English is fundamental in education and in society. A high-quality education in English will teach pupils to speak and write fluently so that they can communicate with others, and through their reading and listening, others can communicate with them. Through reading in particular, pupils have a chance to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Literature, especially, plays a key role in such development. Reading enables pupils both to acquire new knowledge and to build on what they already know. All the skills of language are essential to participating fully as a member of society; pupils who do not learn to speak, read and write fluently and confidently are at risk of becoming disenfranchised.
Proficiency in English requires:
- reading widely and often, easily, fluently and with good understanding
- acquiring a wide vocabulary and understanding of grammar
- appreciating our rich and varied literary heritage
- writing clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting to fit a range of contexts, purposes and audiences
- developing competence in the arts of speaking and listening
The direct teaching of systematic synthetic phonics is our primary approach to teaching children English from the beginning. We have carefully chosen a government-backed phonics programme called Unlocking Letters and Sounds (ULS), which follows the 2007 Letters and Sounds framework, with the addition of some KS1 National Curriculum objectives.
Children learn the 150+ graphemes that represent the 44 phonemes of the English language along with common exception words (CEWs) in a planned, progressive way. This is achieved through daily phonics lessons, reading practice using fully decodable books matched to the child’s phonic knowledge and daily handwriting practice.
Daily Phonics lessons are taught from the start of Reception to Year 2 (beyond if needed). Lessons are systematic following ULS progression document. Children needing intervention are identified swiftly and given extra ‘keep up’ sessions to ensure that those at risk of reading failure are given the opportunity for extra practice and support.
Pupils from Reception to the end of year 2 (longer if required) take part in guided reading sessions. After careful assessment, pupils are grouped by their reading level and given books that match their phonic ability. The sessions are specifically planned to address and consolidate gaps in phonic knowledge and to build upon understanding of the text. Progress is monitored closely, meaning that groupings can be fluid depending upon individual needs. The importance of re-reading for fluency, prosody and comprehension is explained to the children.
In KS2, children have a daily whole class guided reading session, based on a short text or extract which is re-read and explored throughout the week. There is an increased focus on the explicit teaching of comprehension skills, using the VIPERS acronym to help us practise the key skills of Vocabulary, Inference, Prediction, Explanation, Retrieval and Summarising/Sequencing. Teachers explicitly model the use of these skills and have a strong focus on inclusion so children can learn alongside their peers. Sessions are fun, engaging and challenging, offering children a range of ways to practise their comprehension skills.
Children’s reading is also supported through the use of a levelled system of reading books. Teachers decide when to move children through the coloured book bands based on their progress with a wide range of reading skills, including decoding, fluency, expression and comprehension. They are still welcome to choose books from their classroom and the library to read for pleasure and share with adults at home in addition to their levelled reading book.
When they have reached the end of the coloured book bands and become a ‘free reader’, children can select their own reading book from the library, class bookshelves or books from home. School staff will still support them in making suitably challenging choices, including the use of our Reading Quest book lists.
English lessons are planned in sequences (generally 2-4 weeks long) and based on a high-quality text. These texts cover a wide range of themes and genres.
Grammar and punctuation skills are taught explicitly (Try it), and then applied in purposeful and engaging short writing opportunities (Apply it), building towards a final piece where new and existing skills can be showcased. These final pieces give children opportunities to write for a wide range of audiences and purposes.
Teachers model writing skills using a mixture of pre-prepared WAGOLLS (What A Good One Looks Like) and live modelling on paper in the classroom.
Skills progression maps and coverage documents support consistently high expectations for children’s writing skills.
Children’s learning is carefully planned for using our Spoken Language Progression Map. Opportunities to develop these skills are built into English lessons, as well as across the curriculum. These opportunities include: listening and responding to books, stories and poems; participating in debates; reading aloud; public speaking; participating in performances; giving formal presentations; asking questions; reciting poems or extracts from a story.
In EYFS and KS1, handwriting is built into phonics lessons and there is a focus on mastering letter formation, including the correct size and orientation. Fine motor skills and the correct pencil grip are also taught to support future development.
In KS2, children learn to join their letters using a continuous cursive style. An example of the letter formation we teach can be found here.
From Year 2, children are set a weekly list of spellings from an overview which ensures coverage of all the statutory words, spelling rules and patterns outlined in the National Curriculum. These words are introduced in class, with regular opportunities to practise and apply them in written work.
Children are asked to practise them at home for a short dictation-style test, which helps their teacher to understand how well they have been learnt and where further teaching and support is required.
Children use their Spelling Frame account both in school and at home to practise their spelling online.
Children’s progress is phonics and early reading is continuously during daily phonics and guided reading sessions. Children undertake the Phonics Screening Check in Year 1 to check that they have secured phonic decoding skills. They can retake this check in Year 2 if they need more time to secure the necessary skills.
Attainment in reading is measured using the statutory assessments at the end of KS1 and KS2. Children’s reading is also assessed through twice-yearly NFER reading tests in Years 3, 4 and 5, as well as on-going teacher assessment against our KPIs (key performance indicators). In Year 6, previous years’ SATs paper are used throughout the year to help track children’s progress and give them experience of this style of assessment.
Attainment in writing is assessment through the use of statutory Teacher Assessment Frameworks at the end Key Stage 1 and 2. Children’s writing is also assessed through on-going teacher assessment against our KPIs (key performance indicators). Teachers’ judgements about children’s writing are validated through a cycle of regular internal and external moderation.
English Grammar, Punctuation and Grammar is also formally assessed through the KS2 SATs and through NFER tests in Years 3, 4 and 5. In Year 6, previous years’ SATs paper are used throughout the year to help track children’s progress and give them experience of this style of assessment.
We also assess the impact of our English curriculum through pupil conferencing, book looks and lesson visits.
Useful Links and Resources
Reading for Pleasure Workshop
or view the presentation below.
Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar Workshop
or view the presentation below.
Links to support at home
- Your Dictionary https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/homework-help.html
- Grammar Monster https://www.grammar-monster.com/grammar_terms_and_definitions.htm
- The School Run https://www.theschoolrun.com/grammar-primary-school
- BBC Bitesize https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/zhrrd2p
- National Curriculum Glossary https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/244216/English_Glossary.pdf
- Anchor Creative Education videos https://www.youtube.com/c/AnchorCreativeEducation
- Grammarsaurus videos https://www.youtube.com/c/Grammarsaurus
- BBC Teach videos https://www.youtube.com/c/bbcteach/videos
- Open University Reading At Home https://ourfp.org/supporting-rah/