Catholic Life and Collective Worship
The Mission Statement is at the heart of all we do. It reflects our faith and our purpose and our desire for our school to be a sign of God’s presence in the local community.
We journey and grow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ
We are all made in God’s image;
We serve one another with love and respect;
We learn and achieve;
We join together in prayer, worship and celebration.
Mrs. Morreale and Mrs Heselton have set these words to music and all the children can sing this statement joyfully and enthusiastically.
At St. Mary’s , from Early Years to when the children leave in Year 6, we develop the children’s ability to reflect and pray so that they grow in their understanding of the different ways we can pray individually and together in silence, with music, song, dance and more. Prayer is central to our everyday routine and a prayer focus is at the heart of every classroom. These have a bible, a crucifix and other items to engage and support the children in prayer. Children are involved in their development and change them regularly with each RE topic and in line with the liturgical year. Children in Year 1 upwards spend a very short period of time in quiet meditation after lunch, which they find both calming and prayerful.
We learn the traditional prayers of the Church and enable the children to pray in many different ways appropriate for the liturgical season, situation and age of the children. The children and staff regularly use the outdoor environment to pray and be close to God. We are in the process of redeveloping areas of the Bible garden to create special outdoor settings where the children enjoy reflecting about God’s love for them. Children in Key stage 2 keep a prayer journal. During the liturgical seasons of advent and lent and during the months of Mary, voluntary lunchtime prayer groups are organised by the RE Council (a group of children who are passionate about the Catholic Life of our school) with guidance from adults where necessary. These are well attended.
The week starts with a collective worship for the whole school which is based on the Gospel of the previous Sunday. In this way, we follow the Church’s Year and enable those children who do not attend mass to journey together through the Catholic year as a community. Each Collective Worship gives the children the opportunity to reflect respond and ask questions. The children also plan their own class collective worships and share these with their families. The children enjoy our beginning and end of term Masses held at the Parish Church, Our Lady of Sorrows. They plan them with their teachers.
We also go to church for other Holy Days and special feasts such as Candlemas. Parents and parishioners’ attend together in good numbers. Each Key Stage 2 class attends mass on Friday once a term with the Parish. A parent prayer group is also planned for certain times of the year.
Our Parish Priest, Father Chris, is a regular visitor to the school. He has an excellent relationship with staff and children and supports all that we do.
During Advent we focus on preparing for the birth of baby Jesus at Christmas, including the annual Deanery Advent Service for Years 5 and 6, and Nativity play led by EYFS and KS1. We use advent calendars, and the advent wreath etc to consider what we can do for others as we prepare for Christmas and also collect food for the local Food Bank through our reverse advent calendar. The whole school also takes part in fundraising for the charity chosen by the Deanery school whose turn it is to organise the service. This year the charity chosen was 'Mary's Meals', a charity who provide a meal each day at school for children in some of the poorest places in the world.
In the final week of the Spring Term, we hold an annual Spirituality Week. Everyone in the community looks forward to this. Each year we spend the week journeying through a theme that will enable the children, staff and families to grow closer to God. Each day starts with a collective worship organised by partner classes between younger and older children, which opens up the theme of the day for each class to develop and respond to.
Activities in Lent
During this time of reflection our Parish priests visit the school to allow the older children to have an opportunity to take part in the sacrament of reconciliation. This year we held a prayer group for parents and a weekly Lenten prayer group for children of all ages to come together in prayer which was run by the RE Council. During Lent we also focus on the value of 'service', with our biggest annual fundraising event. Families are also encouraged to raise money for 'Mission Together' in the 'Little Red Boxes' which are taken home.
Each year, Year 3/4 lead their own production of the Easter story. With wonderful singing, acting and dancing they tell the story of the Holy Week.
The school comes together every October for a wonderful Harvest Festival to celebrate this time of thanks and reflection. Our families are extremely generous and donate food which is distributed to Glenlogie, the local homeless shelter or the Bognor Regis Food Bank, as well as donating money to CAFOD in return for wearing non-school uniform.
During Advent and Lent we hold a reconciliation service along with our parish priest. Children then have the opportunity to take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This year, Year 5/6 had the opportunity to take part in the '24 hours for the Lord' hosted by our parish church, with a range of carefully planned activities linked to reconciliation. We hold a reconciliation service and Key Stage 2 children are given the opportunity to take part in reconciliation.
Crowning of Mary
Each May we hold a special 'Crowning of Mary' celebration where children are invited to bring a flower to take to church and lay at the foot of Our Lady. We celebrate with readings and Marian hymns and Our Lady is crowned by two of our children who have recently received the Sacrament of First Holy Communion.
We celebrate the annual Diocesan Grandparents Week by inviting grandparents for a 'tea' in the school hall during which we share reflections and prayers.
We have a RE Council made up of Year 5 and Year 6 children who lead lunchtime prayer groups at particular times of the year. They also lead assemblies, support classes with prayer focuses and for visitors to the school, are the voice of St Mary's.
Our school is very proud of the range of support we can offer families and children who are going through difficult times. We have a range of therapeutic support for children and families run by both our play therapists and trained teaching assistants. This includes individual and group sessions with children as appropriate offering specific, tailor-made interventions such as therapeutic story writing.
We also run the Diocesan approved 'Rainbows' scheme which supports children who have experienced loss or grief of any kind. We also have a Pupil & Family Mentor who is able to support families at challenging or difficult times.
The school is currently working with the Local Authority on the new Education & Mental Health Strategy funded by the DfE, and also now have two 'EMP' practitioners who will be using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) techniques in the work they will be undertaking with appropriate children.
The staff enjoy their own annual retreat opportunities and other termly opportunities to develop their faith journey organised by the Leadership team.