (IPC). These have been enhanced and deepened by using the many assets of the beautiful environment of Stonyhurst, as well as the unique Collections which are available for use by all pupils. From the International Primary Curriculum, a unit called Time Tunnel was adapted to give Year 6 children an understanding of chronology with a focus on putting events into the right order. This is fundamentally important when studying history because it helps us to see ‘the big picture’ – to understand the reasons why things have happened and how the present is influenced by the past.
Lessons within this unit include: learning how to become assistant curators by understanding the dangers to artefacts by careless handling and also the dangers caused by the artefacts such as the use of arsenic in taxidermy and the radiation emitted by fossils; the chronology of warfare from an Stone Age spearhead to a photograph taken by Tim Hetherington (an OS war photographer who died in 2011 in Misrata, Libya, documenting the Civil War); a study of famous people through the artefacts which belonged to them such as the prayer book of Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth of York’s Book of Hours, a fruit knife which belonged to Marie Antoinette and a seal ring belonging to Calpurnia (3rd wife of Julius Caesar); symbolism in portraits; a chronological study of communications from the Homilies of Pope Gregory the Great (c.1167-1183) to a leather post bag used by the Stonyhurst postman in the late eighteenth century.
We regularly review and develop our curriculum to ensure it is engaging, relevant and takes account of new initiatives. In a recent partnership with The Ribble Rivers Trust, we loaned a tank of 100 trout eggs to enable the children to understand from first hand experience the life cycle of the trout, nurturing them from eggs to alevin and eventually to fry big enough to release into the nearby River Hodder. For the farewell ceremony the children learnt The Trout by Schubert in their music lessons, which they sang on the banks of the river, accompanying themselves on boomwhackers. Our partnership with the Trust includes specialist taught lessons to inform and enrich the children’s study of rivers.
Each humanities unit of study contains an International element and, as St. Mary’s Hall is home to pupils from across the world, as well as being part of a global community of Jesuit schools, this is an essential part of our study. Spanish pupils have an entirely different perspective on the Spanish Armada, for example!
Science is taught separately from thematic learning in order to ensure academic rigour. Through a carefully planned programme of study, pupils develop a range of knowledge and concepts through which they recognise the power of rational explanation and also develop a sense of excitement and curiosity about natural phenomena. They are encouraged to understand how science can be used to explain what is occurring, predict how things will behave and analyse causes. Pupils have access to a scientific laboratory and specialist teaching and are trained in the skills of working scientifically, for example planning an investigation, ensuring that it is a fair test and gathering reliable results by repeating each experiment. Each unit is assessed on completion to ensure that core knowledge of the unit has been gained and also that the children’s scientific skills are being developed.