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At St. Mary's, we believe reading and writing is the gateway to all learning. All children within our school have a right to learn to read and write in order to develop essential life skills for modern Britain, which helps them flourish and reach their full potential. Through a creative, cross-curricular, experiential approach, children will gain a love of literacy, which will open doors to a wide range of opportunities and promote a lifelong love of learning. We will strive to develop and adapt our teaching to ensure that St. Mary's pupils are ready for an ever changing world.


The overarching aim for English in the national curriculum is to promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written word, and to develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment. The national curriculum for English aims to ensure that all pupils: 

  • read and write with confidence, fluency and understanding
  • have an interest in books and develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information 
  • acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language 
  • appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage 
  • write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences 
  • acquire a range of independent strategies to self-monitor and correct
  • use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas 
  • are competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate. 


Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS) is our chosen Phonics programme. The aim of ELS is ‘Getting all children to read well, quickly’. It teaches children to read by identifying the phonemes (the smallest unit of sound) and graphemes (the written version of the sound) within words and using these to read words.

Children begin learning Phonics at the very beginning of Reception and it is explicitly taught every day during a dedicated slot on the timetable. Children are given the knowledge and the skills to then apply this independently.

Throughout the day, children will use their growing Phonics knowledge to support them in other areas of the curriculum and will have many opportunities to practise their reading. This includes reading 1:1 with a member of staff, with a partner during paired reading and as a class. 

Children continue daily Phonics lessons in Year 1 and further through the school to ensure all children become confident, fluent readers.

We follow the ELS progression and sequence. This allows our children to practise their existing phonic knowledge whilst building their understanding of the ‘code’ of our language GPCs (Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence). As a result, our children can tackle any unfamiliar words that they might discover. 

Children experience the joy of books and language whilst rapidly acquiring the skills they need to become fluent independent readers and writers. ELS teaches relevant, useful and ambitious vocabulary to support each child’s journey to becoming fluent and independent readers.

We begin by teaching the single letter sounds before moving to diagraphs ‘sh’ (two letters spelling one sound), trigraphs ‘igh’ (three letters spelling one sound) and quadgraphs ‘eigh’ (four letters spelling one sound).

We teach children to:

• Decode (read) by identifying each sound within a word and blending them together to read fluently

• Encode (write) by segmenting each sound to write words accurately.

The structure of ELS lessons allows children to know what is coming next, what they need to do, and how to achieve success. This makes it easier for children to learn the GPCs we are teaching (the alphabetic code) and how to apply this when reading.

ELS is designed on the principle that children should ‘keep up’ rather than ‘catch up’. Since interventions are delivered within the lesson by the teacher, any child who is struggling wit the new knowledge can be immediately targeted with appropriate support. Where further support is required, 1:1 interventions are used where needed. These interventions are short, specific and effective.


How to pronounce pure sounds


Research shows that children who can read are overwhelmingly more likely to succeed at school, achieve good qualifications and subsequently enjoy a fulfilling and rewarding career.  Those who cannot read will find themselves at a constant disadvantage. Reading opens up a new world for children and gives them the opportunity to explore new ideas, visit new places and meet new characters.

At St.Mary's, we place a high priority on developing skills to enable our children to become competent and fluent readers, and to promote a lifelong love of reading for pleasure.  Our curriculum is underpinned by the use of quality texts which facilitate teachers in the planning of effective literacy units with purposeful learning outcomes for the children. We believe that the use of high quality books within the reading curriculum is at the heart of a school's successful approach to engage and support children to become motivated and independent readers.  If children enjoy reading, they read more frequently and become better readers. 

Reading at St Mary's is taught using various teaching strategies, such as Guided Reading and Individual Reading. Each class has a class reader which encourages reading for pleasure, exposes children to a range of text types and enables the teacher to model reading with expression.

Every day, there is a Guided Reading session, whereby the teacher or teaching assistant works with a group to explicitly model and teach a range of reading strategies to develop word recognition and comprehension.  During guided reading, the teacher will demonstrate how to use a range of comprehension strategies (for example, model active engagement with the text; rehearsing prior knowledge; demonstrate how fluent readers monitor and clarify their understanding; plan opportunities to interpret and respond to the text; teach strategies for using inference and deduction).

These are followed up by independent activities to reinforce and extend these key skills. Guided reading sessions take the form of carousel or whole class, planned as appropriate for the class and the objectives being taught.

In KS2, our guided reading followed the following format:

Monday - Fluency

Tuesday - Exploring vocabulary

Wednesday - Comprehension

Thursday - Comprehension

Friday - Comprehension

In EYFS and KS1, a guided reading small group session covers the skills of fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

We use the acronym VIPERS to teach the key skills needed as a reader. These are:






Sequence (KS1)/ Summarise (KS2)


The Reading Scheme books that we use at St. Mary's C.E. Primary are carefully selected to provide opportunities for reading interesting and engaging texts from a wide range of genres.  From Year 2, children’s reading books are carefully structured into Book Bands which are organised according to reading age.  Our Reading Scheme books are drawn from a range of sources, such as Oxford Reading Tree, Treetops (Oxford University Press), Project X, PM and Collins Big Cat.  These are usually used for reading at home, but are also used for individual reading in school, particularly where a child is working below the expected level for their age.  This may be done with the class teacher or a learning support assistant.

Every child in school takes home a reading book which is monitored daily by a learning support assistant or the child as appropriate for their year group.   Every child has a home/school reading diary, for adults at school and home to record their child’s reads.  To encourage reading, classes have their own reading rewards systems.

Our curriculum also ensures that each class has the opportunity to visit our School Library once a week, and children are able to borrow books using the ‘Junior Librarian’ system, an interactive software package which tracks reading progress.  Our Library is a valued reading environment, which is maintained by our Year 6 Librarians and a dedicated LSA. 

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar


At St. Mary’s we aim for pupils should develop as independent and accurate spellers, who are confident to use adventurous vocabulary in their own writing. They need to be taught a range of spelling strategies which they can use.  To support the teaching of phonics and spelling, we use Essential Letters and Sounds in Key Stage One. In Key Stage Two, spellings are taught in discrete lessons at least once a week following 'No Nonsense Spelling' and supplemented as appropriate with additional resources planned to suit the needs of the class.  Children are encouraged to investigate spellings, rules and conventions and spelling strategies, developing an understanding of letter strings, patterns, roots, prefixes and suffixes.

Spelling work is reinforced in context through Literacy lessons. Each year group will be given spellings homework tasks to reinforce learning from the week. Children are expected to practice their spellings at least 3 times over the course of the week. Children complete a spelling test to ensure they have learnt their words for that week.

Children are tested three times a year on the National Curriculum spelling list for their year group to identify spellings they are not secure in. Revision of these is incorporated into children's spelling practise to ensure all children leave St. Mary's meeting their age-related expectations for spelling.  

Grammar and punctuation

Grammar and punctuation is taught explicitly, through two lessons a week following the teaching sequence set out in 'No nonsense grammar' and supplemented with other resources. The grammar skills taught in these sessions is referred to during teaching in English and cross-curricular writing opportunities. Children will be taught how to select the correct skills, for different tasks to suit purpose and audience. Grammar skills are practised on a daily basis throughout Key Stage One and Two with short, pacey, 'Four-a-day' warm up sessions.


Writing is taught through a range of shared, guided and independent opportunities. Teachers regularly model writing in shared writing sessions, and use Guided Writing sessions to teach writing objectives/skills matched to the ability groups within their class. Children regularly have lots of short writing opportunities which allow children to practise specific skills taught, and to respond to texts read. In addition to the direct, scaffolded teaching of writing in the English lesson, regular opportunities for independent and cross-curricular writing will be provided, enabling practical application of skills learnt. Where possible, teachers are encouraged to make direct links with other areas of the curriculum in additional writing activities, to ensure that writing is purposeful and relevant, e.g. reports or leaflets in Geography; poetry in R.E./P.S.H.E.; instructions in DT; recounts in History.

Literacy units of work are planned around quality texts ensuring that pupils are exposed to a range of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Teachers use the 'Power of Reading' and 'Read, Write, Perform' units to support their planning and adapt these for their class. Pupils are immersed in a text through the use of drama and encouraged to apply what they have learnt in a meaningful and purposeful way in order to embed their learning. Units of work enable pupils to use grammar, punctuation and vocabulary creatively in order to bring their own work to life. We follow a six-stage writing sequence:

1) We read and explore

2) We practise

3) We plan

4) We write

5) We edit and improve

6) We share and celebrate

Pupils' knowledge of different sentence structures is widened through the introduction of different 'exciting sentences' from Alan Peat. These are introduced systematically across the school.