At St Thomas Becket Primary School, we aim to deliver an exciting, innovative English Curriculum that fosters and promotes a love of reading, and empowers children’s written and oral communication and creativity. We strive to support all children in their learning of English, providing rich and varied cross-curricular literary opportunities and access to the skills they need to become confident readers and writers for life. Our staff aim to raise the aspiration of every child, particularly those from low starting points and disadvantaged backgrounds, opening their eyes to new opportunities and igniting excitement about becoming excellent readers, writers and communicators. Our ultimate goal is for all children develop a love of reading and we promote and encourage this through many of our school initiatives.
We aim to expose our pupils to literary success through introducing them to successful authors, illustrators and storytellers to positively impact on pupils’ outlooks, aspirations and their desire to achieve. We value the importance of encouraging parents to act as positive role models for their children, providing supportive workshops, individual meetings and useful information for parents with children in each key stage. We aim to support parents in building their home libraries, therefore promoting reading in the home. Our wish is for children to progress to such an extent that they leave school with all the necessary core English skills required to lead a successful, fulfilling life.
Reading is a key tool for life. Teaching children to become excellent readers is a large and exciting part of what we do at St Thomas Becket. We encourage children to read a rich diet of classic and modern fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children’s newspapers, allowing them to develop their knowledge of the world in which they live and gain knowledge in subjects across the curriculum. We aim for all children to read widely, thus helping them to increase their vocabulary and develop vivid imaginations.
Our school prioritises language and literacy as the building blocks for all other learning. Therefore, at St Thomas Becket, we drive the teaching of early basic reading skills right from the start, and use RWI phonics as a vehicle to deliver this daily across EYFS and KS1. We make sure that the teaching of reading, including systematic synthetic phonics, is the core purpose of the Reception Year.
We value how essential high quality CPD is and staff have been RWI trained in order to deliver our phonic programme effectively. Our Literacy Leader, EYFS leader and KS1 teachers also deliver training and workshops for teachers, teaching assistants and parents alike. This is vital in keeping all those involved in helping children read, abreast of current practise.
Texts covered in class are carefully selected to capture the children’s interest and enjoyment, and are often linked in with their cross-curricular learning. Many of our texts are those recommended by the CLPE and have been used in the Power of Reading projects. These texts are also selected to show progression across each year group, and follow sequenced coverage of specific genres, which are used to inspire the children’s writing.
Story time is a real focal point of each day from Reception and teachers continue to read and discuss high quality books to the children all the way through to Year 6. Every class has a well-stocked book corner offering a wide range of reading material, including fiction by popular authors, quality poetry, non-fiction based on a huge range of topics, First News newspapers and books about different families, faiths and cultures. We value the importance of children being able to see themselves reflected in the types of stories they read. Children are also free to read and share books from a selection of books available during playtimes.
Our school subscribe to Bug Club – an online reading resource that enables the children to access a wide range of high quality texts both at home and at school. Children are set reading tasks on Bug Club to complete at home, which encourage them to engage with the texts by responding to targeted questions. Each week, teaching assistants listen to children read and ensure reading books are carefully matched to each child’s interest and ability.
Teachers also read with specific groups of children through guided reading sessions. Teachers choose core texts to read to their class and incorporate these texts into their English lessons. Children take part in whole class Big Reading lessons twice a week which focus on developing core reading skills – retrieval, exploring and analysing texts, deduction and inference. We now use the Headstart Reading Comprehension materials once a week within our reading lessons.
We take great pride in our Reading Champion Assemblies, which involve groups of children from each year group taking turns to talk about their favourite books. This provides a fantastic opportunity for children to share the books they love and encourage others to be inspired to read them. It is an interactive assembly, meaning that teachers and children alike can ask questions and engage with the children leading the assembly.
Our children visit our local library (Ashburton) with their classes and are encouraged to take part in the Summer Reading Trail at the library during the summer holidays. We run a busy, fun-filled Book Week each year which include author, storyteller or illustrator workshops, competitions, book buddies, teacher-led performance poetry and, of course, the ever-popular dressing up day. We also raise a great deal of commission from our Scholastic Book Fairs, allowing us to continually invest in quality reading materials for our children.
Parents are encouraged to listen to their children read daily at home. We also encourage them to read aloud to their children in order to stimulate their enjoyment and engagement with the book, and develop their language and listening skills. Whilst our pupils learn to read using the RWI scheme, we ensure that we offer children a wide range of progressive texts that support successful reading, language and comprehension development. Children are also able to ‘choose’ reading material to share at home and move onto to chapter books as they increase in confidence and fluency. Parents and staff are supported in how to encourage ‘Book Talk’, enabling children to talk their way towards deeper comprehension through drama, art, music, discussion and debate.
Through termly pupil progress meetings, teachers and SLT track children’s attainment and progress in reading. Regular phonic assessments are vital in helping teachers to identify progress as well as any gaps that may need to be filled at the earliest stages. Teachers then target particular children, offering them extra 1-1 reading time or small group reading skill /phonic interventions. We also use the NFER reading tests to gain formative information about each child’s attainment and progress, enabling teachers to adjust their planning and the support they provide as necessary. All data is used purposefully to put appropriate measures into place which help to impact on pupil progress.
We take great pride in the high standards of writing in our school, and ensure that we provide opportunities for inspiring great writing across the curriculum. Through excellent teaching and dedicated, focused support, children are able to make high levels of progress.
In EYFS children learn how to hold a pencil properly and begin to form letters, words and sentences through a series of purposeful and fun writing tasks.
At St Thomas Becket School, we always either link our writing context to our class ‘hook books’ or curriculum topics, finding real life reasons for children’s writing to enthuse them with purpose. We also use film clips from online collections such as The Literacy Shed, as a stimulus for powerful writing. We strive to create a sense of enjoyment around writing and encourage children to see themselves as an author. Teachers talk to the children about their targets, helping them take ownership of their work and providing them with the tools they need to make rapid progress.
Children’s writing is celebrated in many ways in our school from our Best Writing classroom displays to our Golden Board work, and children feel that their writing is valued.
Each week, pupils plan for their writing using a range of strategies suitable to the task. They are taught to sustain their writing during our weekly Big Writing sessions, incorporating grammar, vocabulary and spellings taught. We have recently started our new initiative: ‘The Language Lab’. During our English planning and Big Writing sessions each week, teachers in Year 1-6, discuss and display up to 6 words they have generated with the children to display in class for use in their writing that week. These words are specifically chosen to introduce new, challenging vocabulary relevant to the class writing focus. This allows children to build on their existing vocabulary and support rapid progress in reading, writing and spoken language.
Our writing session is then followed by a designated time for children to proof-read and edit their work alongside a partner. Children are trained to check their work carefully and accurately, and use a dictionary/thesaurus to assist them with this as they become more confident writers. Each year group are provided with jumbo targets which children must strive to achieve through each piece of writing. These targets are progressive across the school and are directly in line with current curriculum expectations for each year group.
We have a clear school handwriting policy and teachers set high expectations with regards to the children’s presentation of work. Handwriting is taught regularly and systematically, with extra intervention support provided where necessary. Junior children are also set handwriting for homework to coincide with their learning of weekly spellings.
Children are taught grammar and punctuation each week and follow the Headstart Spelling programme. Lessons include investigative spelling games and incorporate the use of dictionaries in the teaching of new spelling patterns, rules and irregularities.
The literacy leader leads regular staff meetings and INSETs to address CPD needs and introduce any new writing initiatives to staff. We also hold termly moderation meetings in which we assess pupils’ writing, providing teachers with an opportunity to compare work samples across year groups and identify next steps for children’s learning. Teachers track children’s writing attainment and progress, and then review this within termly pupil progress meetings. This data is again used purposefully to target the needs of the children in the class and implement support initiatives where necessary.
Speaking and Listening
At St Thomas Becket School, we appreciate the importance of giving sufficient time to developing children’s spoken language as well as teaching them to read and write.
We use talk for writing to encourage pupils to express and exchange their ideas, and to develop more sophisticated vocabulary. Book Talk and discussion following research are also used to ignite effective planning for writing.
We provide several opportunities for children to learn how to listen to each other effectively, work closely as a team, project their voices, speak with confidence and develop their self-esteem. These include: Reading Champion assemblies, class assemblies, school performances such as the Christmas Play, Passion Play and Year 6 production. Children also have the opportunity to discuss and debate current local and world affairs, during our Votes for Schools sessions. Children are encouraged to give speeches and presentations in class, and learn about subjects across the curriculum through the delivery of practical drama sessions.