The National Curriculum for English aims to ensure that all pupils:
- Read easily, fluently and with good understanding
- Develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information
- Acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language
- Appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage
- Write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences
- Use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas
- Are competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate.
At Highfields Spencer Academy we believe that a quality Literacy (English) curriculum should develop children’s love of reading, writing and discussion. One of our priorities is helping children read and develop their all-important comprehension skills. We recognise the importance of nurturing a culture where children take pride in their writing, can write clearly and accurately and adapt their language and style for a range of contexts. We want to inspire children to be confident in the art of speaking and listening and who can use discussion to communicate and further their learning.
We believe that children need to develop a secure knowledge-base in Literacy, which follows a clear pathway of progression as they advance through the primary curriculum. We believe that a secure basis in literacy skills is crucial to a high-quality education and will give our children the tools they need to participate fully as a member of society. From Reception upwards we use the Literacy Tree’s Literary Curriculum to help deliver our literature-based curriculum and have developed a positive working relationship with their consultants to help us embed our work in reading and writing as we progress into KS1 and KS2. We aim to one day become one of their flagship schools for the Midlands.
Even for our youngest pupils in Nursery and Reception literature is celebrated through our daily sharing and celebration of texts, reading corners in the classroom and outside and through our work with Greg Bottrill, author of ‘Can I go and Play now’ establishing the Message Centre and Adventure Island at Highfields, bringing purpose and imagination to writing across our indoor and outdoor learning. As Greg explains, Young children need to feel three things when they write and mark make: joy, purpose and magic.
We started our journey working with Greg in the Spring of 2021, as the Message Centre gave us a vision of writing that complements our whole approach at Highfields. It is suitable for Nursery, Reception, KS1 and KS2. Greg has worked with us over several INSETs and twilight sessions to begin to bring the magic to our pupils. We wanted to use Message Centre because it:
- Gives children the confidence and joy they deserve as writers
- Add a extra magic over your continuous provision so that children want to write
- Changes parental views of what learning is and enable writing to ‘go home’
- Develops a culture in which children discover the delight in reading and writing
- Shows children that mark making is for their purpose and can be a positive experience – especially impactful on boys’ writing (as we have a lot of boys at Highfields, this was particularly exciting for us)!
These aims are embedded across our literacy lessons and the wider curriculum. We have a rigorous and well organised English curriculum and framework, that provides many purposeful opportunities for reading, writing and discussion. We use a wide variety of quality texts and resources to motivate and inspire our children.
What is the Literary Curriculum?
The Literary Curriculum is a complete, book-based approach designed to help teachers access high quality resources and network through training. The Teach Through a Text approach was created so that there was a consistent, cohesive pedagogy used across a school.
Developed by The Literacy Tree, a group of English specialists who have all been teachers, school leaders and moderators, the Literary Curriculum immerses children in a literary world, creating strong levels of engagement to provide meaningful and authentic contexts for learning.
Children become critical readers and acquire an authorial style as they encounter a wide-range of significant authors and a variety of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
Planning sequences are supported by literary leaves to help develop comprehension, spelling seeds to develop spelling and vocabulary and there are home learning branches to help with remote learning and homework. The rate assessment tool is there to help staff to assess and moderate pupils written work.
Teachers also ensure that cross curricular links with concurrent topic work are woven into the programme of study. Within our curriculum we have worked hard to ensure that we represent the voices of many, with equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of the texts we have selected to help deliver our topics.
Click here to view our KS1 & KS2 Curriculum Overview.
Phonics and Early Reading
Since September 2021 we have been delivering phonics and early reading through the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Systematic Synthetic Phonics Programme. Please see our separate phonics page for more information.
Click here for more information on our phonics and reading curriculum.
At Highfields Spencer Academy we have invested in Little Wandle Collins Big Cat reading scheme books and have loved developing our new state of the art library with its own online library system. We are also investing in the Rising Stars Cracking Comprehension resources to further boost children’s comprehension skills from September 2022 and to complement our Literary Curriculum Literacy Leaves.
We run parent information sessions on phonics for Year 1 parents, we will deliver reading and SATs workshops for Year 2 parents from 2022 and a SATs meeting for Year 6 parents from 2025 so that they understand age-related expectations. The phonics and early reading sessions we have delivered since October 2020 are always very well attended by parents and carers who often comment about how helpful the sessions have been for them.
Our Reading Buddies scheme will be introduced in the summer term of 2023, and the use of our therapy puppy to hear less confident readers was introduced in Spring 2022, with children looking forward to reading to Jet our therapy puppy or a grown up volunteer. As pupils enter Year 3 they will also then start to have a reading buddy in class or will enjoy hearing fiction and non-fiction texts read to them by older children as we move into upper KS2. It is important for us that our older members of the school act as role models to promote a healthy reading culture. We encourage parents and members of the community to get involved with promoting reading through our Secret Storyteller project.
At Highfields Spencer Academy, we identify children who need support and provide intervention in the most effective and efficient way that we can. We run intervention reading groups and are fortunate to have parents and governors who come in regularly to hear children read. Most children on the SEND register have communication as one of their targets so it has been essential for us to invest in support for pupils in Makaton, PECs and also prepare for dyslexia training for staff which will be delivered in September 2022. Teachers plan and teach English lessons which are differentiated to the particular needs of each child. We help each child maximise their potential by providing help and support where necessary whilst striving to make children independent workers once we have helped to equip them with the confidence, tools and strategies that they need.
Marking is rigorous in English and across the curriculum, with regular ‘Response Times’ and spelling corrections to help children correct and consolidate their work. Regular English book scrutinies are carried out to check all teachers are following our marking policy rigorously. Please see our writing and assessment policies for more information.
We love to celebrate success of all learners and strive to help all children achieve their goals. Reading is celebrated in classrooms and around school at Highfields Spencer Academy, where our bright and colourful displays celebrate children’s writing, their favourite books and reading reward schemes, such as our reading suitcase for reading five times a week. In addition, throughout the school year our literacy curriculum is enhanced through World Book Day, an annual Readathon/ Listenathon or Spellathon competition, parent and governor 1:1 reading, drama workshops and a range of trips and visits which enrich and complement children’s learning. Every classroom has a reading reward scheme to encourage children to read regularly at home.
The impact on our children is clear: progress, sustained learning and transferrable skills. With the implementation of the writing journey being well established within KS1 and taught thoroughly in both key stages, children will become more confident writers and by the time they are in upper Key Stage 2, most genres of writing will be familiar to them and the teaching will focus on creativity, writer’s craft, sustained writing and manipulation of grammar and punctuation skills.
Termly assessment is showing that most children at Highfields are achieving in Literacy at age-related expectations. Each year we aim to have children achieving at a greater depth in reading and writing by the time they reach the end of KS1 and we will work hard to emulate that at the end of KS2. We hope that all the new literacy initiatives outlined above will help to boost children’s learning and progress. We use PIRA assessments for reading and regular writing moderation across the Trust to help analyse and identify next steps in learning for our children.
As all aspects of English are an integral part of the curriculum, cross curricular writing standards are being embedded in our curriculum topics and skills taught in the English lesson are transferred into other subjects; this shows consolidation of skills and a deeper understanding of how and when to use specific grammar, punctuation and grammar objectives.
We hope that as children move on from Highfields Spencer Academy to further their education and learning, that their creativity, passion for English and high aspirations travel with them and continue to grow and develop as they do.