Our English Curriculum
At St Nicolas’ we believe that a secure basis in literacy skills is crucial to a high-quality education. Our English curriculum prepares all pupils to lead an enriched, fulfilling life by teaching the skills they need to communicate effectively and confidently with others, using the spoken and written word. We aim to promote a life-long love of reading which develops their cultural, social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual awareness so they can participate fully, thrive and be ready to face the challenges of life.
Aims for our pupils
To develop the ability to communicate effectively in speech and writing.
To use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas.
To listen with understanding.
To become fluent and responsive readers.
To develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information.
To acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language.
To appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage.
To write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences.
We have a rigorous and well-organised English curriculum that provides many purposeful opportunities for reading, writing and discussion.
Reception to Year 2
Our pupils learn to read and write effectively and quickly using the Read, Write Inc. Phonics and Get Writing programme and enrich this with further activities.
In Read, Write Inc. phonics, pupils
Decode letter-sound correspondences quickly and effortlessly, using their phonic knowledge and skills
Read common exception words on sight
Understand what they read
Read aloud with fluency and expression
Write confidently, with a strong focus on vocabulary and grammar
Spell quickly and easily by segmenting the sounds in words
Acquire legible, correctly formed handwriting
In addition, we teach pupils to work effectively with a partner to explain and consolidate what they are learning. This provides the teacher with opportunities to assess learning and to pick up on difficulties.
We group pupils according to their progress in reading rather than writing. This is because pupils’ progress in writing may lag behind progress in reading, especially for those whose motor skills are less developed.
We make sure that pupils read books that are closely matched to their increasing knowledge of phonics and the common exception words. This is so that, early on, they experience success and gain confidence that they are readers. Re-reading and discussing these books supports their increasingly fluent decoding and understanding.
Alongside this, our teachers read a wide range of stories, poetry and non-fiction to and with pupils. Each class has a reading area, and visits the school library weekly to choose books to read for enjoyment.
Embedding the letter-sound correspondences early on means that pupils quickly learn to write simple words and sentences. We encourage them to compose each sentence aloud until they are confident to write it independently. The quality of the vocabulary the children use in their writing reflects the language they have heard in the books the teacher has read to them; they have also discussed what the words mean.
Handwriting begins in Reception class with mark-making, patterns, posture and pencil grip, progressing to pre-cursive letter formation where each letter is correctly formed with a lead in, and lead out. Please refer to the handwriting policy for further detail.
Year 2 to Year 6
Once children complete the Read, Write Inc. phonics programme, they are taught in their year group. This integrates reading, writing, thinking and spoken language in all activities to ensure the daily development of children’s comprehension and wider literacy skills. Enjoyment of and engagement with quality texts is at the heart of our English curriculum. Pupils are encouraged to take their own meaning from each text, becoming independent and critical thinkers. Comprehension activities are designed to help children infer, summarise, question, clarify, predict and argue a point of view. The children also make connections between the texts and their own experiences.
Pupils are taught the importance of using grammar and punctuation correctly, so they can communicate clearly and convey their meaning effectively.
We follow the Read, Write Inc. Spelling programme. The programme enables children to recap on the previous years’ spelling patterns and then introduces new patterns and sight words progressively from Y2 to Y6.
Pupils are taught to articulate their thoughts and ideas out loud and to communicate what they know and understand. They learn to adapt their language and style according to their purpose and audience. Partner and group talk remain key to the development of spoken language and the written language which follows. Lessons are sequenced to build progressively towards an extended piece of purposeful writing, with an intended audience. Writing is celebrated in whole school ‘wonderful writing’ assemblies, on the ‘wonderful writing’ display in the hall and in the newsletter.
Teachers continue to read a wide range of stories, poetry and non-fiction to and with pupils. Pupils are encouraged to choose books to read at their own interest and comprehension level.
We work hard to offer rich and varied reading, speaking, listening and writing opportunities across the curriculum, from role play in Reception to topics in science, history and geography, to writing for the school newsletter, scripting and performance in assemblies, collective worship, key stage productions and special events throughout the year. Skills including speaking and listening, vocabulary, grammar, spelling, punctuation and handwriting are valued, discussed and encouraged in all subjects, styles and genres.
The role of parents and carers
Parents and carers play a vital role in the development of English skills, especially with 1:1 home reading. We aim to foster a strong home-school partnership from the first week in reception, when children learn their first sounds in phonics and begin to build their phonic knowledge day by day.
Daily reading at home is expected, because it has a significant positive impact on children’s progress. We use reading records in Reception and planners in years 1 – 6 as tools for communication. Parents and children record their home reading, and progress through our reading scheme which is carefully matched to the sounds being learned. We have carefully chosen resources which are sent home in book bags. These include RWI storybooks, reading scheme books as well as books children have chosen from our library.
Parents and carers also support handwriting, home learning of spellings, research and any writing that may be set for home learning. Parents and carers support the school by coming in to hear readers during the day, changing book bag books and – to the children’s delight - visiting as ‘mystery readers’.
Equal opportunities, inclusion and assessment
All children are given access to a broad and balanced English curriculum regardless of gender, ability, race or religion.
Provision is made for all children so that they achieve as highly as they can in English according to their individual abilities. Robust assessment and review ensure that we are able to provide targeted support so that all children experience success in English. We identify pupils who are under-achieving and take steps to accelerate their progress and improve their attainment. More able children are identified and appropriate challenge is provided.
Monitoring and evaluation
Working in collaboration with teachers, the SLT and governors, the English lead is responsible for
monitoring of pupil progress
conference with pupils regarding all areas of English
monitoring teaching and learning in English
reporting to the SLT and governors.
leading policy development
auditing and supporting colleagues in their professional development
purchasing and organising resources
keeping up-to-date with recent developments and best practice
analysis of SATs results to identify areas for development
checking that assessment is robust and carried out in line with the school’s assessment
Through our focus on reading, speaking and listening, our pupils have the opportunity to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Learning based on a carefully selected range of high-quality literature enables pupils both to acquire knowledge and to build on their cultural capital. Our children love reading. They are able to read and write fluently, communicate confidently and are prepared to participate fully in future learning and as members of society.