How We Teach & Support

It’s the little things we do to support an individualised learning program that get us the big results

How we teach and support

At St Mary’s we are dedicated to detail and we want to ensure every child achieves to their own potential. 

This means ensuring we have robust systems that not only cater to the average (or middle student) – but also the advanced student or the student that need some extra support. 

For learning to take place we need to ensure that every child feels safe, happy and confident within themselves – and so a huge emphasis is placed on a strong wellbeing and support program that achieves just that!  At StMary s we have a fulltime Wellbeing leader and members of the Wellbeing team on site every day to provide counselling and support services for students.

Extension & Enrichment

At St Mary’s  we are dedicated and pride ourselves on ensuring every child achieves to their own potential.  This means ensuring we have a very explicit way system of teaching and supportive systemic programs that supports all students experiencing success, as well as offering extension and enrichment within these programs.

Students are assessed regularly for their level of knowledge and understanding of certain topics. Fluid grouping during literacy and numeracy learning time allows teachers to group students of similar learning ability and given learning activities designed to challenge their thinking and understanding.

Staff Professional Development continues to strengthen teachers’ pedagogical knowledge and skills aligned with the  HITS strategies and visible thinking routines.

Additional Support (RTI)

We have well documented and structured intervention, facilitated by the Special Education & Curriculum Leaders and monitored by Unit Leaders. This includes evidence based intervention within classrooms  and across levels to cater for intervention. Across the board, there is a strong collaboration with the classroom teachers and parents to ensure we are working as a team to bring the students up to the best standard that they can achieve.

The BOOST Reading Program (Year 1 – 4) is a school-based intervention developed to support the development of literacy skills and reading strategies. It has a focus on consistent and explicit instruction, recall of high frequency vocabulary and the building of fluent readers. It aims to upskill the reading capacity, fluency and comprehension skills of students below the expected Year Level Benchmarks, to enable them to engage successfully in the classroom during literacy instruction as well as all curriculum tasks. This program has been designed to supplement good quality differentiated instruction provided by  classroom teachers students with learning difficulties in Literacy, in particular in Reading. It’s a program that happens 3 to  days per week and is with a very experienced member of our staff. 

Our Literacy Fundamental program in Foundation to Yr 4, has a focus on careful and explicit instruction, quick recall of high frequency vocabulary, comprehension skills and the building of fluent readers. It aims to quickly build reading capacity and fluency in low achieving children so they engage successfully in the classroom during literacy instruction. This program conducted by a Learning Support Officer 3 times a week.

SPELD- Literacy Support

SPELD is  an evidenced based program to support the literacy needs of children in the middle to senior years 

SPELD is a program where a teachers aide works intensively for 20 minutes, with a group of children three  times a week to build their comprehension skills, improve fluency and assist with gaining extra reading practice. It also has a focus on spelling and building vocabulary. The program has 15 modules; a placement test is used to determine a student’s starting module.  Students are grouped together according to the module, usually in small groups of between two and four.

The program called QuickSmart provides learning support to students who could benefit from additional support in numeracy.

QuickSmart Maths -Numeracy Support

Quicksmart is a support program that  focuses on the numeracy needs of students in the middle to senior school years. The aim of the program is to support students to speed up their basic skills in numeracy. It is essentially a practice program that helps students know and understand basic number facts so that they become ‘quicker’ and ‘smarter’ at mathematics.

Students participating in the Quicksmart program will be withdrawn from class three times a week for a thirty-minute lesson. Lessons have a consistent structure and involve very high student on-task time. There is a real emphasis on encouraging students to use thinking to access prior knowledge, understanding and effective strategies. In a QuickSmart session students are grouped in pairs and each pair works with a QuickSmart instructor.


The school’s culture is driven by the belief that every child is capable of being a successful learner and we pride ourselves on  our school mantra “Every child Matters Every day”. Our staff form the belief that all children can learn to high levels given the right time and support. Staff know their students and how they learn, using data to drive decision making about what they need to learn next and how best to achieve this. At St Mary’s teachers provide quality differentiated classroom teaching for all students in the “You Do” component of each  lesson. We also strongly utilize technology and online resources and learning platforms such as STARS online for students in the Year 2- 6,  to add enhancement and enrichment for all students in the area of comprehension. Mathletics  supports differentiation permeating throughout our Numeracy teaching practice.

Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

St Mary’s School promotes the mental health and wellbeing of all children. Good mental health is vital for learning and life and children who are mentally healthy are better able to meet life’s challenges. They also learn better and have stronger relationships with others.

Part of our commitment is to explicitly teaching Social and Emotional Learning. This subject is timetabled for a 45 minutes session each week and has a whole school focus.

The following Programs are used to give children the skills and strategies to build resilience and to understand and acknowledge their own feelings and those of their peers.

Resilience Rights and Respectful Relationships

Bounce Back

Friendly Schools and Families

Kindness program

School Wide Positive Behaviour Support (SWPBS)

As part of our School Wide Positive Behaviour Support (SWPBS) initiative, the staff and students of the school developed the St Mary’s Way.  The 4 norms of the St Mary’s Way guide the students to reach their full potential and promote a positive learning environment for all. All staff are expected to use the St Mary’s Way as their behaviour management routine. Based on positive behaviour support, the St Mary’s Way ultimately teaches children how to manage their own behaviour and has become a basis for a shared culture that shapes relationships between students, their peers and teachers.


Staff spend considerable time as part of their initial Learning to Learn Unit establishing the St Mary’s Way in their classroom and then recalibrate to maintain and reinforce expectations at the beginning of each term.

Student Leadership

St Mary’s is committed to providing pathways for students to develop their leadership skills in authentic ways, taking on various roles of leadership within the school. Leadership is a quality that all students at St Mary’s Primary School are encouraged and supported to develop. Students from Foundation to Year 6 take on the role of leaders of their own learning. Through the curriculum and extracurricular activities, all students are encouraged to develop the skills necessary to be a leader. This ensures that all students perceive themselves as leaders and have the opportunity and confidence to take on more formal leadership roles as they enter their senior years at the school.

A key feature of St Mary’s Swan Hill’s success is the active involvement of students in the life of the school.  The school offers a diverse range of leadership opportunities for all students that includes joining leadership teams and participating in leadership programs:

School Captains, House Captains, Sports Captains, Student Representative Council, (SRC), Environmental Leaders, Technology Leaders, Library Support , Office Support and our  cross age buddy program known as  PALS  are just some of the ways students can be involved with a leadership role.

All student leaders receive a badge of office to be worn each day.

Student Leadership positions are held in high regard by the principal, staff, parents and community. Student Leaders are representative of the school in both the modelling of standards for their peers and younger students as well as the proactive development of activities that represent the school community.

The development of student leadership skills involves opportunities which encourage students to:

  • act in roles of responsibility with integrity and honesty
  • foster a sense of vision and purpose
  • work with others to determine and achieve collective goals
  • take on responsibilities and use decision making skills in order to carry a project through to a successful conclusion
  • be active, reflective listeners who respond effectively
  • earn the respect of others through their actions.

Programs to develop leadership skills and attributes include the GRIP Leadership Program, our Year 6 leadership Day, the UPP Leadership program for Year 5 students and The Positive Peers workshops for our senior students.

In the Junior School, students begin to develop competencies in teamwork, expressing ideas and basic problem-solving – enhancing confidence and self-esteem while the middle school provides more formal training and opportunities to participate in leadership roles such as the Student Representative Council (SRC).

Kinder to Foundation Transition

The big step from Kinder to school is one that all children handle a little bit differently (and parents too for that matter!). We have a range of great programs in place to ensure everyone makes it through this milestone with flying colours!

Our partnership starts with families well before the first day of school.

We start in Term 1 with a series of Open Days and invitations to take a tour of our school and see what Foundation looks like in real time. In Term 3 St Mary’s runs a 6 week transition program called Flying Start. It’s been hugely successful with around many children from different district kindergartens children coming along to these Friday sessions. You don’t have to be enrolled to take part and in fact some families who are still deciding where to enrol bring their children along to assist them with that decision

Flying Start is a fantastic way to get to meet the Foundation teachers, many of the other staff and students and of course our Principal and leadership team. It’s also a great way for parents to ask questions about the school and to observe how the school operates on a daily basis.

By the time children start at St Mary’s the following year they already feel a part of the place and it certainly reduces any little worries they might have about ‘big school’ as they already know the Foundation teacher, they have played out in the yard, met lots of the older students and had a lot to do with the specialist staff such as the PE or Art teachers that will be staff that working with them 

Term 4 we have a number of transition days, information evenings for families and of course Orientation day in December. We do little things like make sure every family receives  a list of their child’s class and knows who their teacher will be in December and put groups of children from the same preschool together  to assist with making our new little ones comfortable and assist them with getting ready for the transition into Foundation. We also run a lot of school in action tours where prospective families have a look around our beautiful grounds and check out our different learning areas and many prospective families attend the very popular “Come and Try Mornings” where parents and their children come in and try out a morning in a Foundation room and see what the learning looks like in on a normal day at school.

PALS Program

A buddy system is in place to assist the new Foundation students to settle into the school routine in a caring and supportive way. The children are introduced to their Year 6 PALS during Transition sessions in Term 4. The buddies are available during the first few weeks of Term 1 to assist the Foundation children with finding friends to play with and generally providing support. They continue this friendship throughout the year and they participate in regular PAL activities in class throughout the year.

Designated Play Area

Foundation students are supervised closely in a designated play area at both recess and lunch at the beginning of the year. This creates a safe, caring and supportive environment for the children as they become familiar with new school routines.

Moving Schools
 At Marys we regularly welcome students into our school at levels other than Foundation. We understand the importance of a smooth transition in order for a new student to feel safe, supported and welcome! 

– Families are always encouraged to take an extensive tour of our school to visit our learning spaces, meet our teachers and see learning in action.They are also welcome to contact the school at any time for further information.

– We can tailor a transition program to suit the needs of the student, including spending time in a learning space prior to beginning a new school year.

– We encourage families to work in partnership with us from day one, sharing any information that will assist in meeting the needs of the individual student.

– We arrange for a `buddy’ student’ (peer) to support the student in the first few days or weeks of transition, both in the classroom , the playground and on the bus.

–  When moving school through the year we provide photos of their new teacher and class to new enrolment prior to arrival

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