Photo credit: St Mary’s CE School, Truro

A Church of England primary school in Cornwall, featured in a national education magazine, is now providing support to other schools who are interested in modelling its innovative way of working.

St Mary’s CE School in Truro appeared in a recent edition of Headteacher Update where head teacher Nicola Bray described how the school had successfully created its own curriculum. The article has now sparked interest from other faith schools across the country.

“The article was really well received and we have been contacted by head teachers of other faith schools for support with curriculum design as far afield as Surrey,” says Nicola.

The feature had focused on St Mary’s decision to create a curriculum that matched the needs of its pupils and families as well as the school’s location and environment. Nicola said: “The decision to write our own curriculum was not taken lightly. The leadership team spent six months researching different curriculum design before anything changed at the school.

“Our curriculum needed to have a Christian underpinning and be supportive of the Church of England’s vision for education as well as reflecting our motto ‘Active Children, Active Minds’.

“Allowing the children to steer the direction of their learning through interests and aspirations was key as was engaging staff and capitalising on their interests and skills.”

As well as needing to be ambitious, broad and balanced for all pupils, the senior team were also keen to ensure it worked for staff. Well being and workload were part of the considerations and as a result inset training days focusing on mental health and stress management were introduced as were ‘blue sky’ planning days, an opportunity for staff to plan off-site to investigate inspiring and exciting places for children to visit.

To ensure its success, the new ‘Sunshine Curriculum’ was trialed in senior leaders’ classrooms initially in order that teething problems were addressed before the rest of the school embarked on the first unit.

As a school that was rated as outstanding by Ofsted in 2014, the senior leadership team were keen that the new curriculum would ensure on-going high standards of attainment. “We also appreciate that success can be measured in an array of non-academic ways and so the staff and stakeholders designed the ‘Top 10 things to do before you leave St Mary’s. This included a list of key activities we wanted all children to have experienced before they left us to move on to secondary school.”

One of the quickest successes has been the impact on the school. “There is a real buzz and sense of excitement around school. Staff are excited about what they are teaching and are enjoying opportunities to research developments in their subject areas. Work in topic books is of a high standard and children are really proud to share them at organised ‘Topic Talk Time’ sessions.”

An open classroom once a term has also lead to increased levels of parental engagement. “Parents attend and spend time with their child finding out about their learning while also being able to ask questions.”

In a recent survey, 96 per cent of parents said their child enjoyed the new curriculum.

Nicola said: “It is really important to take time to research and explore ideas until you find what works for your school. The journey takes time and schools need to be open to change and flexibility.”