Teaching & Learning


Quality first teaching at St Mary's

Mission and values

At St Mary’s, every teacher is keenly aware that the delivery of high quality teaching and learning is his or her core function. We are clear that Jesus Christ worked among us as our teacher and as such He is our role model and inspiration, reminding us of the dignity and value of our work. In our approach to teaching and learning, we seek to follow Our Lord’s example, keeping the needs of our children at the heart of all we do.

Teachers at St Mary’s are tasked to deliver lessons which are fast-paced and challenging, which are carefully planned to meet the needs of pupils of all abilities – stretching and scaffolding as the need arises, and which are relevant, engaging and provide opportunities for pupils to develop independence and resilience in their learning. The importance of asking questions cannot be overestimated. Through questions, teachers can stimulate discussion, prompt exploration and address misconceptions; pupils can enquire and interrogate, query and consolidate.

Training and development

We don’t spend large sums of money on buying in ‘expert’ speakers at St Mary’s, or on sending our staff out to expensive commercial training courses. Our current Career and Professional Development programme builds upon the qualities, skills and expertise of our own teachers. Under the encouragement of our Senior Leadership Team, teachers read widely around their craft and we support this through the access to a teaching and learning library. In addition, the expertise available in other schools in the local area and across our Archdiocese, is valued highly and opportunities to access support and work collaboratively through networks and teaching alliances are embraced regularly by teachers at all levels.

At the start of each academic year, colleagues are encouraged to review their own teaching practice so that we offer a comprehensive series of CPD sessions, which caters for the needs of our school community. Feeding into this process is the analysis of the school’s outcomes, which leads to the identification of two or three focus areas for our teaching and learning work.

Our vibrant Teaching and Learning group leads on the planning and delivery of all CPD events and as well as our half termly Teaching and Learning newsletter which aims to guide staff towards current educational research which aids us with our current school improvement Teaching and learning foci. The Teaching and Learning team, work alongside the assistant Headteacher responsible for teaching and learning.

Our focus areas for the last three years are identified below;

Academic Year

Focus Area


Boys’ Achievement

Stretching the More Able

Effective Deployment of Teaching Assistants


Boys’ Achievement

Closing the educational gap for disadvantaged pupils

Effective feedback and marking


Closing the educational gap for disadvantaged pupils

Improving the provision of whole school literacy.

Stretch the most More Able

There are several key forums for continuing professional development:

Teaching and Learning Groups are entirely voluntary informal discussion forums at which colleagues can pose questions, explore hypotheses and share good practice. These vibrant discussions take place regularly and attended by colleagues from most departmental areas.  

Career and Professional Development events linked to the school’s focus areas for that particular academic year. It is expected that colleagues will attend a minimum of five these sessions to fit into their own identified areas of professional development. This programme consists of 16 sessions which run twice yearly and comprise of a 45-60-minute input from a teaching colleagues based upon 5 key aspects for effective learning; engagement, assessment and feedback, clarity, routine and challenge. The session outlines current educational research and pedagogy, followed by the sharing of resources for teachers to use instantly in their own classroom. Each department is enthusiastically represented at these sessions, sometimes by several delegates. Both internal colleagues, SLT and external colleagues for our local area and Archdiocese lead these sessions.

Teaching and Learning Insets are offered as part of full day insets or as twilight sessions between 3 and 6 times per year, according to need. All teachers and Level Three teaching assistants attend. These sessions are the principle drivers for our whole school focus areas. Once again, they are led by the relevant leader in the focus area.

In addition to the above, there is a wide range of other development opportunities including Teaching and Learning Briefings, which take place every fourth week and are led by teaching and learning group, middle leaders and other teachers.


In order to quality, assure the impact our CPD programme has for pupils in class. We carry out regular developmental observations, peer observations, and facilitate visits to other schools for school-to-school support, offer access to network meetings and workbook scrutiny opportunities.


Classroom Expectations

Quality first teaching and learning at St Mary’s is underpinned and safeguarded by rigorous expectations regarding classroom behaviour. It is prerequisite for all pupils to treat members of staff with respect and obey the rules set by the school and upheld by classroom teachers. At St Mary’s we also expect all pupils to acknowledge the right of others to learn and to treat their peers with respect and tolerance, thus enabling everyone to flourish in an environment which is conducive to learning. Any pupil who falls below these expectations will be subject to the sanctions which can be applied in line with the school’s strong disciplinary system.

Pupils are expected to arrive to lessons on time and in an orderly manner, ensuring that their uniforms are immaculate. Pupils must then take out their equipment for the lesson, including their planners and pencil cases. Lessons begin with a silent starter, usually based upon recall and knowledge retrieval.

It is a requirement for all pupils to have their pencil cases and planners out on their desks during all lessons, including form time. At St Mary’s, we believe that it is really important that all teachers are consistent in these expectations, on a daily basis. This consistency will allow lessons to start efficiently and progress much more smoothly.

If a pupil has forgotten his or her planner or pencil case, then a temporary one will be provided by the form tutor. However, there are sanctions if this becomes a regular occurrence. A stationery shop, run by the Year 11 senior prefect team every lunch time, affords pupils the opportunity to buy further stationery if and when needed. The school council supplement this with a stationary bank for pupils to have access to pre-loved stationary for free.

Behaviour Learning Walks

Members of the SLT team support teaching staff in monitoring the behaviour of pupils and in maintaining consistently high standards by conducting behaviour learning walks focusing, when necessary, on areas where there may have been low level disruption in previous lessons. Where pupils are found to be persistently displaying low level misbehaviours, this is acted upon quickly and further sanctions are put in place. This support mechanism is very much appreciated by staff and pupils, as it offers valuable support and allows strong teaching and learning to take place. The behaviour learning walks also enable the SLT team to see the great work that goes on by teachers in classrooms and offer praise and support to pupils if and where necessary. Members of the SLT team also visit classrooms where new staff / supply staff are teaching, to ensure that pupil progress and standards of behaviour remain high.

Please click on the links below for more information about Teaching & Learning innovation at St Mary's.

Each file can be downloaded as a PDF file.

A copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader can be downloaded for free.

Rosenshine - Instructional Approaches

The Revolution that Could Change the Way Children are Taught

Using Technology in your teaching - AM Doran

* John Dunlosky: Strengthening the Student Toolbox

Rob Coe et al:  What makes great teaching

Dylan Wiliam: 9 things every teacher should know- via Times Educational Supplement

* James Ko et al:  Effective Teaching

* John Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory, summarised by Oliver Caviglioli for How2

* CESE in New South Wales on Cognitive Load Theory: Page 7 Matthew Benyohai- summary

* Yeager, Walton and Cohen: Addressing achievement gaps with psychological interventions

* Chris Husbands and Jo Pearce: Nine claims from research

* American Psychology Association Top 20 Principles from Psychology