St Mary’s Sunderland – Curriculum Statement
This is the journey of how St Mary’s focused on four values: Beliefs, Rights, Environment and Wellbeing (BREW) to create a bespoke curriculum, fit for the next generation and in line with our Mission Statement: Growing, Loving and Learning in the Arms of Mary.
The four values were strong themes and aspects of the school’s wider enrichment and curriculum: Beliefs: we are a Catholic school with strong Marian traditions. Rights: we are a United Nations Rights Respecting school. Environment: we hold the Green Flag Award. Well-Being: we wrote the Gold Charter Mark for Well- Being, used across Sunderland and now the Trust. We wanted to use these extra curricular strengths as drivers to underpin a character based curriculum which focused on ‘why’ we taught something rather than ‘what’. When we started to explore values at St. Marys we started with the important question, “What sort of child did we want to be leaving St. Marys?” from that came our BREW curriculum.
These four drivers are linked to Catholic teachings and, following consultation with our Parish priest, Fr. Chris, we have made the connection to Vatican documents:
Beliefs – Dei Verbum (Word of God) sets out how we worship, pray, interpret and share the word of God. Prayer and liturgy are at the heart of life at St. Mary’s. Governors, leaders and staff have high expectations and a shared vision with regard to the Catholic mission and ethos of the school, while also respecting the beliefs of other people.
Rights – Gaudium et spes (Hope and joy) speaks of the dignity of the human race and identifies the church’s social teachings. As a rights respecting school, we are a community where children’s rights are learned, taught, practised, respected, protected and promoted. We hold the Unicef Rights Respecting Gold Award.
Environment- Laudate Si (Praise be to you) confers an environmental message about the stewardship of the Earth. At St Mary’s we aim to inspire in pupils a curiosity and fascination about the world around them. We are committed to raising awareness of issues such as global citizenship, diversity, human rights and sustainable development. We promote environmental awareness, supporting our children to understand the fragility of our environment and the importance of its protection. We hold the Environmental Green Flag award.
Wellbeing – Fratelli tutti (All brothers) speaks of caring for each other as in the parable of the Good Samaritan. At St. Mary’s, we place a high emphasis on the welfare and wellbeing of teachers and pupils. We are committed to supporting the emotional health and wellbeing of all members of our school family. We understand that everyone experiences life challenges which can make us vulnerable, and at times everyone may need additional emotional support. We actively promote positive mental health, resilience and aspirations for all members of our community. We hold the Gold Mental Health Charter Mark, which involves supporting other schools and childcare settings.
After the initial staff meeting from which the BREW values were established, our curriculum coordinator, part of the SLT, was tasked with working with each individual subject lead to redevelop the curriculum, including weaving in opportunities to meet BREW objectives. This worked because staff were given the time out of the classroom to carry out this task. This was a long process starting in 2019 and carried on through and beyond lockdowns.
The values of BREW are explored through inquiry questions in the curriculum. These allow the children to live out the values. Some examples of BREW within the curriculum are: year 6 exploration of rights through the second World war and Nazi Germany, and the ethical debate about justifying the use of the atomic bomb. The impact of this can be seen in the children’s work and in the children’s conversations.
“At St Marys we commit ourselves to living through BREW. Our B stands for belief, which is central to our life. Our commitment to our beliefs involved making a conscious decision to follow Jesus Christ.” Nathaniel, Year 6.
The Family Tree
Because the process started during covid we rolled out BREW once the school was back together. We pulled the children together into our hall and showed them the family tree. This central piece of art work incorporated the brew values in the trunk feeding the branches and leaves which represent each child in the school. We involved the parents through coffee mornings, newsletters, websites and open nights. BREW has become central to all communications. They understand how important these values are to St Mary’s.
St. Mary’s reading canon feeds into BREW. It was important that the values form BREW is explored in the novels and texts chosen for the curriculum to build the conversation around the values and character. These link to the secondary schools, making a transition which builds in challenge using the values.
Beyond the Classroom
In addition to the taught curriculum and environment and wellbeing awards, there are enriching opportunities for the children to develop their character including wellbeing weeks, careers programme and the forest school. The forest school compliments BREW with planting, growing, cooking, environmental and well-being work. Rights are complemented during careers week. There is a range of speakers who come into school to talk to the children: barristers, solicitors, engineers etc helping the children to aspire to a broad range of pathways, but pretty much everything we do links back to BREW, including our student bodies:
BELIEFS: Journey in Faith, Minnie Vinnie’s
RIGHTS: School Council
ENVIRONMENT: Eco Action Team
WELL-BEING: Well-being Champions
This has been and continues to be a long process, which needs to work on many different levels. We now strongly believe this is the only way we should be designing our curriculum. It is bespoke to our school, as what matters to us is what sort of children leave us at the end of Year 6. BREW is central to the whole school experience.
“It started with a picture of a tree on a wall and now it is alive and growing.”