At Nottingham Academy Primary our intent is to provide an inspirational English curriculum for our children that allows them to develop into confident, creative writers, readers, and communicators.
We understand that developing strong literacy skills in primary school plays a key role in the ability of children to successfully navigate the later years of their school life, and the years beyond education.
At Nottingham Academy, it is our aim to do this by immersing children in an engaging curriculum that is tailored to their needs, responsive to the different speeds at which children learn and sensitive to the challenges that all children face on their learning journey.
Having a well-planned, carefully structured progression of skills that runs from the beginning of EYFS to the end of year 6 allows us to have high expectations of all children whilst ensuring that skills and knowledge are taught, practised and embedded throughout our children’s learning journey
At the heart of this is the intention of all staff here at Nottingham Academy to instil a love of reading, writing and discussion in our children that will have a positive impact on their development during their time here, and a lasting impact on their lives.
We aim to provide a reading rich curriculum, that introduces our children to a range of quality and diverse texts that reflect our society, our community and our children. Using a range of classic and newer texts, we strive to develop a reading for pleasure culture that excites and engages children with reading, both in and out of the classroom. Books drive our English teaching and learning, where texts are chosen to match both our curriculum needs and our themes and topics.
Following a rigour and progressive synthetic phonics programme is a necessary requirement for all children in Year 1 and below. At Nottingham Academy, all our staff, regardless of Year group, are trained to deliver the Little Wandle phonics scheme, which is a government accredited phonics programme.
Children in EYFS and Years 1 and 2 receive daily phonics teaching, plus ‘keep up’ sessions and interventions if need is recognised, to ensure that all children are being given the opportunity to progress. Both the teaching and the keep up sessions are based on regular assessments that inform staff the phonic stage that each child is on, whilst allowing any gaps in knowledge to be quickly noticed and rectified.
Children in Years 3- 6 who are not yet phonetically secure also receive individual or small group phonics instruction, which from the use of regular and rigorous assessments, are carefully matched to meet their phonic need.
All children within school have regular guided reading sessions. Through group reading and reading tasks in EYFS all children explore books and reading in different contexts in a heavily supported way. In Year F2 and Year 1, the children follow the Little Wandle weekly reading programme of 3 sessions based on decoding, prosody and fluency and comprehension. In Year 2 and above, whole-class discussion and shared reading activities are based on the Think Aloud model; scaffolded and differentiated by need, which focusses on high quality modelling and book talk. These guided lessons provide a deeper understanding of what characters are thinking, how they are feeling and why they act the way they do as well as exploring authorial choices in terms of vocabulary, intent and sentence structure
Through careful questioning, children learn how stories and non-fiction writing is constructed and in doing so, develop their comprehension skills and their ability to better understand and interpret the books they read. Language, sentence structure and other writing devices and features are also explored to further develop children’s understanding and complete the circle of having a positive impact on their writing development.
All the children have reading books which are carefully matched to either their phonic or, once phonetically confident, fluency and comprehension level. In order to do this, we use a range of assessments, based upon our book banding system, National Curriculum and end of Key stage standards as well as reading speed and other teacher assessments. Children are encouraged to read regularly at home and then will read with an adult 1-1 at least fortnightly within school. Some children will read 1-1 with an adult more than that depending on need, age, and stage. These 1-1 reading times are really special as they allow for book talk as well as skills development at a very personal level.
Reading for pleasure
Reading is fundamental to everything we do, not just as part of our English curriculum We are aware of the impact it has on the development of children in all subjects as well as the cultural capital it can add to their lives. Class books, which are shared at story times, are chosen and mapped across the year groups to give our children exposure to an even wider range where children can immerse themselves in the pleasure of books and being read too. Children are encouraged to read independently, in pairs or in groups outside of our planned and taught reading sessions, to encourage this love of reading. Each class has a book area or library to promote and celebrate reading at all times. Year groups have central library areas and a whole school library is currently under development. Initiatives and incentives are designed to further promote reading for pleasure, including the opportunity to attend a reading café or go to a local bookshop to choose and buy a book.
We also have links with our local library, and we endeavour to ensure that all children at the school have library cards. We visit the library regularly to continue to promote its use and to show children the opportunities available outside of school.
From September 2022, we adopted The Write Stuff approach as a whole school. English lessons are taught in units that are planned around high-quality, challenging texts. The children are immersed in this engaging narrative (or non-fiction text), over several weeks, exploring characters, settings, storylines and themes. The writing skills developed in these lessons are carefully selected so that they form part of a whole-school skills progression. This allows children to master age-appropriate skills and enables the teachers to provide timely challenge or support where it is needed.
We believe that children’s learning is enhanced when they are writing for a purpose. Because of this, we structure our units in a way that allows teachers and their classes to focus on one key writing purpose at a time – writing to entertain, persuade or inform. This approach means that children spend several weeks gaining a thorough understanding of how to write for a specific purpose and what skills to employ, whether this is writing a story, letter, diary, or leaflet, creating a fact file or recounting an event.
Throughout school, we use the ‘Fantastics, Boombastics and Grammarsaurus lenses’, part of ‘The Write stuff’ approach to help focus ideas and thoughts around elements of narratives and non-narratives, including, action, speech, feelings and noticing (observation) as well as using them as hooks to help up-level the vocabulary we learn and develop attached to each of those areas.
Spelling, Grammar, and punctuation
Grammar and Punctuation is an integral part of the writing process. Children are taught spellings, punctuation, and grammar in accordance with the National Curriculum. Grammar, spellings, and punctuation are taught explicitly with a clear objective and focus which build progressively throughout the school. However, key grammar and punctuation skills are also taught in context and ‘in the moment’ across school.
We recognise the crucial importance of developing children’s oracy and the impact that this can have not only on children’s learning but their confidence, self-esteem, empathy and understanding too. Increased oracy impacts positively on behaviour and emotional regulation as well as resilience. We offer opportunities at all times for children to develop their fluency in speech through encouraging class, group or paired discussion, modelling speech, discussing and sharing stories. We encourage appropriate speech through play and other social situations. We plan for performance; speaking, listening, group discussion and drama activities are integrated into our teaching across the curriculum and are seen as fundamental to teaching and learning. We aim to enable our children to develop their speech and communication skills in order to give children the skills to justify ideas with reason; ask questions to check understanding; develop vocabulary and build knowledge; negotiate; evaluate and build on the ideas of others; •select the appropriate register for effective communication; give well-structured descriptions and explanations, speculate, hypothesise and explore ideas, organise their ideas prior to writing.
By immersing children in high quality texts and focusing on skills and the enjoyment of English, children develop an enthusiasm for the subject. They enjoy talking about their favourite books, discussing the stories they’re writing, and sharing their achievements with other children.
Children’s books show that they continually adopt new writing skills as they progress through the school while drawing inspiration from the books they read in class. Children’s writing is assessed at the start of the year and at the end of each term. This formal assessment complements the day-to-day assessment that takes place in classrooms and in books.
Children are also encouraged to assess their own work. Evaluating their own progress often feeds their eagerness to reach new targets and enables children to talk freely and enthusiastically about their next steps. Editing days, which allow children to make changes needed to improve their writing are specifically planned into each unit.
Character curriculum links to English
Our character curriculum is explicit and implicit and underpins all educational activities at Nottingham Academy.
In our English lessons children are encouraged to be self-motivated, have curiosity, and show persistence in the face of challenge.
At Nottingham Academy Primary, we support our Literacy character curriculum further by celebrating success in assemblies, developing oracy further with Golden Bear or other characters going home, texts selected to support and promote diversity and using pupil voice to help shape our developing curriculums. Within EYFS, proud clouds are used to celebrate children’s Literacy achievements at home and throughout the rest of the school a combination of rewards as incentives including the reading incentive programme, stickers, certificates and other prizes are used to both celebrate and motivate. We have trained ELSA, emotional Literacy, staff who work with children around such areas as self-esteem and confidence which in turn gives them a greater opportunity of success.
Opportunity and entitlement
Opportunities and entitlement refer to the activities and learning experiences that take place in school alongside the academic and character curriculum.
These activities support all aspects of our learning as we ensure that we try to make our teaching and learning as relevant and real as possible. This may include trips out of school based around texts and themes, theatre visits, library visits, community involvement through either letter writing, planning activities or visiting our local area to enable us to develop our wider understanding and vocabulary giving context to our learning. Outside speakers and other visitors allow children the exposure to wider opportunities including sports clubs, charities, arts groups and visitors from the worlds of higher education and work.
This supports our academic enrichment, stimulates an intellectual curiosity and therefore enhances academic development and outcomes.