At Ashcott Primary School, English and the teaching of English is the foundation of our curriculum. Our main aim is to ensure that every child becomes a reader, a writer and a confident speaker by the time they leave us.
Intent and implementation
Our library is in the centre of our school and sums up our approach to reading- it is central to everything we do. Therefore our children becoming confident readers is the key to opening doors for a successful life. Reading is important because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything.
At our school, we use a variety of strategies to support the teaching of reading, as all learners are individual and therefore can require different approaches to secure their skills. In recognition of this, teachers use a variety of strategies as required, alongside placing emphasis upon ensuring that children master early reading skills and are able to decode fluently through the systematic teaching of synthetic phonics.
Each class fosters a love of reading by having designated reading areas, displays about favourite authors/books across the school; children across the school are encouraged to visit our school library and to use our junior librarian system to choose books to read in school and at home. The children are also given the experiences of sharing a range of different texts within class and will hear these read to them by adult as well as themselves and also their peers (where appropriate).
We have a book week every year, where we take part in many different activities including; author visits, book café, dressing up day, book blind dating, a vocabulary parade (where children and staff dress up as a word and spend time learning about the words throughout the week), various book-linked whole school competitions, GEMs group activities, parent reading sessions, visiting a reading gazebo as well as reading/booked themed activities throughout the week to name as well as a range of trips and visits to enrich and complement children’s learning.
In Early Years, children are exposed to a variety of books, which have a focus on patterned language and are linked to their developing phonic knowledge. Children are also introduced to high frequency words which are sent home to enable them to develop their sight vocabulary. Parents are given information leaflets and are invited to workshops to support early reading development.
As children progress through the school parents are also kept informed about how to support their child’s developing phonic knowledge and necessary information such as the phonics screening check.
Independent reading books are taken home daily to support children at an individual level and are carefully chosen by teachers to aid and challenge our pupils. Rather than relying on one reading scheme, we recognise that children have different interests and we have therefore ensured that we have an eclectic range of reading schemes available.
In Early Years these schemes are linked to phonic phases and children will read books which are linked to the teaching they have been receiving in class. Further on throughout the school, these will be linked to children’s ability and will continue to be closely monitored even when children become free readers.
In addition to independent reading, children also have 1:1 reading sessions with staff members, as well as all children have the opportunity to work in small groups with a member of staff to participate in Guided Reading. This provides pupils with further opportunities to explore challenging texts, discussing their themes to deepen their understanding. With a structured timetable of learning tasks being rotated throughout the week, children are not only learning comprehension skills but also independence, a love of wider reading and exposure to rich vocabulary, which is absolute key in all sessions for all learners.
We are fortunate to have volunteers from the local community who come in and listen to our children read. Staff identify vulnerable groups and individuals who need additional support in reading by recognising them as priority readers and these will be listened to by our reading volunteers as well as school staff. We also have a reading star scheme where older children in the school (Year 5/6) support younger children with their reading by spending time every morning listening to these children read. This has been great for encouraging the younger children and they really enjoy spending time reading with their older peers.
Children are encouraged to read at home at least five times per week. Parents are encouraged to write comments to create a log of their progress and children are rewarded for each read that is logged in their book. Children will then progress on to writing their own reflections in their reading diaries/book reviews. Children in Year 3/4 will also complete a reading competition called ‘rainbow reading’ where they work through bookmarks until they’ve completed a rainbow of reading.
As a school we recognise that reading is fundamental to the writing process, as children write successfully when they have a full understanding of the features of specific genres and a strong vocabulary. Throughout the school, visual stimuli and books are used to inspire children’s imaginations to write, as well as providing children with first hand experiences (trips, visitors, artefacts to handle etc.) which can help inspire writing. In addition, to support the writing process, teachers model examples of effective writing, so children can be successful in their own writing. Children will also often see each other’s work using class visualizers and are encouraged to ‘magpie’ good ideas from each other.
Children are also supported to develop stamina for writing across the curriculum and will often take part in writing that is linked across the curriculum. Children’s writing is rewarded within class following the whole school reward system, as well as with super writer pencils from the headteacher and also being rewarded in assemblies for really good pieces of writing. Children across the school are given the opportunity to take part in writing competitions, as well as meeting with their buddies to share written work they are proud of.
Our Phonics programme begins in Reception and happens on a daily basis throughout KS1. From Reception, phonics is taught in small ability groups, so that it is reactive to the changing needs of learners. At Ashcott Primary School we use the Letters & Sounds programme to ensure the progressive development of skills, so that pupils can decode effectively. In all writing across the curriculum, pupils are provided with the opportunity to develop and embed these key skills.
In Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar sessions, the children learn key objectives and skills in relation to this area through pacey, interactive sessions. Our children are then provided with further opportunities during their wider curriculum to embed their new learning and demonstrate their understanding. In line with the new national curriculum, we ensure that each year group is teaching the explicit grammar, punctuation and spelling objectives required for that age groups. As well as teaching the objectives, teachers are able to embed the skills throughout the year in cross-curricular writing opportunities and ensure that most children are achieving the objectives at the expected level and that some children can achieve at a greater depth standard.
Spelling and Handwriting
Spellings are progressive across the school. Daily spelling lessons happen in KS2, with a weekly test/homework activity and all spelling lessons focus on the spelling strategies that are required for each year group. Therefore, children and parents are actively encouraged not to learn long lists of words, but to instead learn the reasons/rules as to why a spelling is the way it is and to then be able to apply this knowledge in a range of different spelling situations. Where it is appropriate that children learn to spell certain words, a look, cover, write, check approach is used and actively promoted.
Children are expected to join their handwriting as they progress through the school and this is an objective we monitor closely when assessing their writing. We consider good presentation to be an important element of writing.
All year groups use the same format for assessing writing, which have been produced in line with the end of Key Stage assessment frameworks (as published by the Department for Education) as well as the individual objectives for each year group from the national curriculum appendices.
The impact on our children is clear: confident children, who are able to read well, write confidently for a range of purposes, as well as demonstrating a strong voice, as well as making progress, showing sustained learning and carrying on transferrable skills.
We hope that as children move on from us to further their education and learning that their creativity, passion for English and high aspirations travel with them and continue to grow and develop as they do.