Curriculum meets individual needs


St Mary’s College in Derry has a fundamental aim: to provide a curriculum that meets the needs of each individual pupil, including access to academic and vocational pathways.

ASDAN courses help them to meet this ambition, while developing pupils’ skills for life and employment and maintaining the school’s promise to students: “Together we will shape your future”.

CoPE‚Äč and Wider Key Skills qualifications are undertaken at Key Stage 4. St Mary’s programme of study includes WorldHost certification – a three-day training course giving learners a thorough understanding of the skills needed to deal with customers effectively in a variety of situations. Pupils are also given the opportunity to participate in 20 hours of work experience, which is often a motivational and driving force for academic achievement in Year 12. Some young people have impressed so much during their placement that they have been offered Saturday jobs as a result.

Several pupils have been entered for the Young Social Innovators project in which they are challenged to work together to find innovative ways of solving reallife problems. One group worked with a local food bank to identify ways they can help make real and lasting change. The pupils found this project very rewarding and gained an understanding the needs of their community.

Abbie McCallion is a Year 11 student at St Mary’s. She said that the customer service training had not only helped her to develop new skills but also enabled her to understand the ways in which she learns best – even leading to better exam results.

“I found out that I am a visual learner and understand information most effectively when I see something, for example, pictures, diagrams, films and videos or demonstrations,” she explained. “I found that creating mind maps to help me revise for my other subjects really works and I have been achieving higher grades in exams.”

Yvonne Connolly, who teaches at the college, said one of the keys to engaging students was empowering them to select the projects they focus on. She said: “Pupils learn the importance of working as part of a team, problem solving and strategies to improve their own learning and performance. Pupils feel included in their education and the decision-making process as they can choose which modules and projects they complete. By choosing topics or projects that pupils find of interest or are passionate about, they are learning the desired skills while being fully engaged and enthused.”