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Learning at the speed of life

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At Pirbright Village Primary School we recognise that English unites the important skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening.  We recognise these as life skills, which enable us to make sense of the world. We aim for all children to become confident communicators as well as critical readers and writers with a capacity to express themselves through a variety of different literary activities.



Phonics are the building blocks to reading and writing and we begin teaching this in The Early Years Foundation Stage. During the first half term, the children begin phonics lessons where they follow the “Letters and Sounds” programme but use “Jolly Phonics” to deliver it to the children.  The children learn 4 sounds each week and then learn how to blend and segment those sounds in order to read and eventually spell words. The teaching is multi-sensory and we ensure all learning styles are met with fun activities and children are grouped depending on their individual progress. When the children move into Key Stage 1, we continue to teach formal phonics, again using “Letters and Sounds” and “Jolly Phonics”. These lessons are daily for 20 minutes and children are again grouped depending on their need so they can be working at differentiated phases. Phonics continues right up until Year 6 if the children still require support and it is always reflected on during spelling and word work in daily English lessons.



Children learn best when they are enjoying what they are doing and this is the same with reading.  Story time is a great way to immerse children in a range of books and promote the enjoyment and fun reading can bring.  The first books your child will receive in reception are books to share with you.  Once your child demonstrates the skills needed in order to read (having the ability to blend and segment the sounds taught to them and knowing some words from memory) they will be supplied with reading books from our reading scheme.  In The Early Years Foundation Stage, each week there will be two book changing times and your child will receive 2 books at a time.  One of the books will be phonics based  and the other will focus on high frequency words. We use the Oxford Reading Tree, PM Nelson and Collins Big Cat reading schemes. The children’s reading abilities will be regularly assessed and the children will be moved through the reading scheme when they are ready for the next stage. Once children have shown that they are confident within a certain book band by reading a range of the books, they will be “benchmarked” and moved onto the next level if this is appropriate.


In Key Stage 1, the children continue with their reading both in class and at home as they work their way through the reading scheme. They begin to make their own book choices when they reach the turquoise level and are encouraged to reflect on the things they enjoyed about the books they have chosen. The children continue to move through the scheme until they become a free reader. Ideally this will be around Year 2/3, but all children progress at different levels and it is crucial that they are supported to build good foundations from this early stage.


Once children have become a “free reader” they have a little more choice over the books they select. This will be monitored by class teachers and LSAs during individual reading, guided reading sessions and reading within English lessons. Inspiring a life-long love of reading is key and children will still need support, even in Year 6, to make good choices and read quality literature. The school has a Reading Challenge which gives guidance to those children who will still benefit from structure in their reading choices and can be found in the library. Hearing children read on a regular basis will help them progress quickly with their reading and your support is so important with this. Children may be able to read aloud fluently but alongside this is the comprehension aspects, which need to be monitored and are just as important. Please use the Reading Record to write down any comments and, of course, pop in a see us for recommendations and advice!


PM Bookband Levels


Pirbright Reading Challenge


















Teachers share their own love of reading with children at all available opportunities through class readers, encouraging parents to come to Family Fun Reading sessions and The Big Reads and by promoting the annual book fair with class wish lists. Class reading corners are well-stocked and the library has recently been renovated. Some children may even receive a special library pass for bonus reading sessions! Mystery Readers excite children throughout the day and involve parents/grandparents coming in at the end of the school day to share a story with children - it's always fun to guess who is coming in. Learning Champions for reading ensure good peer support for reading and the older children love helping the younger children by hearing the read, chatting all things books and supporting them to develop their skills. 



We see writing as an integral part of the whole curriculum and are always looking for real-life writing opportunities to inspire the children and get them putting pen to paper. Activities, including first hand experiences, in all areas of the curriculum provide starting points for a wide variety of writing. In the Early Years Foundation Stage the child’s first marks on paper (emergent writing) are valued as an essential stage in the development of writing. Children explore and extend their writing skills through a variety of role play situations (e.g. writing signs and labels for the garden centre/invitations to a teddy bear’s picnic). They have free access to writing areas.


The KS1 Playground is the home of the school's Writing Shed which is a little den of activity for the children to freely choose writing experiences to encourage a love of English. The children in Reception and Year 1 use this as part of their continuous provision with access for the whole key stage at break and lunchtimes as they require it. 


As children become more confident in their writing ability as they progress through the school, we encourage them to be aware of their audience through highlighting the purpose of writing and providing opportunities for children’s work to be published. We allow time for children to evaluate their work and share it with others, encouraging constructive criticism and comment. Carefully planned for writing opportunities are provided in English lessons and across the curriculum. These are mostly linked to rich texts studied in each year group during lessons but also to other areas of study, such as history and science, where children can apply the skills they have learnt in lessons. 


Every year group has a writing Wish List which is aspirational and builds upon the objectives in the National Curriculum, alongside the elements of writing that we see as key here at Pirbright. Children can refer to these Wish Lists when editing their work to ensure they are being challenged to be the best writers they can. 


Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar

Fundamental to good writing, is confidence in spelling, punctuation and grammar which has been high on the school’s agenda for a number of years now. Beginning with our youngest children, we start teaching the building blocks for word building, sentence construction and text organisation to ensure writing is of the highest quality. We take a multi-sensory approach to spelling as children learn to spell using different strategies. Whilst we recognise the teaching of a systematic synthetic approach to phonics is successful with most children, we also recognise the need to use different strategies with children who do not learn spellings phonetically.  We therefore encourage the development of visual memory, kinaesthetic methods, picture cues as well as focusing on the structure of words and letter patterns. We teach spelling with the guidance of the “Letters and Sounds” and English Curriculum 2014 documents.


Children in both Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 receive weekly spelling lists to take home and learn. These will be a combination of high-frequency words, words they should be able to spell and words which follow a particular rule which is taught in class. Children also have a degree of personalised spellings where they select words from their English books which have been misspelt previously or find new words which would challenge them in Key Stage 2. Children are encouraged to use their weekly words in their English book and when tested, the words are always put into context. Children who struggle to access the class spellings are given individual lists and tested on an individual basis to ensure they are working at an appropriate level.


Punctuation and grammar is taught through English lessons and ensures that children are seeing the different rules of language in context where they can then apply this to their daily writing. Becoming literate with the language of grammar is just as important and allows for dialogue in the classroom to be of the highest quality. Children are encouraged to use technical vocabulary to explain words and sentences; this allows them to identify the rules of grammar in order to make choices about which techniques to employ in their independent writing.


Speaking & Listening

We value the oral language which children bring with them to school and we foster and develop this by encouraging them to speak confidently and teaching them to actively listen to others. Speaking and listening activities, including drama, are planned for specifically within each English unit as well as within other subjects across the curriculum.



During the Early Years Foundation Stage and Year 1 children are taught the correct letter formation as they learn the letters through their phonics lessons and through specific handwriting sessions. During Year 2, when the child is ready and shows that they can form letters correctly, they are introduced to cursive handwriting. As children become confident with handwriting skills they are encouraged to develop their own particular style.