A warm welcome to St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School, an Academy within The Lumen Christi Catholic Multi Academy Company (MAC).
I have the great honour and privilege of being appointed Principal of St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School since 1st September 2018.
We hope that this website will give you some insight into what we offer but more importantly communicates how we work and what we are about.
Our mission statement "Christ is at the centre of our school community where we live, love and learn together" is at the heart of all that we do.
We believe all people are imprinted with God’s image. The dignity and value of our students and staff comes not just from the work they do, but from the persons they are. Diversity and difference is not just tolerated but respected, celebrated and loved. As a result, visitors to our school will be greeted with smiles, find warm relationships between staff and students and often hear laughter in our corridors, offices and classrooms.
We also believe a good education is a wonderful gift. Each of our children only get this precious gift once. As a result, we continuously emphasise excellent behaviour, high standards of uniform and require students to commit to their learning. In return, we will provide all children, regardless of ability and background, with an ambitious and challenging curriculum. We do this so our children leave with the necessary skills and qualifications but also a rich and varied education where they can truly appreciate art, literature, music and so on.
Our highly professional staff will work selflessly and tirelessly to ensure our children’s ambitions and God-given talents are realised. We want them to leave us knowing they are loved unconditionally and as a committed learner and exceptional person. A bold ambition but one we can all achieve in prayer and by working together.
I look forward to working closely with you over the next few years and I would like to ask for your prayers as we begin our work afresh.
May God continue to bless this very special school.
Mr Chris Martin, Principal
BSci (Hons) PGCE MA
Memory is the residue of thought
At Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic School we deliver a knowledge-based curriculum where teachers are the experts whose role it is to convey their knowledge and expertise to pupils.
Our teachers have used thinking from around the country to develop a carefully thought through curriculum which builds upon prior knowledge to provide a broad and balanced education for all our students.
Our knowledge-based curriculum has memory at its core as we believe that learning is a change in long-term memory. This means that it is not enough for students to simply hear knowledge, they must commit it to memory as it is then when they can use it in their thinking. We believe that intelligence isn’t fixed and all pupils can learn and memorise more ideas and knowledge and are able to develop greater expertise and thereby become more intelligent than those who do not. Our curriculum is not a ‘pub quiz curriculum’ of disconnected facts, instead we sequence our curriculum to allow students to construct a complex web of knowledge that is a prerequisite for deep thinking. Knowledge is like Velcro, the more you have, the more that sticks.
Culture of Revision & Memory
Our thinking at Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic School has been carefully crafted by using research into learning.
We have used current thinking on memory to develop our use of Knowledge Organisers. All students carry a Knowledge Organiser and are tasked with committing the information within it to their long-term memory by using tried and tested techniques.
Some recent thinking on retrieval practice said this: “Retrieval practice, or reconstructing knowledge by bringing it to mind from your memory, has been shown by numerous researchers to improve student learning (see (Roediger et al., 2011)). Practising retrieval improves learning compared to rereading information (Roediger and Karpicke, 2006). Retrieval practice can also improve learning compared to other study strategies thought to be beneficial, such as creating a concept map while reading (Karpicke and Blunt, 2011).
Promoting retrieval practice in the classroom can simply involve giving students frequent tests or quizzes. In fact, the retrieval practice phenomenon was called the testing effect for much of the last century, but now is more commonly called retrieval practice because one can promote retrieval with activities other than tests or quizzes (for example, (Karpicke, Blunt, et al., 2014)). Importantly, retrieval practice can help with both fact-based learning and meaningful learning and transfer ((Butler, 2010); (Carpenter, 2012); (Jensen et al., 2014); (Smith et al., 2016)). Thus, retrieval practice is of significant value in educational settings, and research in live classrooms confirms that utilising retrieval practice improves student learning in multiple contexts. For example, a retrieval practice benefit has been shown for adult learners in college classrooms (for example, (Mayer et al., 2009)) as well as for primary school classrooms with middle-school students (McDermott et al., 2014), among others.” (Sumeracki and Weinstein 2018).
Our teachers use this thinking in all their lessons and we use the sheet “Learning at Aquinas” (insert link) to help provide clarity on how we think about learning.
The Pastoral System
At Saint Thomas Aquinas we place great emphasis on our pastoral system and pastoral care. The role of the form tutor is vital with all students spending 30 minutes each morning and 10 minutes each afternoon with their tutor.
The form tutor is the first and last person that students see every day. This is important for the development of positive relationships and pastoral care for our students.
The students are in same year group tutor groups (horizontal tutoring) with approximately 26 students in each tutor group. There are 8 tutor groups in each year across KS3 and KS4 all named after a prominent Catholic Patron who is the named title of our Houses in our House System – Bosco, Fisher, John Paul, Martin, More, Newman, Romero and Teresa. Each House has its own distinctive colour and shield. Competition between the Houses is strong but friendly across a whole range of areas including attendance, punctuality, sports, charities and a host of other activities.
Each year group is led by an experienced teacher as the Head of Year with the support of a full time Learning Mentor Pastoral Support staff member. The aim is for all tutors, learning mentors and Heads of Year to follow the students through their time here at STACS. This increases co-ordination, understanding and relationships with both students, tutors and parents.
There are 6 tutor groups in the 6th form with a mix of year 12 and 13 students in each tutor group.
Head of Year
Learning Mentor Pastoral Support
Head of 6th Form
The Aquinas Canon and Assembly programme has a distinct year group focus ensuring the students have opportunities to develop, covering all aspects of the Spiritual, Moral, Social, Cultural and Vocational education. This also covers the PSHE and Career, Education, Information, Advice and Guidance needed to ensure examination readiness, considering future pathways, university applications and careers.
Great emphasis is placed on the care of students for each other and the importance of older students acting as role models. The development of the student council and young leaders is paramount to ensure students have a clear voice in their school.
Christ at the Centre
Religious Education is given in accordance with the doctrines and teachings of the Catholic Church and the religious life of the school is regarded as of central importance.
The School Chaplain, is a regular visitor to the school and is concerned with the pastoral care of the staff, students and their parents. We are fortunate in having our own purpose-built Chapel and the children are encouraged to visit for prayer and reflection during their free time. It is also used for the celebration of Form Masses and prayer. We expect all students whether Catholic or not to support our mission statement and attend Mass and other liturgical activities.
Voluntary Mass is celebrated every week in the school chapel on Tuesday morning. Staff, students, parents and friends are all very welcome to join in the celebration. At different times of the year the school comes together for the celebration of Mass and the students are involved with the preparation of all the celebrations.
Members of staff including the School Chaplain meet on a regular basis to discuss and promote the whole area of worship in the school. Liturgy – the public worship of the church – covers a much wider area than the celebration of Mass and includes Prayer Groups, Assemblies, Retreats, Penitential Services, Mission Weeks and explores the many possibilities of the School as a worshipping community. Every student in Year 8 has the opportunity to visit Alton Castle in Staffordshire and participate in a 3-day residential retreat and subsequently in Year 10 and Year 12. In Years 7 & 9 students have a day retreat during the Autumn or Summer Term. In May a party of Sixth Form students spend a week in Lourdes.
During form time, students in Years 7 to 9 read a series of books with their form tutor.
Year 7 will start with a non-fiction text, “You are awesome” by Matthew Syed, which will teach them to be resilient and to believe that they can do well in anything that they choose, whether it is sport, science, drama, juggling or physics … as long as they work hard. They will then move on to the classic adventure story, “Treasure Island”, followed by Jewell Parker Rhodes’ “Ghost Boys”.
Year 8 will start with Mark Haddon’s award-winning “The Curious incident of the Dog in the Night-time”, giving them an insight into the life of a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, who describes himself as a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties and who sees the world in a surprising and revealing way. They will then move on to a selection of Roald Dahl short stories, some of which are unsettling and sinister, but all of which have Roald Dahl’s creative and entertaining use of language. They will finish the year by reading “The Diary of Anne Frank”.
Year 9 will start with the only play in our Canon: Willy Russell’s “Blood Brothers”, which tells the moving tale of twins who are separated at birth, only to meet again later with fateful consequences. They will then enjoy some Sherlock Holmes stories, before reading Orwell’s classic dystopian novel, 1984.
So why have we decided to invest time and money into reading these books with our students?
- Firstly, we have chosen ambitious texts to introduce students to some of the classics of English literature.
- They will have the shared experience of reading and discussing a book together.
- If they enjoy these books, we can recommend further books with similar themes, helping them to develop a love of reading.
- For each book, we have provided form tutors with key vocabulary sheets to help students to build their understanding of more complex vocabulary. This is crucial for academic success with the new GCSE specifications.
- We will also use the ideas and contexts of the books to broaden students’ understanding of different times and philosophies.
- Finally, form tutors will facilitate discussions of the personal, social and moral issues raised in the books.
This is an exciting new project for us, and we hope that you as parents will support your child by asking them about the books they are reading at school and talking to them about the themes in each one.
The 6th Form at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School is both large and thriving.
We have highly-qualified, experienced and dedicated teaching staff and a proven track record of progression onto higher education and employment.
The St Bernadette Centre has recently undergone significant refurbishment and investment. Students have exclusive access to a group work room on their study day which doubles as a social space at break and lunch. They also have access to computer facilities in our new library which provides a modern learning space to aid them as they become more independent learners.
Our curriculum offers the very best in both academic and vocational courses to match the needs of all our students. We are delighted to be part of the Oaks Sixth Form College, a consortium of schools in south-west Birmingham. This is a collaborative and innovative model and provides an exceptional breadth of choice for our students.
All Sixth Form students study Core RE across their two year career with us and complete the Extended Project, applying Catholic Social Teaching to a moral and ethical issue of their choice.
Whilst we believe in allowing greater freedom to our students, we strive to have a true partnership between students, parents and tutors. Excellent pastoral care is provided by experienced tutors who advise, encourage and monitor student progress. The Duke of Edinburgh Award remains a strong feature of our school into the Sixth Form. The award gives students the chance to experience physical activities, volunteering, whilst developing life skills through expeditions; it is valued by universities and employees alike.
During May half-term, Sixth Form students join the annual Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes to care for and assist the sick and disabled pilgrims. This is a very popular extra-curricular opportunity which really demonstrates the faith of our students in action. Throughout the week God’s love in action is seen through the selfless service of the young people and their generosity of spirit, sharing their talents and energy and time willingly with others.
We believe that all students should have the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom.
Here we promise all students the opportunity to go out as a year group with their form tutors and Head of Year. We believe this will help to develop committed learners and exceptional people.
We hope it will inspire our children and enhance their intrinsic motivation.
The experiences we offer are:
Client Hills Walk
The Importance of Educational Visits
Many of us have fond memories of school trips and when we look back on our school days, it is often the trips and extra-curricular experiences that we remember the most. On school trips we really get to make true friends, you get to really know your teachers and you learn all sorts of things that cannot be learnt in a classroom.
Here at St Thomas Aquinas we are lucky to have a varied programme of educational visits from day trips to museums, river studies, theatres, local towns and cities to residential trips such as Guernsey, skiing, Lourdes and Paris.
Our annual Guernsey camp has been running for over 35 years now. Every July we take over 70 Year 7 students away to enjoy 10 days on the beautiful island. This is the visit that students remember when they leave school in Year 13.
A-LEVEL RESULTS DAY – THURSDAY 15TH AUGUST 2019
STUDENTS CELEBRATE ANOTHER YEAR OF STRONG RESULTS
St Thomas Aquinas students are again celebrating success in today’s A-Level results, marking another year of strong academic and pastoral achievements.
Students made significant progress from their GCSE results to achieve outstanding post 16 results last year. The positive trend has been maintained. A-Level results have continued to improve at St Thomas Aquinas and these are the best results since 2012.
The overall pass rate was 97%. The number of students achieving grades A* to B was an impressive 53% and the number of A* and A grades was an amazing 30%. This is particularly pleasing as nationally the number of top grades for A-levels have fallen to their lowest level in more than a decade following the introduction of new tougher exams. As a result, overall progress of students at Aquinas will be in the top 25% of all schools and colleges nationally.
We are delighted that the futures that our students dreamed of can now be realised with virtually all of our students moving on to their destinations of choice. We have three students progressing to study Medicine and a number of students progressing to Russell Group universities.
These results reflect the diligence and determination of so many in our community over the last seven years. Mrs Davies, Head of Year 13, said "I am very proud of all of the students. Their hard work has paid off. I wish them all the best in their first ventures".
We are absolutely thrilled for our students, who with the support of dedicated staff and their families, have achieved these excellent results.
GCSE RESULTS DAY - THURSDAY 22ND AUGUST 2019
STACS STUDENTS DELIGHTED AS THEY EXCEL IN NEW GCSEs
Building on the superb A level results last week, GCSE results improved again this year at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School for the third consecutive year.
Coming against the backdrop of more demanding qualifications, this represents a significant achievement. As a result, there were plenty of happy reactions as students collected their GCSE results.
The number of students achieving a grade 4 or above in English and Maths was 67% and the number 5 or above was 43%.
The results are a tremendous testament to the work of all staff, parents and most importantly our wonderful students.