By the end of Year 6, we want all of our pupils to at least achieve the objectives set out in the 2014 National Curriculum and we strive to offer opportunities to develop skills above and beyond this. In order to achieve this, we appropriately support those that need additional interventions and aim to help as many children as possible to build on their successes in Key Stage One and attain ‘Greater Depth’ in all areas of the English curriculum. Our curriculum is carefully designed and mapped out to ensure that our pupils acquire the knowledge and skills required in a sequential and progressive manner. It is regularly reviewed and adapted so that it is relevant to the needs of our pupils and reflects the world they live in.
It is our intention that all pupils will be able to read and understand accurately and confidently by the time that they leave us. As a school, we strive to create an environment where reading is seen as a pleasurable and worthwhile activity. We aim to expose children to a wide range of ambitious texts to broaden their experience and increase confidence in reading and writing. The Subject Lead has spent time designing a roadmap of reading books that are used – see appendices. Recently, we have noticed that our pupils’ vocabulary has been diminishing, and it has become a priority to widen their lexicon so that they will be able to use a richer range of vocabulary in both oral and in a written form.
Our aspiration is that this focus on reading and vocabulary will then enable our pupils to write competently and with confidence in a range of contexts, using and applying their grammatical knowledge & skills in academic and everyday life. In order to help achieve this, during their time at Oaklands Junior School, we offer the children a wide range of opportunities to apply their ‘English’ skills in cross-curricular activities and tasks.
At the end of Key Stage 2, we expect that during their time at Oaklands Junior the children will also have acquired a deeper knowledge of spelling rules which they then will be able to apply in their work.
Many of these skills and ways of learning tie in particularly well with our ‘Thinking School’ philosophy as well as our ‘Oaklands’ Mindset’. Through the use of ‘Thinking Maps’, ‘P4C’ and other ‘Thinking Tools’, it is our intention that the children will be able to use and apply the English skills that they learn to help develop their knowledge and understanding of all areas of the National Curriculum. Furthermore, during French lessons, we aim to create links between their learning on French with their understanding of English – for example in the use of grammatical terms, reading, speaking, listening and writing skills.
Finally, through lessons, ‘special events’ and regular assemblies, our ambition is that all children will leave our school not only with a love of language and literature but also the ability to communicate effectively and understand how important a role their ability in English will play in their future successes.
Following the COVID pandemic, we recognise the impact that the lack of face-to-face teaching has had on the children’s progress in English. Although daily lessons were provided as part of our remote learning provision during lockdown, we are aware that we will need to revisit some key concepts from previous year groups.
Nb. A detailed breakdown of the curriculum, some of the texts and books used and what is taught in each ‘stage’, can be found in the appendices.
Teaching and Learning
The teaching of English takes places in all areas of the curriculum, whether it be in an English writing lesson, interrogating written sources in history, writing up investigations in science or researching artists in art. Although we do not specifically have a thematic approach, we do endeavour to link topics and subjects.
English lesson plans are designed with specific learning and assessment opportunities in mind and can focus on one or more of the following: reading, writing, phonics, grammar, spelling, drama, speaking, listening and / or handwriting. As such, depending on the focus of the session, they can last between 15 minutes and an hour. The lessons are designed to be progressive and build on prior learning, whether it be in reading, writing or grammar. Lessons plans also include activities and teaching interventions to support the less able and to extend the more able.
The lesson activities are challenging, varied and interactive and develop listening, reading, speaking and writing skills, building on existing understanding from previous and current year groups. Interactive whiteboard resources are used, and a wide range of additional resources have also been purchased with regards to books, schemes of work and access to useful teaching websites such as Literacy Shed+. The school also has a large number of dictionaries and thesauruses which are used regularly in lessons. In addition to these teaching resources, each class has a class library, which is used to promote reading. We also have a very well stocked library, which has recently been reorganised, and a ‘Reading bus’.
Marking and Assessment
When marking, teachers use Next Step codes and marking acronyms in order to help identify areas for improvement as well as focussing on objectives that the children have achieved. NS codes vary from piece to piece and marking acronyms are clearly displayed in every class as are ‘Presentation boards’. Every class has a dedicated class reading library, that the school has invested significant amounts of money in, following research about the best books for each year group and children also got to choose some of them. Every new English book has a piece of work from the end of the previous year group, a spelling list (which is regularly updated following termly spelling tests), a list of key marking acronyms and a grammar glossary.
It is expected that formative assessment takes place in every lesson and this then informs the planning and teaching of subsequent lessons. Teachers regularly update the ‘Oaklands’ Assessment System’ which records pupils’ attainment against objectives in reading and writing. For writing, a teacher’s assessment is primarily based on a child’s last piece of writing in a unit (most units lead to a piece of writing which is usually written up as a final draft on ‘gold’ paper); grammar and spelling tests are also used to supplement assessments. Assessment in reading is a combination of formative assessment during reading sessions and formal reading comprehension tests (NFER and Headstart).
Interventions and Support
As well as whole class teaching, a wide range of English-focussed interventions take place in every year group at Oaklands Junior School, both inside and outside of the class, including phonics, reading, writing and handwriting. We have recognised that recent cohorts from our Infants feeder school have not been as strong at spelling as we would hope and, as well as speaking to their SLT and re-organising the teaching of spelling, we have also recently introduced the use of i-pads for regular spelling interventions, using the Nessy App, to complement our use of an adapted version of the ‘No Nonsense Spelling’ scheme. At Oaklands Junior School, we invest a significant part of our budget in Teaching Assistants, with every year group having two full-time TAs. They are treated as equals and are regularly invited to staff meetings and training sessions. A significant number are HLTAs and most of the TAs have been in the school for a number of years. This level of availability, training and experience helps us to run regular interventions to help children make better progress.
Recently, we noted the need for more phonics interventions for the Year 3 cohort and so we have invested in training not only for the Year 3 staff but also for all Teaching assistants in all year groups. Furthermore, we have re-designed the Year 3 timetable to enable more regular phonics interventions to occur for more children.
Spelling and Grammar
In January 2020, following a CPD training day, the SLT took the decision to follow academic research and introduce regular (3-5 times a week) grammar and spelling retrieval sessions in order to help the children retain key spelling words and grammatical terms, as it was felt by all members of staff that this was an area that the children were finding challenging (and this was also seen in our Year 6 SATs). Due to the various partial school closures, we have not yet seen the full benefits of this intervention, however, we strongly believe that long-term this will have a significant positive impact on the children’s learning; staff have already reported improvements in the children’s ability to retain and recall spellings and key information. This pedagogy built upon our change in the teaching of spelling, which was implemented in 2018, when we elected to have daily spelling lessons and change spelling homework, as we felt that it was not as effective as we had hoped.
At the same time as introducing regular grammar and spelling retrieval sessions, we also re-organised every year group’s timetable to create a ‘Daily Read’ slot. These 15-minute sessions are now ‘enshrined’ in our timetables and they provide an opportunity for the children to stop and listen to a book for enjoyment. It is a time for them to be exposed to a text that they may be unfamiliar with for the sheer pleasure of listening to a book. We feel that this is an extremely important part of our day and something that children and staff look forward to.
After analysing the trend of our Y6 Reading SATs results, it was felt that we needed to improve our current teaching of reading. This resulted in each year group having a more balanced approach to guided reading and reading comprehension sessions. Furthermore, after discussions with our SIO and having spoken to our local schools, in Spring 2021, we started to introduce the teaching of active reading strategies using VIPERS – a way of teaching the children about the different type of questions that can be asked. It is anticipated that this, combined with other measure taken promote reading, will lead to more positive outcomes at the end of Key Stage 2.
Again, in reaction to what had been identified as an issue by the SLT and staff, in Spring 2021, we have extended our reading scheme so that children stay on it for longer. We have also stated that reading homework must be of a book that either the school as lent the child or has been agreed to be of an appropriate challenge for their reading level. This was implemented as we were finding that many ‘free-readers’ had a relatively poor literary diet and we felt that we wanted to expose them to a wider range of more challenging books. When this was introduced, an explanatory letter was sent out and an evening webinar was offered to all parents.
As well as a range of lessons and interventions, we have also run regular events such as author talks (including numerous virtual talks during the pandemic), reciprocal reading between year groups, access to the ‘Big Red Reading Bus’, a school newsletter written by Year 6s, a half-termly holiday book swap, World Book Day and book fairs. Although not all of these could take place in the academic year 2020-21, due to the pandemic, these are all scheduled to take place again during 2021-2022. Furthermore, in September 2021, we are also introducing an after-school drama club and a Chatterbox book club for the More Able. These events have always been great successes, engaging pupils across the school; they help to create a positive, stimulating environment around the subject.
Miss Noad, the English Subject Lead, and other senior staff also do regular reading assemblies, including during lockdown. These assemblies are aimed at promoting the love of reading and raising the profile of English.
As well as raising the profile of reading, over the last five years, raising standards in writing at Oaklands has been a key area of development. The English Subject Lead and other members of staff have undertaken external CPD which they have then disseminated to all staff. As a direct result of this, a trial of using some cherry-picked ‘Talk for Writing’ techniques combined with one of our ‘Thinking Maps’ was implemented, and then, due to its success, rolled out to all year groups.
Within lessons, teachers regularly use a range of techniques to teach writing including whole class shared writing, guided writing with groups and ‘hugging the text’.
Handwriting is taught explicitly to whole classes in Years 3 and 4 on a weekly basis (using ‘PenPals’ and ‘The Handwriting Rescue Scheme’). Furthermore, interventions are also run in all year groups as required.
In order to help drive up standards in writing across the curriculum, from September 2021, all writing in foundation subjects is now done in ‘oversized A4’ books. This was following a successful trial in Year 3, as it was felt that this would help children to take more pride in their work and focus on the quality of their writing in the afternoon.
Beyond the Classroom
In order to support our children’s learning, regular English homework is set in all year groups. This includes reading, spelling and a weekly task. Prior to the pandemic, the children were given a half-termly homework grid with a range of activities, focussing on using their English skills across the curriculum. However, due to Government restrictions and Lockdowns, since the return to school, the weekly English homework has been more of a traditional homework task, focussing on catching up and re-enforcing areas of the English curriculum.
Furthermore, a number of years ago, a termly ‘Pride’ award was introduced to raise standards and highlight the importance of presentation and always doing your best: each teacher picks one child who has shown particular pride in their work. This and the ‘Give me 5’ (5 key things for the children to remember in their work) initiative were in direct response to a perception at the time that the children’s presentation skills were not at the required standard. In 2020, we also introduced a termly progress award for one child in the school who has made accelerated progress in their reading and / or writing.
Subject Leadership and Monitoring
As part of her subject leader role, Miss Noad also undertakes learning walks and speaks to children to understand the strengths and areas of development within our current provision for the teaching of English. A yearly pupil voice survey was instated in 2021 for all year groups to understand the current strengths and challenges that we are facing from the children’s perspectives.
Over the last few years, Mr Lee has worked closely with our MAT’s SIO team and established links with schools within The Corvus Trust, including our local secondary school, which have enabled us to share good practices, undertake staff training and participate in moderation exercises.
Regular English focussed training has regularly taken place in staff meetings, as well as frequent opportunities to discuss what is working well and what challenges we face. One of our key strengths as a staff, both classroom-based and at a senior level, is the fact that we have a very open and honest working relationship which enables us to support and challenge each other in our pedagogy, as well as openly discussing current and potential future practices.
In order to assist parents with helping their child and in response to parent feedback, videos were posted on the school website during lockdowns about reading with your child and Mr Lee ran a ‘Helping your child make even better progress’ webinar. Prior to the pandemic, parental workshops about reading and homework were also run.
Response to the Pandemic
The impact of COVID-19 pandemic has been discussed at length during staff meetings and the Subject Lead has highlighted some objectives that need to be revisited by each year group: particularly in reference to the key skills that are on the children’s target cards. Following discussions at SLT meetings, and in consultation with teaching and support staff, it was agreed that we would use a ‘Quality First Teaching’ approach for spending the ‘Covid catch up funding’: the money is being used to fund class cover so that class teachers can take out small groups of children. Once a week, two groups of 6 pupils (from across the year group) are taken for a maths or English intervention. These 45-minute sessions enable the class teacher that takes the session to focus on specific objectives and gaps that have been identified through formative and summative assessment. Moreover, it also enables the teacher to reinforce this learning more effectively back in the classroom in the lessons that follow. The SLT have calculated that this model will enable us to continue this support for at least two years, which was felt to be paramount, as it is believed that a regular ‘drip-feed’ approach from a class teacher was the best way to spend this money, rather than paying for external tutors. Moreover, we are acutely aware that the children that will be joining us over the next few years from our feeder Infants school will be in particular need of additional support and interventions.
At the end of Year 6, Oaklands Junior school children:
- Have developed a love for reading across a range of genre.
- Are exposed to high-quality texts and use a variety of strategies to unpick their literacy choices, purpose and impact.
- Can write for different purposes and of a high quality, which is transferred across all subjects.
- Respond to feedback from teachers by independently editing and improving their own work.
- Have a rich vocabulary and a curiosity to explore language.
- Communicate clearly and confidently when performing and presenting.
Children at Oaklands with Special Educational Needs are supported through interventions and differentiated tasks and make good progress with their learning.
The impact of our implementation can be monitored in a number of ways: through learning walks and lesson observations; examples of children’s work; moderation meetings (both internally and with our cluster schools); planning scrutiny; pupil voice surveys; parent surveys and teacher assessments (both summative and formative).
Teacher Assessment and End of KS2 Results
Each half term, our class teachers monitor the impact of their teaching by assessing their class’ work against their stage objectives. This data enables the teacher to assess the effectiveness of their teaching strategies and plan subsequent lessons or interventions for individuals accordingly. The English Subject Lead, Assessment Co-ordinator and other members of the SLT monitor the assessment grids and the data provides a basis for appraisal targets.
Since we have been focussing on improving the quality of teaching in reading, we have noticed a rising trend in the end of KS2 reading results, which strongly indicates that the strategies that we have put in place have been effective. Furthermore, our projected aspirational target for our current Year 6s is 83% achieving the expected standard or higher with 41% achieving greater depth. Upon analysis of these results, our aim for this academic year is to further embed the specific teaching of VIPERS in order for the children’s knowledge and attainment to continue to rise.
As the teaching of writing has been a focus for a number of years now, we have noticed a significant improvement in our writing data. However, since the start of the COVID-19 lockdowns, quite understandably, we have noticed a deterioration in the quality of our writing across the school, which we are currently prioritising. As a result, our COVID recovery catch up interventions this term are focussed around writing. Our hope is, that as our reading results are improving, this will in turn, along with other strategies implemented, improve our writing results too.
At the end of Summer 2021, we conducted Reading and Writing surveys with children in each year group. Here, we were able to ascertain children’s perception of their abilities within each subject, their enjoyment of lessons and identify barriers that they have to learning.
In our reading surveys, we found that children at Oaklands are confident readers. 77% of children feel that they are above average readers, which indicates a strong sense of self-esteem in relation to reading amongst our school. In addition, we have found that the high-quality books that we have purchased for our book corners and libraries promote an enjoyment in reading. 75% felt that our school and class libraries encouraged children to read. However, whilst 62% said that they read enough, 29% of children felt that they do not read enough and would like to read more. They outlined that reasons for not reading enough include finding more books that interest them, owning more books and having more time to read. As a next step, we are working to ensure that staff have enough knowledge of books to recommend their year group and will dedicate staff meeting time towards this.
Following analysis of our writing surveys, we have found that our children have a high self-esteem with how they regard themselves as writers. 66% of our children believe that they are above average in their writing. In addition, only 18% of our children say that they do not enjoy writing lessons. We identified from this survey that children’s desire to write more stories and to choose what they write. Therefore, we are launching a Free-Writing week once a half term.
Learning Walks and Observations
In recent learning walks and observations, the English lead has identified that year groups are being exposed to high quality texts in guided reading sessions and learning is being both supported and extended. In upper school, children are being encouraged to take ownership of their learning, linking with our Thinking Schools ethos, by identifying interesting vocabulary in the text and choosing their next ‘Word of the Week’. The next steps identified from these learning walks are to continue to fully embed the teaching of VIPERS in to the curriculum and for the English lead to research and promote the use of active reading strategies within lessons.
As a school, our next steps are shared with all staff and sufficient training is provided to meet these targets. This academic year, as our priority is writing, we have allocated staff meetings to support the development of this subject for both the teachers and TAs. Teaching and support staff’s appraisals also reflect our school’s writing target so the progress of each class can be easily accessed and monitored. To continue to embed our reading strategies in to the curriculum, our TAs have received VIPERs training from our Corvus SIO and staff, including the English lead, are being trained in the delivery of phonics.