At Perton First School, English and the teaching of English is the foundation of our curriculum. Our main aim is to ensure every single child becomes primary literate and progresses in the areas of reading, writing and speaking and listening.
Staff at Perton First feel it is essential to highlight and be aware of the differing groups of learners and vulnerable children in their class. We recognise that each child has their own starting point upon entry to every year group and progress is measured in line with these starting points to ensure every child can celebrate success.
English at Perton First will not only be a daily discrete lesson, but is at the heart of the entire curriculum. It is embedded within all our lessons and we will strive for a high level of English for all. Through using high-quality texts, immersing children in vocabulary rich learning environments and ensuring curriculum expectations and the progression of skills are met, the children at Perton First will be exposed to a language heavy, creative and continuous English curriculum which will not only enable them to become primary literate but will also develop a love of reading, creative writing and purposeful speaking and listening.
When the National Curriculum was revised in 2014, many professionals commented that the creativity had been eliminated and children were expected to be taught a diet of very dry grammar and punctuation skills. At Perton First, our vision is for the creativity to be at the helm of our English curriculum and for children to learn new skills in a fun and engaging way.
This underpins the development of reading and writing and is vital for pupils' development across all aspects of the school curriculum. We provide children with a wide range of opportunities to hear and use good quality vocabulary, focusing also on variety. Children are encouraged to ask questions, discuss in pairs and groups and to use conventions for discussion as well as debate. Opportunities for drama are sought throughout the curriculum as it is recognised that the skills that are developed through this medium are unique.
Throughout Key Stage 1 and 2 children engage with high quality picture books, novels, poetry and non-fiction through a wide range of teaching approaches. Children are immersed into the text through music, art, drama, discussion and role-play. Other approaches include responding to illustrations, use of story sacks and props, story mapping and book making. Children take ownership of the text and engage with it deeply.
Our aim is to teach children to read fluently and accurately so that they have a full understanding of text, resulting in enjoyment of what they have read. We share this aim with parents, and to this end, use a variety of strategies, including guided reading sessions, whole class sessions and 1:1 reading opportunities. Our children’s reading experiences continue and develop with them learning to read for a purpose – why are they reading? This of course reflects directly upon their writing skills, when the two are allied and the connections are made known to the children! Children are, therefore, encouraged to make choices about their reading matter, according to why they are reading. When reading for information, higher reading skills are taught so that they can skim/scan text for what they need.
Skills such as recapping on what children have read, predicting what might happen next and inviting opinion as to why, are vital to children progressing as readers and these skills are encouraged from our earliest readers.
We ensure that our children receive high quality phonic teaching on a daily basis throughout school. We use the ‘Letters and Sounds’ programme in EYFS and Key Stage 1 and move on to Support for Spelling in Key Stage 2 to ensure that our children are well placed to read and spell words with fluency and confidence. Our school places a high importance on phonics and reading and, as a result, our pupils read well.
Learning to write is a complex process that involves a variety of skills but is an extremely powerful medium. It can last longer than the spoken word and can, and often has, been immortalized. We encourage all our children to become “authors” in their own right.
Initially, a child needs to be able to form the letters needed and then be able to express their ideas using these letters. Through shared and guided writing opportunities, we equip children to develop the skills of writing clearly and legibly. When the child is confident with these basic skills, they will work towards being able to write with a greater sense of purpose and learn to organize their writing according to this purpose. Children are equipped with the necessary tools to do this, being given daily opportunities to focus on spelling and/or grammatical structures.
Our children work using a variety of real texts as stimuli, and regularly have the opportunity to complete a Big Write – the link between reading and writing is made very clear.
Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling
At Perton First School we aim for our pupils to become fluent and effective writers. Accurate use of grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS) is a means to that end. We use the National Curriculum 2014 as a basis for teaching GPS by introducing patterns or conventions and continually practising those already introduced.
GPS strategies are taught explicitly in short interactive and investigative sessions. Pupils are taught to recognise which strategies they can use to improve their own spelling. Pupils are encouraged to apply learnt strategies to their independent writing.
In KS1 children learn spelling largely through their daily phonic sessions. In KS2 children are taught spelling strategies and rules during the English lesson which they then practise for homework. The teaching and learning of grammar and punctuation is embedded within the English teaching sequence. This means, grammar and punctuation skills and knowledge are built into a sequence of preparatory work which is then applied within longer pieces of writing at the end of the teaching sequence.
As they become more confident, children are encouraged to check spellings using a dictionary and to expand their vocabulary using the thesaurus.
Handwriting is a taught skill within weekly English lessons that develops at different rates for different children. All of the teachers in our school put a priority on teaching handwriting and all staff have high expectations for handwriting across the curriculum. We believe that children’s self-esteem and pride in their work can be raised by good quality presentation.
We use Penpals for Handwriting every week to ensure that,
- The importance of handwriting is recognised and given appropriate time
- The progression of handwriting is consistent across school
- Handwriting is acknowledged to be a whole body activity ad emphasis is placed on correct posture and pencil grip for handwriting
- Expectations of left handed children are equal to those of right handed children, and appropriate advice and resources are available to ensure that they learn to write with a comfortable, straight wrist
- Handwriting is linked into grammar, punctuation and spelling in order to regularly practice and contextualise all of the transcriptional and stylistic skills for writing
- Children learn to self-assess their own writing and develop understanding and responsibility for improving it
- Children learn to write in different styles for different purposes.
The Subject Leader and Senior Leaders continually monitor the impact of the effectiveness of this curriculum through self-review activities including lesson observations, book scrutinies, learning walks and pupil conversations.
Teachers are continually assessing children in English on a daily basis and it is this assessment that informs all future planning and possible intervention. Our children are more formally assessed in English using Rising Stars half termly checks for reading, spelling, grammar and punctuation and we also assess our children’s reading ages using The Salford reading test.
Data is analysed and as a school we aim to consistently perform above the national average in Reading, Writing and Phonics.
Regular termly Pupil Progress meetings are held to ensure that all children are making progress; intervention sessions are planned by experienced teachers where children are falling below, and close monitoring of PP, FSM, EM and SEND pupils is carried out.
Performance Management targets for teachers are linked to reading and writing targets on our School Improvement plan. INSET and professional development opportunities are offered to staff to ensure excellent teacher’s subject knowledge.
The Subject Leader attends termly Subject Updates and cascades relevant information to staff. The Subject Leader also works closely with other schools to moderate reading and writing to help ensure consistency for all children across our cluster schools.