Q/. What does it mean when we say that St Mary's is a Voluntary Aided Catholic School?
What does it mean to be a Catholic Voluntary Aided School and what is the relationship between the Church and the state in the running of Catholic schools?
Catholic schools and academies are owned by the Church but maintained in large part by the state. The Church contributes 10% to capital project costs and all other costs are borne by the state. We call this 10% contribution the Maintenance Fund contributions.
The partnership between the Church and the state has existed since 1944 and allows Catholic families free access to a distinctive Catholic education. The distinctive nature of Catholic schools is practically embodied in the following legal requirements and provisions:
The right of the bishops to determine the content of the RE curriculum in Catholic schools (Vatican)
The right of Catholic schools to worship as a Catholic community
The independence of the inspection of denominational education and worship which, in a Catholic school, cannot be inspected by an Ofsted inspector but must be inspected by an inspector appointed by the bishop (Education Act 2005).
The right of a Catholic school to priorities Catholic children over those of other faiths in the over subscription criteria within Catholic schools’ admissions codes
The requirement that certain key posts within a Catholic school are reserved for practicing Catholics. These posts include head teacher, deputy head teacher and curriculum leader of Religious Education.
The requirement that foundation governors always constitute a majority on the governing body of any Catholic schools. The bishop has the right of appointment and dismissal of foundation governors in Catholic schools.
These distinctive characteristics of Catholic schools are guaranteed both canonically and statutorily.
Why is Religious Education important in Catholic Schools?
Religious Education is the "core of the core curriculum" in a Catholic school (Pope St John Paul II). Placing RE at the core of the curriculum in Catholic schools helps the school to fulfill its mission to educate the whole person in discerning the meaning of their existence, since "Religious Education is concerned not only with intellectual knowledge but also includes emotional and affective learning. It is in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of what it is to be human truly becomes clear. Without religious education, pupils would be deprived of an essential element of their formation and personal development, which helps them attain a vital harmony between faith and culture." (Religious Education Curriculum Directory p4). Furthermore, religiously literate children and young people are able to engage in a fully informed critique of all knowledge, "leading, for example, to an understanding of the relationship between science and religion or history, and between theology, sport and the human body." (Religious Education Curriculum Directory p4).
What is the purpose of Religious Education in Catholic schools?
Catholic schools, with RE at their core, exist in order to "help parents, priests and teachers to hand on the Deposit of Faith in its fullness to a new generation of young people so that they may come to understand the richness of the Catholic faith, and thereby be drawn into a deeper communion with Christ in his Church." (Religious Education Curriculum Directory pvii). With this as their primary aim, Catholic schools serve diverse populations of pupils and within this context the Religious Education Curriculum Directory (RECD) makes the aims of Religious Education explicit:
To present engagingly a comprehensive content which is the basis of knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith;
To enable pupils continually to deepen their religious and theological understanding and be able to communicate this effectively;
To present an authentic vision of the Church's moral and social teaching so that pupils can make a critique of the underlying trends in contemporary culture and society;
To raise pupils' awareness of the faith and traditions of other religious communities in order to respect and understand them;
To develop the critical faculties of pupils so that they can relate their Catholic faith to daily life;
To stimulate pupils' imagination and provoke a desire for personal meaning as revealed in the truth of the Catholic faith;
To enable pupils to relate the knowledge gained through Religious Education to their understanding of other subjects in the curriculum;
To bring clarity to the relationship between faith and life, and between faith and culture.
The outcome of excellent Religious Education is religiously literate and engaged young people who have the knowledge, understanding and skills – appropriate to their age and capacity – to reflect spiritually, and think ethically and theologically, and who are aware of the demands of religious commitment in everyday life (Religious Education Curriculum Directory p6).
Who is responsible for determining the content and assessment of Religious Education in Catholic schools?
The content of Religious Education (RE) and how it is assessed is determined by each diocesan bishop for the schools within his diocese. The Department of Education and Formation of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales sets general guidelines for the content of the RE curriculum in all Catholic schools in England and Wales in the Religious Education Curriculum Directory. The same department has also set out the manner in which RE is to be assessed in all Catholic schools in England and Wales in Levels of Attainment in Religious Education.
Religious Education, alongside the National Curriculum, forms the Basic Curriculum in all schools (Education Act 2002). Whereas the content of the National Curriculum subjects is determined by the government, the determination of curriculum content of Religious Education in Catholic schools is determined by the Catholic bishops (School Standards and Framework Act 1998).
Do Catholic schools teach about other religions?
Yes, all Catholic schools are required to teach about other religions as part of the Religious Education curriculum. This is a feature of Catholic RE in all stages of a child's development, from the beginning of primary school until the end of secondary school.
Why do Catholic schools teach about other religions?
Teaching about other religions is important for several reasons:
Learning about the religion and cultures of those who do not share the Catholic faith is one of the ways in which Catholic schools embody the call to love one’s neighbour. As the Church says, “The love for all men and women is necessarily also a love for their culture. Catholic schools are, by their very vocation, intercultural.” (Congregation for Catholic Education p61).
It is required by the Bishops, who state that the Catholic nature of our schools entails “a willingness… to try to understand better the religion of one’s neighbours, and to experience something of their religious life and culture.” (Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales).
Many of the children in Catholic schools are practicing members of other faiths and our schools need to be places of hospitality for these children. It is an act of respect and courtesy that our curriculum helps them to reflect on the nature of their own religious identity. As the Church says, “All children and young people [including those of other faiths in our Catholic schools] must have the same possibilities for arriving at the knowledge of their own religion as well as of elements that characterize other religions.” (Congregation for Catholic Education)
It prepares the pupils in our Catholic schools for life in modern Britain, giving them an understanding of the beliefs of others. This in turn will improve social cohesion and contribute to the common good by increasing mutual respect between those of different religions.
How much of the RE curriculum is given to the teaching of other religions?
The RECD does not prescribe how much of the curriculum ought to be devoted to the teaching of other religions, however it is clearly an expectation that it should happen in every key stage. In practice, most Catholic schools would spend approximately one half term per year on the teaching of religions other than Catholic Christianity. The requirement in the revised GCSE that 25% of the study should cover a second religion is not incompatible with this practice. This is because in Catholic schools the 10% of curriculum time which is given to RE is more than is required to teach a GCSE which is designed to be taught in fewer hour than this. The expectation has always been that this additional time which Catholic RE departments have is to be given to the supplementing of the GCSE syllabus in such a way as to allow it to achieve the broader aims of Religious Education outlined above. As a rough estimate, 25% of the GCSE would amount to around 10-15% of the curriculum in KS4 in a Catholic school.
Who inspects Catholic schools?
All Catholic schools and academies (including Catholic independent and special schools) are subject to a diocesan inspection (which for maintained schools is also a section 48 inspection) at least every five years. These inspections will be carried out by inspectors, licenced by the Catholic Schools Inspectorate, and appointed by the Bishop in whose diocese the school or academy is situated. (Education Act 2005).
All maintained Catholic schools and academies are also subject to Ofsted inspections at the intervals prescribed by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector. Catholic independent schools will also be inspected by an independent schools’ inspectorate.
What do Catholic schools teach about creation and evolution?
Catholics teach that God is the creator of all things visible and invisible. By this we mean that everything that exists has its ultimate source and origin in God.
Catholic schools however are not “creationist”. A “creationist” is someone who believes that the theological truths expressed in the first books of Genesis are also literal scientific and historic descriptions of the beginnings of the world. Some creationists would also insist that the earth is only approximately 6000 years old. This is not the position of the Catholic Church which rejects the creationist interpretation of Genesis. That is, Catholic schools do not teach that God’s creation of the world implies anything about how this creation occurred. The Catholic Church is clear that evolution is currently the best explanation of the origin and diversity of life on earth and that the earth is as old as current scientific orthodoxy suggests (approximately 4.54 billion years old). The Church would say that the doctrine of creation expresses a theological truth – that all existence derives from and depends upon God, whilst evolution expresses scientific truths about the history of the physical universe.
Q/. How does communication between the school and parents work?
A/. In a primary school most communication will be face to face but this is not always possible.
We publish a range of information about our curriculum and learning on the class pages and there’s an online school calendar. There’s a termly class newsletter (on the class pages) and weekly whole school newsletter which is uploaded to the newsletter page of the website. To receive the newsletter via email please register using this link. On the class pages you will also find the homework diary for each week.
We will send messages to parents via the Parent Hub app. To download the app please visit this link.
From Summer 2021 the Parent Ambassador Group will provide a platform:
• for parents to pose questions and get answers about the running of the school
• for parents to give their views and influence the direction of the school
• for the school and Governors to share relevant information on school policy / developments
• for the school and Governors to get feedback and views from parents
For a full explanation please read our communication guidelines.
Q/. What are the school day timings and how to we drop off and pick up?
A/. Children go straight into class from 8.45am. School ends at 3.15pm for Reception to Year Six children. It's 8.45am-11.45am for Nursery children or (if taking up or paying for the the 30 hours offer) 8:45am to 3:15pm.
Parents bringing their children to school or collecting from school safely must not obstruct the school gates or parking on the yellow lines, or in the school car park.
Parents of younger children are reminded to keep hold of their child’s hand when arriving at and leaving the site – this includes nursery children leaving at 11:45am.
No parent should drive into school.
Arrival at school
• Aim to arrive at school for 8:45am (and no earlier) so that children can go straight into their classrooms. Remember the front of the school is the school carpark and not a playground. The gates open at 8:45am as to the classrooms.
• No child must be left unattended on the playground. The children are your responsibility until they are handed over (EYFS, Y1-3) enter their classrooms (Y4-6). If children are dropped off without supervision the school will contact you to ask that this does not happen again.
• Parents should note that the school does not provide a member of staff to supervise children before the doors open at 8:45am (unless the children are part of SunnySmiles at St Mary’s or a pre-school club)
• All children must be in school by 8.55 am – Gates and doors will be closed at this time and as parents, it is your responsibility to be on time. The impact of lateness is not just on your children but also on all the others in the class when lessons have to be stopped and the teacher has to go and explain to late children what they need to do.
• Once a child arrives on school premises (no earlier than 8:45 and no later than 8:55) they must not leave without permission. We operate a ‘softstart’ to help provide a calm start to the day and to ease congestion on site and on local roads. The school day for KS1 and KS2 pupils begins at 8.45am and ends at 3.15pm.
• Doors open at 8:45am for Nursery children. The school day finishes at 11:45am for Nursery pupils.
Handover in the mornings
• Children in the Nursery, Reception Class and from Years 1, 2 and 3 must be handed into the care of a member of staff at the classroom as soon as they arrive in school. Children in Y4-6 can make their own way into school from the playground.
• The school office is open from 8.30am for parents wishing to speak to the office staff.
• Class teachers will be available from 8.45am in class but may be unable to talk for any length due to supervising the children. Parents should consider making an appointment for another time.
• Messages from parents (such as change in adult picking up) are written on the small whiteboards in each class.
The School actively discourages late arrival. The register is open at 8.45am and closes at 9.30am. Any child arriving after 9.30am is marked as an Unauthorised absence for the whole of the morning session. Children arriving after 8:55am have to come through the main office doors and use the onscreen entry/exit programme to record their entry into the school.
If you arrive on site after 8:55am you should take your child straight to the office and not attempt to get them in through the gates or the classroom door. All late arrivals need to be logged on the entry system.
The school monitors closely those pupils who frequently arrive after 8.55am but not late enough to be marked as Unauthorized Absence – ie not after 9.30am. Reasons why pupils who are not consistently on time are investigated by the school.
Illness, Open days/Evenings, External Exams, Medical and Dental Appointments
Parents are encouraged to make appointments out of school hours. Children leaving school premises during school hours must be signed out (and back in if returning that day) using the online attendance programme in the foyer.
Parents are asked to report absences on the first day of absence either by: using the form on the school website or by phoning the school office and leaving a message on the answer phone. Parents need to use one of these 2 options – there is no need to use both. If you don’t inform us the office will contact you.
Collection from school
• Children from the Nursery, Reception Class and from Years 1, 2 and 3 will be handed into the care of a responsible adult at the end of the school day.
• Y4& Y5 children are dismissed into the playground. Only Y6 children may walk home on their own this is to help prepare them for secondary school.
• No primary aged child will be allowed to be in charge of another child.
• Parents and carers should inform the class teacher or the school office if someone different is going to collect their child.
• Sometimes parents have to arrange for someone to collect children at short notice. If we are unsure about a change in collection arrangements we may check with parents by telephone.
Pupils who are not collected after 15 minutes are escorted to the main entrance to wait inside of the security doors. The teacher/LSA informs the office. The Office contacts parents/carers. If a child is not collected by 4:15pm, the School will contact Social Care. When these children are collected they must also be logged out on the school entry/exit system.
If, as the result of a family split or a court order, one parent or partner is no longer allowed access to a child, parents are asked to inform the school in writing immediately. Equally as important, parents are asked to inform us as or when the situation is resolved.
Any person who appears unfit to take full responsibility for the child he/she has arrived to collect, will not be allowed to take the child from the premises. If the said person is parent or carer of the child in our care, we will try to contact other contact names on the school database. If that is not possible and the situation cannot be resolved and we feel that the child is at risk, we will contact the duty officer at the Social Care Department.
Children under the age of 16 will not be allowed to pick children up and should not drop them off either.
The school acknowledges that those with Parental Responsibility have a legal right to collect their children from school which will be respected by the school. In the event of any dispute, it is the responsibility of the parents to notify the school of the arrangements that have been made. The school will of course comply with any court orders that may be in place.
Q/. What do I do if my child is late to school?
A/. If your child is late for school, even by a few minutes, it is vital that you go to the School Office. This is not just so that we can monitor punctuality, but is essential for fire safety and security. You must take your child to the school office if you arrive at school after 8:55am. Do not take them to class office if the gates are still open.
Q/. What are the arrangements for Friday?
A/. These arrangements cover Y1-6 as EYFS are not involved in the Friday provision. Children in Y1-6 should come into school in their PE kits, they will remain in their kit for the whole day. On Fridays every Y1-6 class will have one session of PE taken by an external provider - Kick. The other session will be covered by the school staff. Children will be dismissed at the end of the day in the normal way. Children without PE kit will still take part in the activities.
Q/. Who needs PE kit?
A/. All children in Y1-6 need PE kit. Children in EYFS will not need PE kit as they will not be changing for activities. Children in Y1-6 have 2 PE sessions a week. Y4 children swim and this counts for one of these sessions.
Q/. How do I report my child's absence from school?
A/. You only need to inform us using one of these methods. Please either telephone the school on 020 8560 7166 as soon as possible and on each day of your child’s absence from school; we have a dedicated answering service where you can leave a message. Or use the dedicated absence form on the 'Contact Us' tab. It is very important that you let us know your child’s symptoms so that we can monitor any possible epidemics. If your child has an appointment you will need to use the form and then email the full details to email@example.com. We need these details for reporting purposes. Please send a letter of explanation to school on your child's return.
Q/. How do I go about arranging school dinners for my child?
A/. School meals are free and compulsory for Infant children. All meals choices need to be booked via ParentPay. For Junior children you will need to be pay for the meals via ParentPay when you book them. If you’ve forgotten your log on details please call into the school office. If you don’t have internet access at home you can use one of the office computers to charge your account. Sometimes we have a special menu (for instance Patron Saints, Ash Wednesday and the Christmas Meal) on these days the choices on ParentPay don’t change and you will need to use the colours of the replacement meal options and make your choice in the usual way.
Q/. How can I buy school uniform?
A/. Our main uniform supplier is School Days in Whitton High Street. You can order online here. Details of other providers are available from the school office. You do not need to buy uniform with the logo on.
Q/. Can I take my child out of school for a holiday during term time?
A/. No. Holiday during term time will not be authorised. Ordinarily any absences (other than through illness) will be recorded as unauthorised and you may incur a fixed penalty fine and risk your child losing their place at our school.
Q/. How do I apply for a place in your school for my child?
A/. As we are a Voluntary Aided school Governors oversee admissions to the school. Please look here and then contact the school office if you are interested in a place for your child.
Q/. How will I be informed if there is an enforced school closure?
A/. We will send a message out to parents via the Parent Hub app as well as putting a message on the home page of the website. You can also check the Hounslow website.
Q/. What do I do if my child is prescribed medication?
A/. Parents can arrange to come into school to administer medication to their own children if necessary. Antibiotic doses that are administered 3 times a day should be given before and after school and at bedtime. If the medicine is required 4 times a day please ask in the office to arrange a time for you or another relative to give any additional required dose. For long term or ongoing medication, parents are asked to complete and sign a School Health Care Plan, a copy can also be requested at the office. Children with asthma, severe allergies, etc keep their medication in the Medical Room; these are given by a First Aid trained member of staff.
Q/. How long before my child can return to school after an illness?
A/. In the case of vomiting and diarrhoea your child should remain absent from school for 48 hours following their last episode. If you are unsure please call us.
Q/. What do I do if I need to see a teacher?
A/. Teachers are normally available for brief enquiries before and after school. If you need a longer appointment, please contact your child's teacher or the office staff who will be happy to arrange this for you. Parent teacher meetings are held once a term. The summer session is a drop-in with no need to sign up. Details of how to sign up will be sent to you closer to the time.
Q/. Why does the school ask for contributions a Maintenance fund?
A/. As a Voluntary Aided school St Mary’s receives 90% of these funds from the Government with the remaining 10% coming from contributions (in the form of standing orders) from parents. These standing orders can be set to pay monthly (£8.50) or £102 yearly. If you are a UK tax payer then the Diocese can reclaim the tax as Gift Aid. For this reason UK tax payers are asked to pay their contributions into the Diocesan controlled account.
Q/. How are parents’ evening slots booked?
A/. We use SchoolCloud to enable parents to book appointment slots.
Q/. How quickly do you respond to letters or emails?
If you email regarding an arrangement for your child, we will respond as quickly as possible. However, if you are reporting a change to arrangements for the same day, we would advise you to telephone, if possible. If you don't get an acknowledgement of an email, please contact again, in case it has gone astray. We aim to acknowledge letters/emails within five working days, however, depending on the nature of the enquiry, a full response may take a little longer.
Q/. How do I make a complaint or raise a concern?
A/. Every effort will be made to meet with parents, to listen to their concerns, offer explanation or an apology and agree a way forward. Occasionally a concern will be too serious to be handled in this way, perhaps needing greater investigation; or the person concerned may not feel that the answers given so far have been acceptable or adequate. In such circumstances, the concern will become a complaint and the formal procedure should be rigorously followed. In almost all cases your concern or complaint will be investigated by the Deputy Headteacher and he will contact you. This is because the Deputy Head is the schools complaints investigator. This will be the case even if you have emailed the Headteacher. You can see our complaint’s policy here.
Q/. How do children celebrate their birthdays whilst in school?
A/. Children can wear their own clothes to school on their birthdays (or on a day nearest to their birthday if their birthday is on a PE day or during the holidays). We don't allow children to bring in cake or sweets.