Our Vision for English
To provide rich learning experiences driven by challenge, creativity, imagination and curiosity, giving children opportunities to express and communicate ideas in new ways and make real things for real audiences. Through carefully chosen, relevant topics and challenging and diverse texts, children take ownership of their learning pathways, developing self-esteem and confidence. Children develop a love of language and literature in all its forms, and through this a deep understanding of themselves and others.
The message to pupils
‘English is a creative subject where we are always making something new or original. It is a subject that allows us to explore our own and other people’s emotions and provides safe and interesting ways to express our thoughts, feelings and ideas through talking and writing. It is a chance to enter different worlds and experiences through reading or creating them for ourselves. In English lessons we can ask real questions and debate things that matter to us.’
Our English Curriculum
We pride ourselves on providing a creative and stimulating English curriculum that inspires children with engaging topics, rich texts and creative approaches to reading, writing, spelling and phonics. Reading and a love of books, forms the bedrock of learning in all curriculum subjects and this is reflected in our whole school long term plan.
Structured around a 4 year rolling programme, our English topics and texts weave in and out of all subject areas. Our curriculum has clear aims and objectives in line with the National Curriculum, but is sufficiently fluid and evolving to take into account new pedagogy and cutting edge thinking and research. Our staff are skilled at setting high expectations in their curriculum planning for all learners, and creating bespoke learning packages to meet the needs of our mixed-age classes. We follow the same curriculum across all four schools and share expertise and resources between us.
At Cornerstones we have an overarching teaching and learning philosophy and culture for reading, however the method of delivery may be different in each school depending upon teacher expertise and the bespoke needs of the learners in each setting.
Our key priority is to instill a love of reading in every learner, which they take forward into all aspects of school and life. Children are encouraged to take pleasure in all forms of reading material from the very beginning of their reading education, whilst adhering to a consistent and rigorous programme of phonics (see phonics policy).
Children’s progress is tracked using our progression document and bespoke ‘Reading Scale’ adapted from the CLPE. Both teachers and learners use these documents to monitor their reading journey from ‘dependence’ to ‘independence’ and beyond.
Every child at Cornerstones has a reading planner to record their independent reading. Teachers set expectations for the children in their class, based on their knowledge of the learners and their individual needs or home environment. Some high-attainers for example, are trusted to read regularly and independently without recording daily, whereas children with significant gaps in their progress or lack of support from home, are expected to read daily with an adult in school. This flexible and responsive approach is careful monitored by teachers.
Every child has an independent levelled reading book until they reach the red band and become a mature independent reader. Children also have access to a full range of books to read purely for pleasure.
Every classroom at Cornerstones has a clear reading display, where the whole class text is celebrated.
We have highly experienced teachers and teaching assistants in all our schools, who are skilled at tracking the progress of their mixed-age classes and identifying any gaps in reading. We encourage teachers to work to their strengths, therefore in the classrooms you will see different methods of delivery.
In all classes children’s reading is taught predominately through a whole-class approach, and enthusiasm and engagement in a whole class text is the vehicle through which children learn the majority of their reading skills. However, each school adopts a different approach to reading interventions and catch up to meet the needs of the learners in their class. For example, some schools timetable in a focussed group reading session, others give more time to one-to-one interventions. All practitioners are reflective and responsive to the needs of their classes and adapt their planning and delivery appropriately and flexibly.
Writing, spelling and grammar
As with reading, we have an overarching philosophy for writing, however, individual schools adapt this in different ways to suit the needs of their classes.
By providing stimulating writing opportunities, with a sense purpose and meaning, all children are encouraged to find their inner ‘voice’ and learn to love expressing themselves through the art and craft of writing. Writing is a life skill, and our rich curriculum enables all learners to find new and stimulating ways to communicate with different audiences.
Our youngest children are encouraged to class themselves as writers and authors from their very first mark-making experiences, and they can regularly be found writing and illustrating their own books in their own free time. Our older children work arduously on their writing projects, and are constantly challenged to develop their personal style and voice, as well as learning valuable life skills such as editing and redrafting.
We take a holistic approach to writing and grammar, and find that through carefully planned activities children can meet the demanding expectations of the grammar curriculum, by experiencing (and enjoying!) technical terminology in relevant contexts.
We provide opportunities for our pupils to develop the stamina and skills to write at length; use accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar; write in a range of ways and purposes; and write to support their understanding and consolidation of what they have heard or read. There are two aspects of writing development: transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition. We recognise that both of these elements are essential to success and we support the acquisition of both sets of skills through various methods:
- Pupils move from ‘Letters and Sounds’ to ‘Read, Write, Inc’ spelling. Pupils learn spelling patterns and learn how to spell common exception words.
- We correct errors in pupils’ written work (see Marking and Feedback policy).
- We revisit key learning and build upon it in all areas, from phonics through to grammar, punctuation and spelling.
- We use high quality texts.
- We use teacher modelling and collaborative writing to demonstrate good practice.
- We provide writing frames to support pupils when appropriate.
- We provide time for planning, editing and revising.
- We mark extended pieces of work in-depth and set appropriate targets with the pupil.
- We use checklists for pupils to self-assess or peer-assess, when appropriate, so they can evaluate effectively.
Vocabulary is at the heart of much of our learning in English, and from the very first days they step into our school, children are immersed in the awe and wonder of words. Starting at Kirkby Fleetham School, a ‘Golden Thread of Language’ has begun to physically weave its way throughout our schools, celebrating new words, and making exciting and challenging vocabulary tangible and worthy of celebration. Famous authors have already started to contribute to the Golden Thread by sending us their favourite words. This is an exciting project, which is still in the early stages of development.
Clear, neat and legible handwriting is encouraged from the very earliest age. We teach joined handwriting from Term 2 in Reception and expect pupils to use joined, cursive handwriting in their written work. Structured support is provided for pupils with learning and physical difficulties.
We encourage our pupils to speak clearly and confidently and articulate their views and opinions. At Barton School we teach children to learn to talk and about talk through a Voice 21 approach to Oracy – this is something that is in the early stages of development and will be rolled out across Cornerstones. We believe that all children, regardless of their background are entitled to oracy education. We teach the children to express themselves orally in an appropriate way, matching their style and response to audience and purpose. Our pupils develop the skills of participating effectively in group discussions in the following ways:
- Activities which are planned to encourage active participation by all children, irrespective of ability.
- Encouraging talk-time in the classroom and encouraging reading and discussions about texts.
- Opportunities for talk partners, circle time, role play, drama and school performances.
- Contributions during collective worship and school events within the community
- Discussions during School Council meetings
- Guided and group reading activities
- Opportunities to express thoughts and feelings, such as during PSHE activities
We use Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised to plan and provide daily engaging phonics lessons. Take a look at our phonics page for more information: Phonics