We aim for the children to be nurtured in the Catholic faith and tradition within a Catholic Christian community. Catholic values drive our school culture and students are consistently provided with opportunities to learn about as well as experience the Catholic Faith. Religious Education programming is based upon the Brisbane Curriculum and is taught through High Impact Teaching Practises that explore the concepts presented in the curriculum. Where possible Religious Education Programs offer opportunities for students to develop connections between curriculum areas.
When restrictions allow parents are invited to whole school gatherings which are held for significant events including St Thomas Aquinas Day, Easter Liturgies, Advent Liturgies NAIDOC Week and ANZAC Day. In recent years students have been attending Mass at St Thomas Aquinas Parish Church each term with their Year group. Our school has a tradition of gathering together to celebrate Mass every week which we hope to reinstate soon.
The format for the Sacramental Programs at St Thomas Aquinas is;
Reconciliation and Eucharist - Year 4
Confirmation - Year 6
Sacraments are very personal and unique to each individual. In this way if children are considered not to be ready for a particular Sacrament, they can receive the Sacrament at a later date, after consultation with the Parish Priest.
Our Parish-based Sacramental program aligns with the Catholic Church's teaching that parents and carers are the first educators. Families play a significant role in the preparation of their children for each Sacrament. Classroom programs support the student preparation as part of the Religious Education curriculum. As a community, the school and parish do their utmost to aid the families in any way they can. All our Sacraments are celebrated in St Thomas Aquinas Parish Church.
Other Key Learning Areas
The Australian Curriculum forms the basis of classroom teaching and learning and is organised with explicit content descriptors of what is to be taught to students and what is expected of their learning at every year of primary schooling.
The curriculum identifies essential content that all students should be taught and ensures that there is time to pursue deep learning of that content. The Australian Curriculum also allows flexibility for schools and teachers to include local and topical content. Achievement standards have been set to ensure they are challenging and contribute to all students receiving a quality education.
The Australian Curriculum also pays attention to how seven general capabilities and three cross-curriculum dimensions (listed below) contribute to, and can be developed through, teaching in each learning area.
The general capabilities are:
- Information and Communication Technology
- Critical and Creative Thinking
- Ethical Understanding
- Intercultural Understanding
- Personal and Social Capability
The three cross-curriculum dimensions are:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures
- Asia and Australia's Engagement with Asia
Greater detail of the content of our curriculum can be easily accessed by visiting the website www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/
PROGRAMS OCCURRING ACROSS ALL YEAR LEVELS
Teachers at St Thomas Aquinas employ a Direct and Explicit Instruction approach for the teaching of English and Mathematics. Students participate in Daily Review which supports students in moving new knowledge from their short term to long term memory. All staff are trained and conversant in Cognitive Load Theory and understand the importance of explicitly teaching small chunks of knowledge and regular review of new and prior knowledge to ensure do not forget information previously taught.
St Thomas Aquinas is beginning to introduce Core Knowledge Curriculum across Learning Areas such as History and Social Studies as a way of supporting a knowledge rich curriculum.
At St Thomas Aquinas, we are deeply committed to delivering on the promise of education and equipping every child with the ability to read - and read well! Learning to read is such an essential skill to not only find success in school and to thrive in society, but to also experience the joy that reading brings to life. We want every child to be successful in reading. The research that we base our teaching on is called the ‘Science of Reading’.
Code Emphasis in Primary Grades
In Kindergarten to Year 2 we focus on acquiring the skills to crack the code of our alphabet to the speech sounds in English. (There are 44 speech sounds in English and 150 ways to read and spell them) Kids must first learn to decode/sound-out words before they can understand the meaning of text, therefore, we will emphasise instruction in ‘cracking the code’ in Kindergarten to Year 2. Explicit and systematic phonics instruction. We will have an order or continuum of phonics skills, progressing from simple to complex, which will be followed throughout the early grades. Students will progress through the continuum as they master skills. In the intermediate grades (3-4), word study will continue with more grammar and morphology (learning about word parts such as Greek and Latin roots).
If we see any signs that your child may be struggling with the foundational skills of reading, we will not take a ‘wait and see’ approach; we will immediately implement interventions and monitor their progress. The best solution to the problem of reading failure is early identification and intervention. This intervention will usually be through small-group access to the Minilit Sage Intervention program.
This is the ability to hear and know to the individual sounds in words by listening and to identify and manipulate those sounds orally. While this skill will be emphasised in Kindergarten to Year 2, we will continue to work with students who have not acquitted this skill beyond Year 2. Students in the intermediate grades may need to practice these skills until they have firmed up this foundation of reading. Students who have not acquired phonemic awareness by Year 3 will likely access small-group intervention access to the Macqlit program.
All early years readers are decodable readers. These are books or passages that only include words that the students can ‘decode’ (sound-out) according to the skills they have been taught thus far. Our students need practice with the phonics skills they are learning, and these books and passages provide that practice. So be aware that at times, your primary students may be bringing home a sheet of paper with a passage for practice rather than a book.
Your child will not be assigned a PM reading level, such as 5, or 15, or 25 (or any level 1-30) as in the past. Students will be assessed on the Oral Reading Fluency rate for their grade level. These nationally normed one-minute assessments give us a good indication of how easy or difficult reading is for your child. From there, we will give diagnostic assessments in word reading and nonsense word reading to find out which areas in the continuum of phonics skills they need help with. Students in Years 3-6 will be given a Spelling Survey that will show which phonics patterns they are able to apply in their writing and they will also be assessed on Phonemic Awareness so we can make sure they have those crucial foundational skills. As students become proficient word readers, comprehension is a natural outcome. Comprehension will also be checked with a norm referenced assessment known as PAT Comprehension. If your child shows a weakness in any area, they will be progress monitored and given interventions to help them become stronger in their area of weakness.
Your child will not be assigned a reading level that corresponds to a number. They will work with a variety of texts. Some texts may address specific phonics needs, some may be grade level text to build knowledge that is pertinent to their grade level, some may be interest-based, some will be at a determined level for fluency practice, but they will not be confined to a certain ‘level.’ Kindergarten and Year One students will not bring home books with patterned sentences that are easily memorised.
Knowledge Building and Vocabulary
Research has indicated that reading comprehension is closely connected to the background knowledge we have on a topic we’re reading about and by understanding the vocabulary contained in the text. St Thomas Aquinas is in the process of working with Catholic Education and an educational research group called Ochre, to develop a knowledge-building curriculum for students.Our students will have the opportunity to build a broad knowledge base of history, science, and the arts. Students have access to complex text, often read aloud by their teacher, and in the process, gain more complex vocabulary. The research tells us that building knowledge and vocabulary contributes significantly to their reading comprehension and should be taught beginning in the earliest grades.
The ultimate goal of all reading instruction is for students to understand what they read. The model of ‘The Simple View of Reading’ demonstrates that reading comprehension occurs only when students have both Decoding/Word Recognition Skills and Language Comprehension skills. Children need the essential skills to get the words off the page as well as knowledge, vocabulary, and a good understanding of how our language works in order to comprehend what they read. We must provide instruction that will help students achieve these goals.
Programs used at St Thomas Aquinas are well researched and support Science of Reading.
All teachers of Kindergarten to Year 2 follow the Initialit program as the main resource for teaching English. InitiaLit is an evidence-based whole-class literacy program providing all children with the essential core knowledge and strong foundations to become successful readers and writers. InitiaLit is a three-year program, covering the first three years of school.
Students in Years 3-6 participate in Spelling Mastery lessons. Spelling Mastery builds dependable spelling skills for students through a highly structured method that blends the following approaches:
- Phonemic approach - helps beginning spellers learn the relationships between spoken sounds and written letters and then apply them to spelling
- Morphemic approach - exposes advanced spellers to prefixes, bases, and suffixes
- Whole-word approach - gives spellers at all levels the meaning and root of a word and shows how the word's spelling is influenced
Students are supported to develop their vocabulary through a knowledge rich curriculum, and whole-class novels and texts.
The Writing Revolution is used from Kindergarten to Year 6 as the main resource to support writing instruction.
At St Thomas Aquinas we follow the Australian Curriculum Mathematics. All classes employ daily review in Mathematics to ensure that students retain and can build on existing knowledge. The school is currently working with COGLearn to support teachers in developing their practice in Daily Review and employs an Instructional Coach to work alongside teachers as they master this skill.
As with English, the Mathematics program is carefully laid out in a comprehensive scope and sequence so that students are introduced to and master simple skills and knowledge before moving onto more complex concepts.
The Australian Curriculum Languages is designed to enable all students to engage in learning a language in addition to English. At St Thomas Aquinas the students participate in Chinese online lessons to experience language activities through the teaching of a second language. Students from Years 3 to 6 participate in the Chinese language program.
The children in Kinder to Year 6 are provided with a variety of experiences in Visual Arts, Media Arts, drama and music by a specialist Arts teacher.
Sport and Health
A specialist teacher provides hour-long sport and health lessons for all students from K-6. This program is complemented by sport lessons run by the classroom teacher as well as specialist clinics in a range of sports including tennis and athletics.
Children visit the Library on a regular basis each week for borrowing and returning books. Each child’s borrowing records are kept on the computer system.The Resource Centre is opened at lunchtimes and recess for children to borrow, to sit quietly and read or share a book with a friend.
STEM, Science, and Digital and Design Technologies
At St Thomas Aquinas, we recognise that STEM skills are first developed through a thorough knowledge of each discipline and then through a practical application and integration of these knowledge and skills.
The teacher librarian and ex-questacon program writer, conducts regular science lessons with all classes. These sessions are not isolated lessons but form part of a cooperative program plan with the class teacher.
Digital and Design Technologies is well resourced within the school. Students have access to 3D printers, Robots including Beebots, spheros and EV3s, Makeymakeys, a Green Screen and a programmable drone. Classroom teachers develop programs and teach Digital and Design Technologies, often working in consultation with the Specialist Science Teacher as part of an integrated STEM program.
All classes at St Thomas Aquinas are involved in excursions that enrich and support classroom learning. These excursions are to local venues, with the Year 5 and Year 6 students also attending overnight camps.
St Thomas Aquinas does expect that homework is a part of the learning process but it is not considered overly demanding and excessively difficult to complete. All students from K-6 are encouraged to read each night. Occasionally children may also be asked to complete an assignment at home.
Year 6 Leadership
All Year 6 students are inducted as school leaders and work in one of four portfolio groups to take an active leadership role in the school. These groups are Faith and Social Justice, Environment, Hospitality and Media, and Sport. At the end of Year 5, students are invited to apply for one of these portfolio groups. A teacher works with each group to support them with the implementation of student-led projects throughout the school. Students going into Year 6 are also invited to apply for one of two School Captain positions. Students from Kindergarten to Year vote on who they believe will best represent them. An Indigenous Elder is also selected from among Indigenous students in Year 6.
St Thomas Aquinas provides the students with many other opportunities to participate in sport representing the school. These sports include:
- Cross Country Running
We also provide students with opportunities to learn a variety of sports through sporting clinics run by expert coaches. These include:
- Rugby Union
REPORTING TO PARENTS
Early in the school year parents will be given the opportunity to meet their child’s teacher and to familiarise themselves with the class routines and curriculum.
Parent Teacher Interviews and conferences, known as ‘Three Way Conversations’, which involve parents, the student and the teacher, are held during the year. Written reports are provided at the end of each semester and follow the Government’s A-E reporting format.
Please feel free to approach your child’s teacher regarding his/her progress. Open lines of communication assist both parents and teachers and ultimately benefit the child. Quite often a word from parents can help teachers to understand marked changes in behaviour and attitude.