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St Kieran's Primary School, Poleglass, Dunmurry, Belfast


Our Primary Curriculum

Our curriculum is derived from the Northern Ireland Curriculum. This is the key blueprint of our primary curriculum model, and core to our delivery of a high quality provision for all primary aged pupils.

Through our taught curriculum we aspire to:

  • have high expectations for all pupils, staff and wider community
  • ensure any perceived social barriers and educational ability are removed to ensure that all pupils attain at the highest levels and are well equipped to develop their education further when they transition to Secondary School
  • provide equity of provision for all pupils in terms of curriculum quality, breadth and opportunity irrespective of ability
  • engender impeccable learning behaviours which embed the high quality teaching and learning, thus develop interested, independent and lifelong learners who think creatively
  • develop a creative and rich curriculum built around a strong emphasis and commitment to achieving well in Maths, English and UICT, as well as all other aspects of the NI Curriculum
  • provide a nurturing, safe environment for all pupils through our Pastoral strategies and Preventative Curriculum
  • ensure pupils learn in the most vibrant, stimulating environment that we can provide
  • ensure maximum positive impact on our wider community through providing the highest possible quality of education for children and families in our area
  • a well-resourced, high quality program of continual professional development for all staff, to support learning, ensure challenge for all abilities and ensure high expectations of all pupils

Curriculum Principles:

We believe that a broad and balanced curriculum is essential to providing children with a fulfilling and challenging experience in the primary school. There is a strong focus on the core subjects of English, Maths and UICT.  However, the Arts, the 'World Around Us', the preventative Curriculum and PE provide ideal forums for giving children real, multi-sensory experiences that excite and inspire them to apply their learning in the core subjects in a creative and individual way. We raise the status of these subjects while continuing to provide a rigorous education in the core subjects.

We provide a strong emphasis on developing a curriculum that enables learners to grasp the fundamentals quickly.  This provides a real depth and breadth, where children can use and apply their knowledge and skills independently in a meaningful way.  An example of such is our whole school development of Maths Mastery.

Despite the age of the buildings, there is a key focus on our learning environments, as we believe, the spaces children learn in have the potential to transform the way pupils learn. 

A connected approach to planning by teachers for high quality learning shifts the focus of learning away from surface learning towards deeper levels of understanding.

Curriculum Entitlement

Our rich curriculum ensures that we strive to provide a world class education for all of the children within our school. Enrichment is every pupil’s entitlement and we promote opportunities to learn beyond the classroom which inspire and motivate pupils to achieve outstanding progress in every lesson.

Quality teaching in each class is at the core of this aim. All planning is therefore appropriately differentiated so that all children can fully access the curriculum and make progress at their level.

Through our dedicated SEN team and three Learning Support Units, there is also an additional range of support and expert advice that can be put in place to meet the needs of children with special educational needs or when we identify that a child might be underachieving.

Learning Principles

We maximise learning and progress by ensuring pupils:

  • have mutual respect between themselves, adults in the school and parents
  • staff and parents have high expectations of them and value their work
  • have high self-esteem
  • understand it is acceptable to seek help because mistakes are part of learning
  • can reflect on and evaluate their own and their peers’ work by using constructive advice
  • share responsibility for setting targets, planning and organising aspects of their work
  • understand the purpose of the task and what the finished outcome will be
  • are given challenging activities and opportunities to enquire and discover for themselves
  • as learners move, from their Foundation Years carefully planned curriculum activities and more importantly experience of exploration and discovery through high quality indoor and outdoor play, to a clearly defined NI Curriculum at Key Stages 1 and 2.  This increases the need for a whole class teaching approach for the greater part of the day towards the end of Key Stage 1 and into Key Stage 2.
  • have a wide variety of quality learning experiences which recognise the different styles (e.g. visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) and pace by which children learn
  • are taught the skills to work collaboratively and independently
  • aspire to be lifelong learners and regard learning as a vehicle to personal enrichment
  • are provided with rich and varied opportunities to enhance their learning through new technologies

The Classroom

Teachers will:

  • work with children to establish a stimulating, welcoming and well organised environment which encourages collaborative and independent learning and promotes children’s natural curiosity
  • create displays which demonstrate the range of children’s achievements throughout the curriculum and reflect positively the diversity of children’s experiences and background
  • provide a range of resources which are accessible, clearly labelled and used imaginatively and they will teach pupils to choose, collect and return resources used to support their learning, and to tidy up at the end of sessions
  • establish routines that will maximise learning time
  • provide a range of learning experiences catering for varied learning styles and learning needs in terms of high quality differentiation for less able or more able pupils

Planning & Delivery


  • plan according to the NIC statutory requirement and internal policies/schemes/lines of development that have been agreed with reference to the NI Curriculum
  • have good/outstanding knowledge of all subjects being taught and access the expertise of colleagues where appropriate
  • take account of children’s different learning styles and abilities and ensure the curriculum is accessible to all through a differentiated approach throughout all learning opportunities
  • provide a range of opportunities for pupil response and presentation of ideas e.g. whiteboards, talk partners, physical resources, movement, rehearsal of answer etc.
  • through short, medium and long term planning ensure that there is an appropriate structure and progression to learning opportunities
  • plan to include clearly defined learning objectives and expectations to inform children of the learning focus - learning objectives (WALTs) are shared with pupils both orally and visually for reinforcement
  • where required share high quality and understandable success criteria (WILFs) to ensure children know what is expected of them when they create and complete a piece of work
  • use assessment to inform such plans and the achievement of individual pupils to set new targets for future learning where appropriate
  • plan for effective plenary sessions that consolidate new learning and identify future learning needs
  • summarise, review and evaluate lessons for effectiveness, reinforcement or to support a change in learning focus
  • provide relevant resources and a range of media including new technologies to make instruction more effective
  • provide activities will be challenging but structured so that children can achieve
  • plan and model approaches to learning, such as hypothesising, discussing, reviewing, previewing, predicting, interpreting, and evaluating; plan and use questioning techniques (skilfully framed, open and closed) to challenge and extend children’s thinking utilising the Thinking Skills & Personal Capabilities (TS&PC) aspect of the NIC
  • respond and mark pupils’ work in ways which seek to extend their learning 

Maximising Learning Time


  • make the daily routines explicit to the children - this includes high quality early work provision from Years 1 to Year 7
  • ensure that the children work to the best of their ability and use their time effectively
  • giving pupils explicit time targets can aid pace and provide clear expectations
  • actively encourage pupils to respect and understand the value of learning time
  • sensitively balance the need for pace with the quality of learning experience
  • ensure lessons are well paced and pupils are expected to complete work set within an appropriate time framework, however, it is accepted that children will, on occasions, need to be given opportunities to extend or complete work
  • devote as little time as possible to routine management (e.g. registers) so that maximum time is given to teaching and learning
  • ensure that they and their classes arrive and leave places at the appropriate time

Climate for Learning

The quality of interaction between teachers and pupils, and the relationship they form is paramount to a successful climate for learning, as are teacher expectations. A classroom must constantly demand more from every individual yet recognise each pupil’s own self-worth and celebrate personal achievements, both big and small. As a result, pupils are motivated by their surroundings and use the environment’s resources to be self-disciplined learners. This is where it is important to attribute pupil success to hard work rather than ability and to value resilience over failure.

Within our school we aim to ensure, with careful thought and planning, an effective classroom environment where every classroom is used as an interactive resource supporting teaching, learning and assessment. We believe that a well organised and stimulating environment has a direct impact on the quality of teaching and learning, and therefore supports raising standards. Generating an effective climate for learning involves maintaining a purposeful physical working environment and developing pupils’ own positive learning behaviours.

Learning best takes place in an environment which:

  • is challenging and stimulating
  • is purposeful and calm
  • is organised
  • is well resourced
  • makes learning accessible
  • is encouraging and appreciative
  • is welcoming
  • provides equal opportunities

Pupils’ Learning Behaviours

It is our responsibility to create a climate in which all pupils establish and maintain learning behaviours that ensure they are both well prepared for learning and develop resilience and a growth mind-set in to order to be successful.

Growth mindset is a concept discovered by the psychologist Carol Dweck following her research into achievement and success. She concluded that brains and talent do not automatically bring success, but instead nurturing and developing abilities is the fundamental key to achieving potential.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success without effort.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work, brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and resilience, determination and ambition that is essential for great accomplishment.

Our Pastoral, nurturing and Barnardo's PATHs environment help to foster this positive growth mindset by ensuring the children are settled and ready to learn.  Calmness and learning go hand-in-hand!

Subject Areas

We deliver the core curriculum through a specific approach that aims to develop the children’s basic skills in Literacy, Numeracy and UICT (although UICT should be seen as an integral subject in all areas of the curriculum, not a stand-alone subject).  We also make links between areas of learning and pupils’ everyday experiences, and promote good social skills.  Pupils are encouraged to be ambitious and to work hard to achieve their goals.

In addition to the core subjects the curriculum consists of Religion; the Arts; the 'World Around Us'; the preventative Curriculum and PE.  These subjects along with the core subjects (where possible) are taught through a thematic approach.  

Learning experiences are progressive and aim to provide our pupils with the knowledge, experiences and skills that they need to progress to the next stage of their learning and to prepare them for life in the wider community.   This can mean that pupils learn different aspects of subjects and in different ways as they progress through the school. For example, the Foundation Stage curriculum promotes many aspects of core learning through play, however this is continued in KS1 and KS2 through activity based learning developed through our themed units and topic work.

We want every child to enjoy their learning and to achieve exceptional outcomes.  Pupils are therefore involved in evaluating learning experiences and encouraged to identify their own next steps where possible.


For children in the Primary School, Literacy is a key to lifelong learning and opportunities for success. Effective Literacy teaching develops pupils' linguistic and cognitive abilities through the explicit integration of reading, writing, talking & listening into instruction across all content areas and activities. Oral language, reading, writing, and content instruction support and enrich each other. All children must be provided with experience in all these areas if they are to achieve success! 


Throughout the school, but specifically in P1 to P5 we teach Linguistic Phonics.  Teachers are expected to take a VAK (Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic) approach to teaching phonics to support all learning styles. 


The Numeracy Curriculum has four Strands: Number, Measures, Shape & Space and Data Handling. The Strands are not discrete domains of learning; rather, they interact and connect in the learning experience of the child.  Our maths teaching is done through the Mastery Approach.

Using Information Communication Technology - UICT

UICT is important in primary education because it enables children to search for the information they need and to organise what they have found. As children progress through the key stages, they become increasingly responsible for their own UICT learning and the resultant presentation of this work.  Areas of focus include - utilising presentation software; mathematical programming; coding; blogging; information Literacy skills; animation and video making; 3-D printing; learning to manipulate a range of hardware and software according to the needs of the task in hand.


Religious Education is the "core of the core curriculum" in a Catholic school (Pope John Paul II). Placing RE at the core of the curriculum in our school helps the school to fulfil its mission to educate the whole person in discerning the meaning of their existence, since RE is concerned not only with intellectual knowledge but also includes emotional and affective learning.

Thematic/Topic Work

Whole-school theme based learning happens in each year group.  Planning and lessons are designed to immerse pupils in a cross curricular theme.

These themes are exciting topics which act as stimuli for all the learning that takes places within most of the curriculum subjects. Our themes allow for subjects to be linked, i.e. they are cross curricular, and also give context to the skills which the children are learning. Topics are chosen to meet the requirements of the NI Curriculum and to reflect the children’s interests as well as events happening locally, nationally or internationally.

When selecting topic themes, we give much thought to selecting topics which:

  • place the development of children’s Literacy, where possible Numeracy, and definitely UICT at the heart of all learning
  • are broad enough to allow for a range of curriculum subjects to be explored in sufficient depth across the school
  • can be explored at an appropriate depth and level of challenge according to the year group
  • enthuse staff and pupils
  • allow for exciting ‘wow’ events to take place to capture children’s imagination
  • allow for constant reinforcement of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development
  • are accessible to all students of all abilities including those with SEN and EAL

In selecting the topic themes, staff are careful to choose topics which allow a broad range of curriculum subjects to be explored. Therefore, staff give careful consideration in selecting themes which can be taken in a variety of directions, exploring a wide range of skills across the curriculum. In some themes, certain subjects are more prominent than in others. For example, in a History based theme, there may be less Geography or Science occurring. It is the role of Co-ordinators and the Senior Leadership Team to ensure that adequate time is dedicated to each area of WAU across each year group over the course of a year, thus ensuring the statutory requirements are covered and progression occurs. It is also part of the role of Co-ordinators to ensure that the themes facilitate the provision of their subject and suggest ways that staff could link the themes to their subject.

Depth: We understand that the topic themes must allow for the depth of study to be maintained in each year group. In order to ensure that this happens, staff only make links to the theme when it is appropriate and, if skills or knowledge need to be taught discretely, they will take place. Co-ordinators and the SLT take responsibility for monitoring the breadth and depth at which their subjects are taught.

Progression: With each year group in a team following the same theme, it is important to ensure that progression takes place. Teachers have access to progression documents for each subject and these are used to ensure that the lessons they are planning for each subject are age and level appropriate. Subject Co-ordinators and Key Stage Co-ordinators monitor these documents to ensure that teachers are providing appropriate challenge across the curriculum.

Our Behaviour, Nurture and Supportive Curriculum

It is our priority to ensure children have the opportunity to learn and to make progress.  It is imperative that we work with our pupils to address any identified need and how that can present a barrier to their learning.  Once identified, we use a number of strategies to support improvements throughout each day and as part of our curriculum.  This includes our Pastoral programme, PATHs, our nurturing ethos (recognised through our Schools of Sanctuary Award in 2018), religion and the Preventative Curriculum.

We promote self-reflection & accountability.  These are tools that we teach and use constantly, mistakes are part of our everyday learning experiences, how pupils respond to and reflect on setbacks is a key indicator for how we support pupils to find appropriate strategies to be able to manage behaviour and emotions.

Nurture.  Our staff are experienced in supporting small children to develop their social and emotional skills in a safe and secure environment.  Our Preventative Curriculum activities are carefully planned and focus on developing language skills, empathy and promoting positive behaviour.

Break/Lunch Times.  These could previously have been a challenging part of the day for many pupils, we use this as an opportunity to engage with pupils in positive activities, breaking the cycle of not being able to control any established behaviours.  We explore some of the key trigger points that can lead to negative behaviour e.g. competition, choosing sides, sharing and we aim to facilitate cooperative and fun activities that engage pupils and enable them to have time out and reflection periods should they need this.  Some of our pupils lack the capacity to cope in these situations, so a key part of our work is unpicking the issues to enable us to find appropriate coping skills that will enable them to look towards re-integration and self-regulation.  We are showing great progress for such pupils in this regard.

Educational Visits. We use these to assess and model expectations of being out in public, discussing positive strategies and exploring what is appropriate and how others could perceive any negative behaviour.  We support pupils to better understand how to use public transport, ensuring that key life skills form part of our wider programme, in addition to the obvious learning potential that comes from such visits.

Parental Involvement

We understand the importance of parental involvement and the impact that support from home can have on a child’s education. Therefore, we strive to maintain good communication with parents, keeping them informed of what the children will be learning and how they can support this at home. 

We provide regular opportunities for parents to join us in school to learn about our topics and how we teach. Parents are also invited into school for concerts, assemblies, Christmas performances and end of term productions, curricular days, with the intention of sharing and celebrating the work that has happened in school.

Parent Meetings allow parents to meet with their child’s teacher regarding their learning and general development.  In addition, we operate an 'Open Door' Policy which welcomes parents to discuss their child's progress or other issues with the teacher at a mutually convenient time.

A parent’s questionnaire is sent out in order to gain their views on a number of issues, including the curriculum. The results are compiled and a summary is provided for staff, parents and governors so that they can see how their views are making an impact on school development.

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