The purpose of our high-quality English curriculum at Shotley Bridge Primary School is to develop confident, fluent speakers, readers and writers. At Shotley Bridge Primary School we teach our children English to a high standard in all classes, preparing them for communicating their ideas and emotions to others. We believe that having a secure understanding of the skills of language is essential for our pupils’ future studies within our own school, secondary school, college, university and beyond, enabling them to use these skills to achieve their aspirations and have the confidence to use and apply them in all aspects of everyday life.
We are extremely proud of the relationship between our school’s reading culture and children’s attainment. Because of the reading opportunities that are provided to pupils at Shotley Bridge Primary School, children are given every chance to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Recent research into reading shows that developing positive attitudes towards reading can also play a key role in children’s development, ‘Young people who enjoy reading very much are three times as likely to read above the level expected for their age’ (National Literacy Trust, 2016).
Developing a love of literature is important to us as we know that it supports children to become confident, keen and capable readers. Research also tells us that children who read for pleasure have enhanced levels of text comprehension, an increased knowledge of grammar and show improvement in their writing (Twist, L., Sizmur, J., Bartlett, S. and Lynn, L 2012). Our experience has shown that by providing rich, diverse experiences across the whole school (e.g. annual author/poet visits; themed reading and writing days/weeks; written work based around high-quality texts; additional visits such as trips to Seven Stories; spelling bees; travelling story tellers; World Book Day activities; up-do-date inspiring library and classroom reading areas), our children develop a love of literature.
Reading forms part of most lessons at our school. We also teach stand-alone reading in both key stages to ensure children read fluently, easily and with good understanding. We believe the most effective way of doing this in Shotley Bridge Primary School is by using a more directed, guided approach in KS1. By the end of Year 2 and throughout KS2, we use daily whole class reading sessions to teach skills based on reading VIPERS (vocabulary, inference, prediction, explanation, retrieve and summarise/sequence) and we plan in sessions for children (in school and at home) to develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information.
As spoken language underpins the development of reading and writing, equipping our pupils with a wide vocabulary is especially important to us. We use lots of discussion in order to develop our pupils’ ability to elaborate and explain their understanding and ideas – the use of debate, presentations and role play form part of this. The use of the arts to express ourselves (drama and singing in performances for peers, parents and the wider community etc) are an important part of our school ethos: we strive for continual development of pupils’ confidence and competence in spoken language and listening skills. Not only are our expectations of children high, but also of our staff in school; the quality and variety of language that pupils hear and speak are vital for developing their vocabulary and grammar and their understanding for reading and writing.
High-quality phonics teaching begins in Reception and continues throughout Key Stage 1 (continuing until children are confident readers and able to decode confidently in Key Stage 2 if required). It is essential that throughout Key Stage 2 these early skills are built upon using the national curriculum so that our pupils can spell quickly and accurately in order for them to be able to write down their ideas fluently. Activities based on spelling rules are provided daily and words linked to these rules are sent home weekly.
In Shotley Bridge Primary School children are expected to write at a high standard, clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences. Teachers plan quality writing units that are based around high-quality, inspiring texts or other forms of inspirational stimuli. Time is provided for children within these units to plan, revise and evaluate their writing. Fluent, legible and, eventually, speedy handwriting is taught in each year group.
The English subject coordinator monitors the subject closely in Shotley Bridge Primary School to ensure children are working at a high standard: book and planning scrutinies, listening to children read and discussions, learning walks, lesson observations, evaluation of school data compared to national standards, attending local authority network meetings and courses to ensure they stay abreast of best practice and leading whole-school training for staff members, form a part of this. We are proud of our rigorous analysis of termly assessments enabling us to make appropriate early interventions to ensure every child makes high levels of progress.
(Children’s and Young People’s Reading in 2015, National Literacy Trust, 2016).
(Twist, L., Sizmur, J., Bartlett, S. and Lynn, L (2012). PIRLS 2011: reading achievement in England. Slough: NFER)