Intent: why do we teach what we teach?
For our school to provide a rigorous and transformational education, English lies at the heart of the whole curriculum.
Our English mission is to develop independent thinkers, critical readers, eloquent writers, and knowledgeable, empathetic citizens, who truly are able find success in further education and in their chosen paths.
Thus, each unit of our curriculum is built upon pupils’ development in three strands:
- Skills, both reading and writing
- Knowledge, both literary and contextual
- Character, both ‘empowering knowledge’ beyond the curriculum requirements and pupils’ soft skills.
- Reading: if our pupils can read with confidence, they will be able to learn and know more, and enjoy the life-changing experience of reading for pleasure. Therefore, to meet this intention, our all-through English curriculum teaches phonics, vocabulary, fluency, retrieval, comprehension and analysis.
- Writing: we believe in the importance of eloquent self-expression in improving pupils’ future opportunities and personal well-being. Therefore, to meet this intention, our all-through English curriculum teaches handwriting, spelling, grammar, punctuation and writing structures for a range of forms.
- Literary: our pupils deserve to critically read and enjoy a broad range of high-quality literature of different genres and diverse authors through fiction and non-fiction.
- Contextual: for true understanding of the texts they read, pupils need knowledge of the historical contexts in which each text was produced.
- Empowering knowledge: learning in English and reading is complemented by the wider curriculum (citizenship, social and natural sciences) where appropriate.
- Soft skills: we value the importance of oracy, discussion and teamwork.
All reading and writing skills, literary and contextual knowledge and character development skills are revisited and built upon each year, forming a spiralised, interwoven curriculum from Nursery – Year 13.
Implementation: how do we teach what we teach?
Structure of the English curriculum
We prioritise teaching our children how to read – and how to love reading - from their first day at KSA. We immerse children in a book rich and word rich environment throughout nursery and then systematically teach phonics every day through the Read Write Inc Phonics programme, teaching children their sounds, then how to blend and then building their fluency and comprehension from there. Pupils are carefully organised into streamed groups in phonics for as long as they need them.
We know early intervention is best and invest time, energy and expertise into catching pupils up as rapidly as possible – wherever they are in the school. All teachers across the school are teachers of reading and are trained in strategies they can use to develop confidence in their subject specialisms, for example ‘partner reading’ in primary and ‘Inside, Outside, Beyond’ in in secondary.
Pupils are taught to love to write in a range of forms using their rich reading materials as inspiration for their own development as writers. We focus on mastering one form of writing each half term in primary, immersing ourselves in becoming excellent storytellers or journalists for example through a process of cold writes, shared and then independent writes where pupils use what they have learnt through the unit to write freely.
Reading and English in Primary
Engaging every day with a range of high-quality texts is a fundamental part of our curriculum. This begins in our primary reading curriculum where we have mapped the whole curriculum around a carefully selected, age-appropriate and suitably challenging reading spine. Each year group has an over-arching big question to answer over the course of the year to frame big thinking: for example “what does it mean to belong?” in Year 1, to “what is trust?” in Year 6.
We have daily reading lessons which follow a robust model using the simple view of reading as well as the five pillars of reading as our guiding principles. We focus on reading shared texts as a whole class, allowing time to practise partner reading to promote fluency, explicitly pre-teaching highest leverage vocabulary to expand our pupils’ lexicon as well as equipping pupils with the skills they need to retrieve evidence and make inferences.
Whilst our pupils just beginning to learn to read benefit from daily phonics sessions to explicitly improve phonemic awareness and phonics, pupils in KS2 continue working on spelling to embed spelling rules through a systematic spelling programme (RWI Get Spelling!). Years 3-6 also benefit from grammar mastery sessions at least twice a week to explicitly learn about language patterns and support them in being better able to deliberately modify language choices in their own writing.
Reading and English in Secondary
In Secondary, we have selected a diverse range of high-quality fiction and non-fiction texts that build upon the literary, contextual and empowering knowledge we want our students to develop. These are used as stimuli to teach pupils to write creative and opinion texts that express their own ideas that link to the theme.
In Key Stage 3, each year of study is also centred on a big thematic question that links all the units studied across a year. After studying a range of literature, including modern novels, 19th century fiction, poetry and a Shakespeare play, pupils synthesise their improved understanding of belonging, heroism, growing up and family relationships. Studied texts are deeply rooted in context and building the pupils ‘empowering knowledge’, for example, pupils study the triggers to World War 1 in their war poetry unit, and crime and poverty in Victorian London in A Christmas Carol and use this context to understand writers’ messages and their impact on today’s society. By the end of Year 9, all pupils can write in the academic structures required for success in GCSE and beyond and hold a passion for English. Reflecting the writing skills developed in earlier key stages, pupils focus upon either opinion writing or creative writing each term, with increasing depth of study upon each revisit.
In Key Stage 4, pupils become increasingly evaluative in literature; they develop their understanding of writers’ intentions and learn to critique the societies that caused characters’ repression. Units are designed to build upon the contexts and empowering knowledge taught in KS3, as pupils grapple with notions of power and leadership, gender expectations, love and relationships. In language lessons, pupils are taught to read and think actively and critically through exposure to texts from a wealth of writers from different backgrounds and experiences. They learn to problem solve in response to unseen texts, whilst simultaneously developing their self-expression in writing and discussion.
At Key Stage 5, English Literature is designed to develop the criticality and evaluative skills required for study at university. Students study novels, plays and poetry that offer representations of gender and alterity from the 18th century to the present day and learn to become experts in their contexts and themes. Students direct their own learning through their coursework, demonstrating their passion for reading and eloquence as writers to produce their own evaluative arguments, in preparation for further study at university.
Structure of English lessons
Lessons are planned backwards from end of unit assessments. Teachers, together with leaders, engage in writing the final outcomes and from there, unpick the key skills and knowledge required to be taught in order for pupils to be successful. All pupils always work to the same learning objective every lesson. Learning activities are then planned according to how best to achieve the learning objective of the lesson, culminating in a lesson outcome through which pupils evidence their progress in achieving the LO.
All English lessons begin with a Do Now, accessible to all pupils, either requiring them to retrieve prior knowledge or generate ideas to prepare them for their learning ahead. Subsequently, lessons typically follow a an I-do, we-do, you-do model, with pupils and teachers working together to actively read, answer questions, unpick models and plan written responses before independently consolidating their learning in an Exit Ticket.
Teachers plan for the fact that some pupils will need more scaffolding; others will require a greater challenge. Pupils in Key Stages 1-3 learn in a carefully planned seating plan and teachers have a data-driven well-worn path around the room to assess pupils’ knowledge and understanding quickly and adapt teaching effectively at point of learning and/or misconception using over-the-shoulder feedback to pupils or live class re-teaching.
Pupils are expected to learn from their teammates, as much as from their teacher. Oracy is an important skill in the process of learning at KSA. Carefully crafted habits for discussion enable our pupils to share their thinking, build on each other’s and act as a team and family. We aim to meet the academic needs of all learners every lesson through differentiated questioning and resources as well as through additional support from peers or additional adults. For our SEND pupils, we display key words and sentence starters and SEND writing outcomes aim to support the consistent writing of simple, coherent sentences that link to the learning.
Pupils read for pleasure every day: from enjoying five stories and songs a day for every child in EYFS through whole class story times moving into DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) from Year 4 through to Year 9 building the habit of independent and sustained reading for pleasure and developing their ability to tackle an ever more challenging repertoire of texts via non-fiction DEAR and class reading. In Primary, pupils benefit from hearing their favourite stories read to them regularly by their peers and class teachers. Until Years 7-9, all pupils are also expected to build their reading skills at home every night and throughout Key Stage 4 pupils continue to read regularly through non-fiction DEAR. Pupils are increasingly encouraged to read for pleasure on the subjects they enjoy. In Sixth Form, we support wider reading through the use of structured preparatory reading integrated into the curriculum and supporting extended reading through the Extended Qualification Project.
We celebrate reading successes at every opportunity, in class libraries and displays, through Reading Ambassador leadership roles in primary, in reading competitions and events and through partnership with as many external reading organisations as we can maintain.
Lesson allocations and Pupil Work
Subject Specific CPD
- ARK-wide professional development days focusing on delivery and assessment.
- Weekly professional development sessions which typically involve engaging with academic research, analysing model practice, implementing new skills into future learning, and pair practice.
- Weekly Intellectual preparation sessions to prepare for successfully planned and delivered lessons and to ensure best distribution of newly taught skills and knowledge.
- Weekly line management meetings that review planning and pupil work and offer coaching on drop in feedback.
- Drop ins, partner teaching and regular observations and feedback.
Impact: how do we know what pupils have learnt and how well they have learnt it?
Pupils are summatively assessed every half term on the skills and content they have learnt across the half-termly unit. The assessments and marking rubrics are outlined for each year group below, and a sample of all assessments are moderated with a senior leader or Head of Department. Feedback lessons on summative assessments are planned into lessons, giving pupils opportunity to reflect upon their successes and improve their areas for development. Teachers’ reflections on their pupils’ written and quantitative outcomes at the end of each unit form the basis for their adaptations for their MTPs in the subsequent unit.
In Primary, termly summative outcomes are rigorously assessed against age-related expectations and carefully moderated internally, with colleagues across the Ark network and externally through Local Authority moderation too.
In KS1 and 2, we have developed our own library of ‘how tos’ to identify the requirements of a particular form of writing for each year group. The Medium-Term Plan drives the progress towards summative ‘Go Write’ assessments where pupils show off their mastery of the form in their writing progress books. Pupils display clear ownership over their work, responding to oral feedback given in class and marking outside of class, which pupils are expected to respond to in green pen.
In reading, pupils respond to daily evidence retrieval and inference questions alongside developing extended reading responses in the form of critical essays which include text-based evidence to support their responses. Years 3-6 take a termly Headstart test that is used to inform reading progress and intervention plans through missing mark analysis. Three times a year, pupils in Year 2-Year 9 sit the NGRT assessments, which generate each child’s reading age and calculate the reading and chronological age variance. All pupils in Year 1 and all pupils in Y2-6, whose reading age is below chronological age, are additionally assessed using PM Benchmark assessments. These assessments help teachers identify which pillar is their area of development. In phonics, children are assessed each half term on their accuracy and fluency ability at an age-related text. This data is used to inform Phonics groupings, 1:1 tutoring and further interventions.
Pupils are formatively assessed in all English lessons. Cold call questioning plays an important role in checking for understanding during guided reading, as well as, in secondary, silent annotations of core texts in response to guided questioning. Teachers check for understanding using a range of strategies including whole class RAGing of example responses, with unpicking, class discussion and debate and we-do reflection questions. We use intentional monitoring to provide in-lesson feedback on pupil work and students engage in regular knowledge and technical accuracy quizzes.
In line with the secondary assessing and responding policy, pupils complete at least one extended writing task each week, which is redrafted the subsequent week following whole class reteaching and practice, model annotations and individualised targets. In KS3, feedback on checkpoint activities takes the form of a code, from which pupils identify their targets on a feedback sheet, analyse their target in a model response, carry out skills practice and redraft their improvements in green pen. In KS4 and 5, feedback on checkpoints becomes more nuanced, and pupils are encouraged to use specific feedback to think critically and metacognitively about their own writing.
Termly pupil work reviews and additional book reviews with leaders monitor the quality of pupil work, the extent to which learning is being effectively facilitated and the consistency with which feedback is being given and acted upon.
Ultimately, our aims are long term, and the impact we wish to see goes beyond our assessment outcomes, it is shown in who our pupils are when they leave us and what they are ready to achieve in their lives. Our curriculum aims to prepare pupils for success at university and beyond. As the first cohorts of our pupils have now started graduating from university, we can see the life changing impact of what we teach our pupils.
Primary English Curriculum Map 2021- 2022.pdf
updated May 2022