At St. Bernard’s, we believe in students having access to a broad and balanced curriculum which is ambitious for all and allows students the opportunity to truly develop their thinking across subject areas. We are very proud that our curriculum therefore meets and exceeds the National Curriculum. In all subject areas, the curriculum is sequenced to support prior learning and there is a strong focus on strategies which help our students to know more and remember more.
At Key Stage 3, we have a unique and exciting reading programme which supports readers of all levels. The READ curriculum is designed to develop a reading culture at St. Bernard’s which fosters a passion for the written word, improves reading ability, enables students to be inquisitive, curious and critical readers and supports the development of cultural capital, understanding and appreciation of British Values, other cultures and faiths and complements our RSHE curriculum. In Year 9, students are introduced to READ+, an extension of our READ curriculum which ventures into new and exciting reading territory!
Alongside the READ lessons, Accelerated Reader tests are used to inspire motivation to read for pleasure. AR is used as part of our ‘reading for pleasure’ strategy only. We know that the research shows that the impact of AR as a standalone strategy is really quite minimal which is why we use it alongside our READ and READ+ programmes and also our Phonics interventions. Those students who may need additional reading support benefit from interventions via the Fresh Start Phonics programme and also the Herts Fluency Reading programme.
We believe very much in, and are unapologetic about, our three-year Key Stage 4 which is right for our students, in our school. The curriculum time encourages students to be excited by their subject choices and to specialise in areas for which they have natural flair and a true curiosity. This is complemented by three options spread over three years. Our options process and quality guidance ensures students consider fully their pathways, including a focus on the Ebacc where appropriate.
St Bernard’s has developed the options process for students to better support post-16 choices appropriate to ability and further education opportunities. Students have extensive mentorship when completing the options process to ensure that choices are appropriate.
The three-year Key Stage 4 affords our students many benefits which include:
- A focus on mental health and wellbeing in that the curriculum is not condensed and does not cause undue stress with too little curriculum time and too many qualifications.
- An enriched and deeper curriculum which supports the development of pathways through to post-16.
- Improved academic outcomes
Our curriculum is equally ambitious for our students with SEND and for those who are disadvantaged. At St. Bernard’s, we teach to top and scaffold to support ability and need so that all students have access to the full, aspirational curriculum. However, for those very few students who struggle to access the full curriculum, we have our Pastoral Centre, which is an internal provision for those with more extreme SEND and SEMH needs.
At St. Bernard’s, we are passionate about balancing the academic curriculum with the pastoral curriculum and therefore strive to develop students’ personal skills and support their mental health and wellbeing. As such, students have access to a daily form tutor who supports them in their personal development and provides mentorship and friendship to them throughout their five-year journey at school. This is complemented by a weekly Personal Development hour which affords the time for tutors to academically and pastorally mentor each student and deliver our RSHE and careers programmes, whilst also allowing a period of time for students to further develop their skills in reading and revision.
Student leadership to support peer wellbeing and happiness is at the forefront of our curriculum in school. Students are given the opportunity to apply for and deliver roles such as a Chaplaincy Team member, Head Boy and Girl and Prefect teams as well as becoming ambassadors for our Ministries. These areas complement the curriculum, providing students with leadership development and opportunities to feedback on and influence all areas of life at St. Bernard’s.
The Gatsby Benchmarks are also met through our Careers Programme in school which supports students in building their post-16 pathways in all aspects of education, training and the world of work. The Careers Programme permeates the school through to curriculum area level. Our work in this area has led to significant business partnerships which are now influencing the curriculum (such as in the area of Design and Technology). We also offer externships for our teachers.
St Bernard’s is passionate about giving students opportunities to learn in different environments and to build relationships through working with staff. The Enrichment Curriculum has therefore been designed to support academic growth whilst also strengthening students’ well-being and mental health. A wide variety of over 40 clubs and activities run each week as an extension to our daily curriculum; these are open to all students and are very well attended.