As educational needs evolve and statutory obligations change, it is the policy of St Patrick’s Academy to anticipate future educational developments and to continually strive to find innovative ways of meeting the changing curricular needs of young people in the area whilst preserving the ethos of the school.
You will be reassured to know that in an era of great change, we have maintained the important elements of the grammar school curriculum with a strong emphasis on English, mathematics, the sciences, languages and humanities but we have complemented this with one of the widest ranges of new courses available locally, embracing areas such as IT, business, media, performing arts, social sciences and engineering so as to equip our young people for the future with the right blend of knowledge, understanding and skills.
The school offers a curriculum which is broad and balanced. It aims to satisfy and go beyond the requirements of the Northern Ireland Curriculum.The curriculum is tailored to reflect the Catholic ethos of the school, its Irish cultural heritage and the values of co-education, whilst at the same time maximising opportunities for the greatest number of students.
Subject options at KS4 are structured to maximise opportunities while providing a flexible path into post-16 courses that allows students to keep all career options open until they have the maturity and experience to make informed career choices.
Subject options at Post-16 are designed (i) to ensure that the subject requirements of all third level courses are met (ii) to reflect student demand and (iii) to provide opportunities for each student to develop the skills and attributes needed to contribute fully to society in adult life.
The personal development dimension of the school is an expression of the concern for the development and progress of its pupils. It offers a means to reflect, in practice, the educational aims of the school; to integrate and give coherence to the many different aspects of a pupil’s school experience and to enable pupils to gain maximum benefit from their time in school.
The Personal Development programme makes a significant contribution to the development of important life skills. It enables pupils to acquire the skills and confidence to take more responsibility for their learning, their personal health choices and, in partnership with other departments, their eventual occupational choices. The programme aims to encourage our young people to engage themselves actively in their school community, together with their local and wider communities. Its purpose is to promote active and responsible citizenship.
The Personal Development programme is an integral part of the school curriculum, in Years 8 to 11, and is delivered formally by the form tutor through a designated 30 minutes classroom contact period once a week. In consultation with the Vice Principal (Pastoral Care), Heads of Year and the school’s Coordinator of Personal Development, a specially-constructed programme has been designed for delivery by the tutors. The programme considers the well-being of the whole person. Accordingly, ten key themes are followed in the Insync Personal Development framework. These are: Health and the Whole Person; Feelings and Emotions; Managing Influences and Making Decisions; Self Concept; Managing Change; Morals, Values and Beliefs; Learning about Learning; Safety and Managing Risk; Relationships and Sexuality and Drugs Awareness.
While the general focus of pastoral care requires a caring commitment by all teachers, we also have a structured approach to ensure that at least one teacher in the school (the form teacher or form tutor) has a detailed knowledge of the needs, aspirations, interests and academic progress of each student in his/her form. With this knowledge, form tutors can support the learning and development of all their students by motivating them; responding to their problems; approaching issues of discipline positively; and by encouraging them to benefit from all the opportunities which the school has to offer.
The role of the form tutor is a crucial one. She/he is appointed to oversee the personal, social, academic and vocational development of the young people in his/her care. Pupils in Years 8-14 meet their tutor at the beginning of the school day for registration. Tutors also help their form class prepare for regular school assemblies. They have a designated period in which to interview members of their form class. Pupils are encouraged to seek out their tutors for individual help and support, should a serious problem or difficulty arise in their lives. To support the work of the tutors in the classroom, a number of important outside agencies and speakers are invited by the school to deliver presentations. These presentations include the Love for Life programme, Mood Matters and the local Breakthru programme. A range of different teaching strategies is encouraged in the delivery of Personal Development. These include: action-planning and target-setting; debates; role plays; social activities; audiovisual presentations; learning through games, questionnaires and action research.
An integral part of the programme is the ‘Cairdeas’, or peer-support scheme, involving Years 8 & 13. This is a pupil support system, set up initially to provide a safe environment for Year 8, to share any difficulties or problems encountered early in their school career with their Year 13 ‘Cara’ (friend). Together, they attempt to explore possible solutions to these problems. Finally, as our school vision, aims and mission underline, we are committed to working together to create an environment of care and trust, in which the spiritual, emotional, social and physical welfare of the young person is fostered, with an emphasis on the achievement of high academic standards.
Careers Education, Information and Guidance (CEIAG)
“Think not of yourself as the architect of your career but as the sculptor. Expect to have to do a lot of hard hammering and chiselling and scraping and polishing.”
B. C. Forbes
All pupils benefit from a high quality taught programme of careers from Year 8 onwards. The provision is tailored to the specific needs of the pupils and there is progression in learning across the key stages.
Years 8, 9 and 10
In Years 8 and 9 the careers programme is provided through the employability and personal development strands of the Learning for Life and Work programme. Lessons are relevant to the pupils’ interests and aspirations and they provide pupils with opportunities to develop their employability skills and awareness of the career options open to them. These lessons are complemented through other subjects across the curriculum. Subject teachers are making an increasing contribution in providing careers education, information, advice and guidance for all pupils. All form tutors take a special interest in the career interests of the pupils in their tutor group to ensure that they develop the personal qualities, skills, knowledge, understanding and attitudes which will give them a strong foundation for lifelong learning and a career in an ever changing economic environment. The pupils’ skills and personal qualities develop progressively and in Year 10 timetabled careers education classes provide pupils with opportunities to access up-to-date information so that they can make informed decisions in relation to their GCSE subject choices and long-term career goals.
Years 11 and 12
In Years 11 and 12 the careers programme is delivered through the employability strand of the Learning for Life and Work programme. In Year 12 many students participate in interview skills sessions which are carried out by representatives from local business and industry. All Year 12 students are given access to, and benefit from, independent and impartial careers advice from the Careers Service advisers and this empowers them to make appropriate and informed careers decisions. After the GCSE results are issued in August all Year 12 students are invited with their parents to a meeting with a member of SMT. The purpose of this meeting is that A Level subjects, which are relevant to the pupils’ interests and aspirations, can be selected. The involvement of parents in the decision-making process in careers education at all key stages is greatly appreciated.
In the sixth form the careers provision is flexible and responsive to the individual needs, interests and aspirations of the pupils. The pupils make very good use of a range of careers information, including relevant ICT software and labour market information, to inform their career planning. The taught careers programme, combined with high quality learning experiences within and beyond the classroom, develops the pupils’ self-awareness and skills, including team work, self management, communication, problem-solving, leadership and resilience. Access to careers advice from the Careers Service adviser is on request. In Year 13, many pupils benefit from relevant work experience placements, which provide good opportunities for the development of their employability skills and raise their awareness of employment options available within the local and regional labour markets. These opportunities are enhanced further, in both Years 13 and 14, by a comprehensive range of work-related learning activities: multi-mini interview preparation; mock interviews; attending careers events, including university open days; and hearing from visiting speakers, including past pupils. Throughout their time at St. Patrick’s Academy students participate in a variety of career activities, ranging from STEM workshops to enterprise activities. The school has developed valuable links with Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster as well with external agencies and representatives from local business and industry. By the end of Year 14 the pupils are well informed about the full range of pathways to higher education; the vast majority of Year 14 pupils progress to higher education.
Local and Global Citizenship
Local and Global Citizenship is taught as a discrete subject in Year 8 and as a full module within the Learning for Life and Work GCSE in Years 11 and 12. Students who are not studying towards the GCSE will still follow a Local and Global Citizenship programme in their LLW class. Delivery of the Revised Curriculum allows for fulfilment of Local and Global Citizenship objectives in Year 9 and Year 10. Throughout KS3 and KS4, the programmes delivered are based on four key themes: Diversity and Inclusion, Equality and Justice, Democracy and Active Participation and Human Rights and Social Responsibility. A range of different teaching strategies is encouraged in the delivery of Local and Global Citizenship. These include: action-planning and target-setting, decision making, debates, role plays, educational visits, inter-school activities, social activities, audiovisual presentations; learning through games, questionnaires and action based research.
Citizenship is also promoted widely through the school ethos and within an inter-school and cross-community context. All departments have included the contribution made by Citizenship in their departmental policy.