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FAQs for Prospective Parents

1. We are not Catholic, can we still apply?

You do not have to be Catholic to attend St Austin’s – we welcome children from all faiths and none.  We are a Catholic school for children, not a school for Catholic children!  Catholic schools welcome children from families from a range of faith backgrounds. 33% of pupils at Catholic schools are of other faiths or none. Catholic schools educate more than a quarter of a million non-Catholics and have a track record of supporting minority religions as they integrate into the local community.


2. As a Catholic School, do you follow the national curriculum?

All Catholic voluntary aided schools teach the national curriculum including evolution and reproduction in science. Catholic schools are obliged to follow guidance from the Catholic Bishops' Conference which states that Religious Education must provide pupils with a basis of knowledge and theological understanding of the Catholic faith and an awareness of the faith and traditions of other religions in order to respect and understand them.


3. What reading schemes do you use?

At St. Austin's we love to read! Staff are committed to fostering a love of reading to ensure pupils engage in positive and inspiring experiences. Our pupils are exposed to a wide range of stories, poems, rhymes and non-fiction texts to promote the development of reading and to encourage a love of reading. Reading is at the heart of our curriculum and drives all learning at school.  We are extremely enthusiastic about the positive attitudes our pupils have to word reading and reading comprehension and this partly due to our engaging and focussed Whole Class Reading Approach. Each of our lessons has focus on a Reading Skill and developing vocabulary is a key aspect of every lesson. Our pupils are encouraged to work in mixed ability pairs during the lesson and this is monitored regularly and the partners change each half term.

We believe that teaching pupils to read using this approach is successful for our school for the following reasons:

• The lessons are structured to the teaching of reading

• It teaches specific reading skills needed to reach Age-Related Expectations and beyond

• Engaging Class Texts can be used

• It builds fluency

• It links to other areas of the curriculum

• Incorporates Guided Reading

• Uses pictures and text, extracts and books.

• Allows for whole class modelling

• It incorporates reading to pupils, with pupils and allows pupils to read in pairs / to a teacher.

• Allows time for written answers to questions

• Adds variety, enthusiasm and interest to reading lessons

• Pupils are able to see and use SPAG in context of a text

Alongside of our Whole Class Reading Approach, pupils have the opportunity to read on a regular basis. This includes:

Individual Reading Time with the teacher 1:1

Home Reading Books linked to Phonic Phase (EY and KS1) or level of reading (KS2)

In KS1 and EY, book band abilities are used for group reading once per week.

Free reading time to encourage Reading for Enjoyment

Timetabled Library Time

RWI Story time Books

Our Guided Reading Curriculum Time Allocations are as follows:

Nursery / Reception - 1 hour 40 minutes per week

Class 2 and Up– 2 hours 30 minutes per week

This can be split into shorter lessons or they can be up to one hour at a time, depending on the age/stage of pupils.

Our pupils learn to read and write effectively and quickly using the Read Write Inc. Phonics programme. They progress onto Read Write Inc. Literacy and Language and Read Write Inc. Spelling once they can read with accuracy and speed.


4. What discipline and reward systems are in place?

At our school each child is assigned a house team. Throughout the day pupils can earn house points that contribute towards a team total that is shared during our Celebration Assembly that is held each Friday. There is a weekly reward for the winning team and a termly reward for the overall winner.

On a weekly basis each teacher nominates a pupil to be ‘Star of the Week’, this can be based on their work in class, homework, effort, behaviour or for making a positive contribution to school life.


5. What is SEN provision like?

Mrs J Harratt is our SEN expert, please feel free to call her and have a chat regarding any concerns.  Where a child appears behind expected levels, or where their progress gives cause for concern, teachers will observe and monitor the child’s learning and we will talk to parents/carers and the child (as appropriate) to gather information.

Initially, children will receive high-quality first teaching, targeting their areas of weakness and differentiated to meet their needs. If a child’s progress continues to be less than expected we will review their needs.

In order to support individual learner needs, Personalised Learning Plans (formerly IEPs) are created to provide specific, targeted support. These are overseen by staff in collaboration with the SENCO, and indicate the support a child may require. This support is provided by Learning Mentors, Teachers or other agencies as appropriate.  The plans identify the area of need: communication and interaction; cognition and learning: social, emotional and mental health difficulties; or sensory and/or physical needs.

There are four broad categories of SEND:

Cognition and Learning

Social, Mental and Emotional Health

Sensory and Physical

Communication and Interaction

We provide support in all of these areas

The process of SEN identification and provision is cyclical: assess the child’s needs; plan support and intervention; put (do) the planned provision into action; and review progress.

The school has a SEN / Inclusion Link Governor (Mr J McCormick) to help to oversee provision. We constantly review our practice, and relentlessly pursue the most effective provision for our children. Personalised Learning Plans will be reviewed at least termly, but are also a working document and embedded into classroom reflection. Provision Mapping Plans target are reviewed every 7 weeks, identifying the most effective support possible for each individual learner.


6. How does playtime work?

Playtime runs at different times during the morning for the different age groups of children and the children are able to use the playground and, when the weather permits, the sports field and adventure playground.  Play Leaders and Year 6 buddies support our younger pupils to access games and new activities.


7. What is lunch provision? Are there kitchens or is the lunch brought in? Is there a healthy eating policy?

School meals are prepared on site and there is a 3 -week rotation of menu choices. Children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are eligible for Universal Free School meals and pupils from Nursery, Years 3-6 make payments via our cash-free system, Parent Pay.  All meals provided in school are in line with the government’s healthy eating standards and we encourage packed lunches from home to follow the same guidance – a balanced meal, for example a sandwich, portions of fruit and vegetables such as apple/ carrot sticks and for sweets/ chocolate/ crisps to be seen as treat items.


8. What is your anti-bullying policy?

We believe that everybody has the right to be treated with respect. Pupils who are bullying need to learn different ways of behaving. We, as a School community, have a responsibility to respond promptly and effectively to issues of bullying and pupils and parents should be assured that they will be supported when bullying is reported. All members of St Austin’s community understand that bullying will not be tolerated.

If a pupil is being bullied, or suspects that another pupil is being bullied, they must:

1. Report the incidents to parents, staff, peers (record the incident on the MIS)

2. Once reported, the person concerned has a duty to inform Mrs Hoyle the DSL.

3. In all cases of bullying, the incidents will be recorded, investigated (with all those concerned seen) and appropriate action taken by Mrs Hoyle the DSL or member of the leadership group

4. In serious cases, parents of both the victim and the bully should be informed and will be asked to separately come in for a meeting to discuss the problem. Possible sanctions include detentions and exclusion from School (see the Behaviour Policy)

5. If necessary and appropriate, police will be consulted

6. The bullying behaviour or threats of bullying must be investigated and the bullying stopped immediately

7. An attempt will be made to help the bully (bullies) change their behaviour

8. Any evidence of further bullying will be treated very seriously, including the possibility of exclusion from School

Pupils who exhibit continuous bullying habits will be supported through a variety of mechanisms such as:

Pastoral Support Plan

One to one support


Referral to support workers such as the EWO, School Nurse, Younger Minds etc.

Early Help action Plan

Any other suitable intervention


9. Do you have any peer support, e.g. buddy benches, Year 6 'helpers' for reception children in the playground etc?

At St Austin’s our Year 6 pupils relish the opportunity to be buddies to our youngest pupils. For example, they support our Nursery and Reception pupils to play games, join in with others and access equipment at playtimes, use the library to select books and share stories.


10. What does a typical day look like in Reception Class?

Students can arrive at school anytime from 8.40am, via the gates on the playground. At 8.45am children line up and are taken into school by a member of staff from their class.

Lessons begin at 8:50am. 

Break Time –varying times dependent on year group (15 min)

Lunch Time - 12:15pm – 1:05pm. Key Stage 1, 12.30-1.20pm Key Stage 2

Lessons end - 3:20pm.

PE lessons for Nursery and Reception are currently Tuesdays and Friday

In Reception, your child will follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum. This sets the standards for the learning, development, and care of your child. The things your child will learn in Reception have been organised into three prime areas of learning:

  • Communication and Language
  • Physical Development
  • Personal and Social Development

And four specific areas of learning:

  • Literacy

We use the Read, Write, Inc scheme to deliver our phonics sessions. Through this scheme, children are systematically taught the skills of decoding, blending and segmenting in order to provide them with the independent skills to read and therefore be able to access books and other activities independently.

  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the World

Within our Understanding the World lessons, children learn more about themselves and others, make comparisons between the present day and the past, differences between where they live and other countries and difference celebrations and customs.

  • Expressive Arts and Design


11 What will my child do in Reception?

In the EYFS, play is a very important part of your child’s development and most learning will be introduced through a mixture of carefully planned play and some adult-led focused activities. There will also be opportunities for your child to choose activities that appeal to them, following their own particular interests.

Don’t be too concerned if your child says that they have been playing all day – it just means that they have been lucky enough to have experienced staff who have made their learning fun and enjoyable! As the Reception year progresses, the learning may start to become more formal, ready for Year 1 and the National Curriculum.


12. Do you have teaching assistants in every class? Are they full-time? How many other adult staff are available to help in classrooms?

Within the Reception class there are two adults, a class teacher and a teaching assistant.


13. What extra-curricular activities are on offer?

During the course of the year there are a variety of different clubs on offer to our pupils after school, these include multi-sports, football and netball. We also have the availability for pupils to receive music tutoring in KS2 for guitar and wind instruments during the school day.  Children are also invited to apply for a place in the school choir which participates in the Young Voices concert each year.


14. Is there a breakfast or after-school club?

Yes, we offer before and after-school clubs. Our mission here is simple, to provide first-class care in a nurturing and stimulating environment for your child to begin and end their school day. Children will have the opportunity to enjoy a range of activities in both sessions to include, games, arts & crafts, and outside play when weather permits. It will be essential to pre-book your child a place in our sessions and a registration form will need to be completed prior to a child attending the club. We do understand care may be needed on short notice, however, this cannot be guaranteed as staffing ratios will need to be arranged in advance. If you have any enquiries you may contact the school office on 01785 413277.

Morning Session         7:45 – 8.45am - £4.75

Afternoon Session      3:20 - 5:30pm (4.30pm on Friday) - £7

Whilst there is some flexibility for short notice and emergency bookings we cannot guarantee availability of places. Parents who have not pre-booked their children into club will receive an additional invoice, which will need to be paid via ParentPay. If you have any concerns regarding places or payments, please speak to a member of club staff.


15. Is there a PTA and how active is it?

Yes, we have a PTA and are always looking for new members!  In previous years the PTA have organised events such as discos, Christmas and Summer Fayres, Tea with Santa. These events have raised money towards the purchase of mini robots, Kindles and end of term activities such as visits to the Theatre.


16. What tech do you have and how often do they use it? How much e-safety do you cover?

In school we are very fortunate to have a class set of Chrome books, in addition to ipads and desk top computers. All of the pupils at St Austin’s benefit from these resources and they are used across the curriculum. Within both our Computing and PSHE curriculums, e-safety is a focus as we want our pupils to be responsible digital citizens and know how to use devices safely in school and at home.


17. What non-core subjects (e.g. music, art, drama) are covered and do you have specialist teachers for those subjects?

Our timetables are carefully designed to ensure that a broad and balanced curriculum is available for all pupils.

As part of The Painsley Catholic Academy, we are very lucky in that we do have access to specialists teachers who come in regularly from the high school in our multi-academy, Blessed William Howard.  These teachers provide lessons in Music and Mfl (Spanish). 


18. How do you settle children in to the school?

Because we are a small school, we are able to dedicate more time to individual children and their needs.  Prior to joining St Austin’s, we invite children to transition sessions so that they can become familiar with the environment and key staff. There will be times when some children may need a little more reassurance than others and we work closely with parents and families to ensure that their child’s first experience of school is a positive one.


19. What is the usual child-to-staff ratio?

The usual child to staff ratio in the Reception class is 1 adult:15 children


20. Is there an 'Open Door' policy?

Yes, we believe that parents should be able to call in and speak to teachers whenever they feel the need.  We are very aware that the home / school partnership is essential to our children's happiness and so feedback from parents is always valued.  We ensure that staff are there in the mornings during drop off time so that parents can speak to them and equally at home time. If a parent does ever wish to speak with their class teacher outside of these times they can make contact through the school office.


21. How long have the staff been working here?

Mrs Hoyle has been Head of School for more than six years.  Mrs Harratt – Reception teacher- has worked at St Austin’s for over nine years.