The development of English has a pre-eminent place in education and in society in order for children to achieve well academically and in the wider aspects of life. A high-quality education in English teaches pupils to speak and write fluently so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions to others, and through their reading and listening, others can communicate with them. Reading enables pupils have a chance to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually – literature, especially, plays a key role in such development. Reading also enables pupils both to acquire 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 effectively disenfranchised. At Yorke Mead we recognise that the skills in English are interlinked, and also that strength in English will enable children to achieve across all other subjects too.
We believe that it is important for all children to express themselves clearly and confidently in speech and that this has a strong impact on their learning across the curriculum. In the early Years we emphasise role-play, exploration of sounds, the learning of nursery rhymes and retelling of stories. We continue with role-play areas in Key Stage 1 and develop the use of drama in all age groups. As children grow older they develop skills with activities such as performing plays, presenting reports to camera and debating in school council. Throughout the curriculum there is an emphasis on giving oral explanations to show understanding.
Children also need to be able to listen with full concentration to adults in school and to each other. In the classroom and in assembly discussions children are encouraged to contribute their ideas and to listen and respond to the ideas of others. All Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 classrooms have Sound field systems to support partially hearing pupils and these make listening easier in whole class activities for all the children.
Reading at Yorke Mead builds from the children’s phonics skills. We use the Little Wandle synthetic phonics programme to deliver phonics daily throughout the Early Years and Key Stage One. Children who do not develop the phonics knowledge to read fluently continue with the Little Wandle scheme into Key Stage Two. Children are supported to develop the skills of segmenting and blending sounds to read words as soon as they begin to read letter sounds. Reading practise is built into the daily routine. All children are encouraged to take home books to read or to share with an adult. Each class has a reading area with a library and access to the school library.
Initially books are phonics based to ensure children have the skills and knowledge to be able to decode the words. Books are also made available online linked to the Little Wandle programme. In Early Years and Key Stage One the children have a home-school reading diary to share with an adult at home. Key Stage Two children are expected to record their reading in their diaries themselves and to carry out regular book reviews. Each year we organise an author week and celebrate World Book Day, and there will be several book swap days throughout the year to enable children to have access to new books. We also encourage interest in reading through book teasers which introduce a new book every month.
Children can also enjoy and experience new books being read to them; teachers read to their class daily. Years 1, 2 and 3 are paired with years 4, 5 and 6 for partner reading on a monthly basis. We are also fortunate to have a well-established system of adult volunteer helpers who will hear children read.
We encourage children to write freely from the time they start Nursery, starting with emergent writing. Children use their phonics skills to learn to write the sounds they can hear in words. They will also be directly taught tricky words and common words. They learn how to write for different purposes including writing instructions, reports, letters, poems, diaries and imaginative stories. Sometimes work will be word-processed. Finished writing may be presented as a booklet, in a class book or as part of a display as well as in the children’s individual exercise books.
Handwriting, spelling, grammar and punctuation are taught as specific discrete skills as well as applied throughout the curriculum. Children are encouraged to write in a fluent, joined style from the start and there is a strong emphasis on using their phonics to support spelling. To encourage the children to develop neat joined handwriting we have a system of certificates that the children earn which lead to their ‘pen license’.
Spelling is taught systematically alongside children’s phonic skills initially and then with the focus on learning the spelling ‘rules’. We encourage children to initially use emergent writing techniques to spell words, using their phonics, and as children become more confident formal spelling tests are introduced. This will usually be during Year 1 sometime.
Spellings are taught in line with the National Curriculum phonic and spelling expectations for the age group. Children may choose to tackle 5, 10 or 15 of these spellings each week depending on the level of challenge the spelling pattern presents to them.