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English at Venturers’ Academy
Every child’s needs are different, and at Venturers’ Academy rather than a single pathway to becoming successful communicators, readers and writers, we have created, and sequenced, a curriculum that reflects the diverse needs of our learners. This ensures that children are working at, and developing from, the stage most appropriate to their individual needs. There are two main pathways; one focused on the development of Life Skills and a second pathway offering a more academic approach. Both pathways offer the opportunity to acquire qualifications which demonstrate their learning and progress. The qualification routes are personalised to ensure that each student has the necessary credentials to continue their educational pathways, either through further education by developing their independence within the wider community.
With children ranging from EYFS to KS4 in age, but with needs spanning from nursery level through to those who will aim to sit GCSE examinations, we have a strong emphasis on phonic development to support the development of communication, reading and writing.
Within our nursery phase, all learners work on their phonological awareness. As a result, have developed a pre-phonic reading programme for our nursery stage students that involves developing a range of skills including physical, visual and auditory skills. In addition to this, children are exposed to, and develop, general sound discrimination (for example through environmental and instrumental sounds), develop a sense of rhythm and rhyme and begin to develop their skills in segmenting and blending. The purpose of this is to ensure that all of our nursery age students have the pre-requisite skills necessary for formal synthetic phonics.
Read, Write, Inc. (RWI)
Students begin using Read, Write, Inc. to develop their phonics as soon as they become secure in their phonological awareness; the phonics are ordered in terms of those that are most commonly met in the first words that children need to say, read and write. Initially students will learn how to write and say sounds. They then learn to blend sounds into words and eventually they will develop the ability to form sentences and paragraphs. Students will also learn to make links between words and their meanings.
We are able to take advantage of the staff training and ongoing support for staff, students and parents. We have a Read, Write, Inc. Advisor who works closely with our school to assists us in frequently monitoring student progress. The programme also offers excellent online support for parents to ensure that home learning can take place (https://www.ruthmiskin.com/en/find-out-more/parents). There are also opportunities to work in small groups so that we can support each learner individually.
Additional reading approaches and resources
In order to ensure that our students are exposed to a wider and more varied range of texts, we use supplementary readers to cement their understanding of the sounds and the letters they are learning and give them additional reading opportunities. All of our supplementary readers are aligned with the Read, Write, Inc. scheme to ensure consistency for all of our students’ phonic progression. We also have a structured and sequential guided reading scheme to develop their comprehension and fluency as well as promoting reading for pleasure. Venturers’ Academy is passionate about nurturing our young people into becoming skilled and enthusiastic readers.
All students at Venturers’ Academy are encouraged to read for pleasure. For this reason, students are exposed to a wealth of literature within lessons and are encouraged to take book homes to be read either independently or with a caregiver.
During weekly assemblies, our children are encouraged to share work that they are particularly proud of. We also invite authors, poets and performers to our school to show our children the various opportunities that can come from developing their skills in English. Throughout the year we will also be creating activities designed to engage students in World Book Day, National Writing Day and National Poetry Day.
Venturers’ Academy use Talk4Writing as our approach to enable our learners to become more confident, competent writers. This gives flexibility in order to personalise our genre of focus and select texts which cater to the interests of our children. The structure of Talk4Writing supports our students well through its three-step approach of imitation, innovation and invention.
Primary level learners
We believe it is vitally important to maintain fidelity to one phonics scheme in order to enhance the progress of our learners. When our students complete the Read, Write, Inc. scheme, offers students the opportunity to secure their phonetic skills, learners progress onto the Read, Write, Inc. spelling programme. We flexibly adapt our teaching when teaching grammar and punctuation, to ensure a range of skills are covered when looking at how to imitate a variety of writing genres. On some occasions there are stand-alone lessons to explicitly teach particular grammar and punctuation skills, as this will enable them to deepen their understanding and consolidate their learning.
Secondary level learners
Secondary level learners begin national curriculum, which is adapted as necessary to meet individual needs. Students build their confidence in reading, writing and speaking and listening, with lessons built around individual need. Lessons offer Read, Write, Inc. sounds and blending recap opportunities but enable students to build new skills such writing in a range of formats including letters, speeches, leaflets, articles and essays. Students also cover a range of texts to ensure they are exposed to a wide range of English literary heritage.
The curriculum is designed to offer the skills necessary for students to be able to access a range of different examination routes when entering the upper secondary phase. These routes will include ASDAN, AQA Unit awards, Functional Skills and GCSE qualifications (Language and Literature as appropriate). The routes will be allocated based on individual need and progress.
Life Skills Pathway
We believe the key to developing reading, writing and communication is to ensure all students have the opportunity to acquire phonological awareness. Students on the Life Skills Pathway use the Read, Write, Inc. scheme to ensure that all students follow the same sound acquisition path throughout their time with us. This ensures that transition is smooth if children move between the Life Skills and Academic pathways at any time along their learning journey.
The Life Skills Pathway approach English through topics and look at the way information is presented to ensure that our learners become familiar with the literature presented to them in their everyday lives. We want our children to be able to differentiate between different types of literature (for example newspapers and letters) and be able to use this information to help them function fully within their adult lives.
Venturers’ Academy believe that there should be no glass ceilings for our students and so we ensure that our Life Skills classes have opportunities to develop their writing and to develop a love of books and reading.
Speech and Language Therapy (SaLT)
We pride ourselves on having an outstanding SaLT team who work closely with our teachers. The team work on developing and supporting speech, language and communication, all of which underpin reading and writing skills. Teaching and therapy staff work closely to create stimulating tasks which encourage students to use their word and communication tools. We advocate peer-to-peer interactions and want all exchanges to be fun, helpful and memorable so that our children can utilise these skills in their adult lives.
(i) Monitoring Progress
Read Write Inc. Screening
We use the RWI screening and assessment trackers to follow our students’ progress. At the beginning of each year all students that are still at the phonics acquisition stage will be baselined so that we can re-assess what their understanding of phonics is. We also baseline all students in EYFS, including those at nursery level. Baselining enables us to see which students in the EYFS classes are ready to begin the phonics programme and which students need to access a pre-phonic curriculum.
RWI Assessments and Formative Assessments
After the initial screening, students will complete a termly RWI assessment so that we can monitor the progress that has been made. The assessments are completed by one member of staff wherever possible, to ensure consistency when levelling and grouping students, or by the class teacher. During the half terms between each formal RWI assessment, teachers will use formative assessment to decide if students are working at the appropriate level.
We use the ‘Wide Range Achievement Tests’ (WRAT) as one of our assessment tools to gain detail on each child’s reading, spelling and comprehension age. We use these details to ascertain if specific individuals require additional support in any given area. The test also indicates whether an individual may have other learning needs for example dyslexia and we can use this data to support the school and parents in accessing additional screenings. This information is shared with our teachers to help inform their planning and understand the areas of focus for each individual.
myLexia, Nessie, RWI phonics tutoring, RWI blending tutoring, handwriting intervention, Toe by Toe and Bug Club are all used to support students further. We use data from the RWI progress tracker and information from the WRAT tests to assess who is most in need of specific types of intervention. We regularly reassess our learners in order to ensure that individual needs of each learner are met.
myLexia and Nessie are online intervention programmes that focus on the development of phonics and progress up to whole passage comprehension and higher level spelling practice. Both programmes are dyslexia friendly and designed to enhance students’ phonetic knowledge. The programme works alongside our Read, Write, Inc. syllabus and compliments the work that we complete within lessons.
Student progress is assessed on a regular basis to ensure progress against challenging targets. As appropriate, students are entered for the Key Stage 2 national curriculum assessments, and as outlined above, for appropriate qualifications including ASDAN, AQA Unit awards, Functional Skills and GCSE.
By exposing students to a range of literature and genres, we want children to leave Venturers’ Academy as passionate readers and enthusiastic writers. We aim to ensure that each child develops a wide vocabulary that is relevant to their individual needs and understanding, confident in being able to spell correctly and able to write for different contexts and purposes enabling them to be confident communicators both in and outside of the school context.
In the Nursery and Reception classes, students are assessed against the early learning outcomes against communication language and literacy. They are given some formal reading and writing teaching through Read Write Inc. and handwriting is addressed through the Pen Pal scheme. Students are encouraged to self-initiate their own learning and opportunities are made in the learning environment to make it rich in language. Books and stories play a vital part in providing a rich literacy experience.
Years 1 and 2
In Years 1 and 2, there is a more formal structure to the teaching of English. There is an hour of writing every day, which follows the ‘Talk for Writing’ model. Students then have a separate hour of the Read Write Inc. programme. Phonics play a large part in the education and students are assessed in a phonic screening test in year one. When students finish the Read Write Inc. programme, they progress to a Literacy and Language scheme. Spelling and handwriting are taught as separate programmes and there is also a SPAG (spelling and grammar) meeting outside of the reading hour. This is a 15 minute basic grammar lesson every day. Students are assessed in Year 2 (SATs) in reading, writing and grammar. Opportunities are made by the Academy to enrich writing, by giving students a variety of experiences to write about.
Years 3 to 6
In Years 3 to 6, students have usually finished the Read Write Inc. programme and progress to the Literacy and Language scheme. This is a two hour lesson, every day, of reading and writing. Spelling, handwriting and SPAG are also taught. Students are assessed at the end of Year 6 (SATs), where they hope to meet the expected standard. They take a reading comprehension paper, a grammar and spelling paper and writing is assessed over a period of time. Opportunities are made by the Academy to enrich writing, by giving students a variety of experiences to write about.
Years 7, 8 and 9
English in Years, 7, 8 & 9 is focused on developing students’ skills in three different areas: reading, writing and speaking and listening. The aim is to encourage students to engage with a range of Literature from English Literary Heritage texts to contemporary fiction, poetry, plays and literary non-fiction. Students study different texts and explore the inherent features of theme, language and structure in order to understand the cultural, moral, social and spiritual issues and debates. This also provides opportunities for students to replicate these features in their own writing.
Students also explore a range of different writing styles, genres and formats that prepare them for their GCSEs and real-life situations. These lessons focus on a variety of literacy skills and the construction of students’ writing that prepare them fully for the rigorous written components of the GCSE English Language and English Literature curriculum.
Texts studied include:
Cirque Du Freak by Darren Shan; by William;
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer;
Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian
Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream;
A range of poetry including pre and post twentieth century;
Nonfiction texts including information leaflets, brochures and reports.
Private Peaceful by Michael Morporgo;
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne;
The Outsiders by S.E Hinton,
Stone Cold by Robert Swindells
Face (play) adapted by Benjamin Zephaniah;
Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet;
Famous speeches through time;
The History of English: exploration of how language changes over time exploring different writers from Chaucer to modern writers.
War poetry including WW1 poets;
Heroes by Robert Cormier;
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck;
Shakespeare: Introduction to Macbeth;
A range of short stories across different genres.
Each year group has the opportunity to participate in a creative writing competitions which helps develop personal confidence in front of their peers, but also encourages students to support the members of their class and faculty. There are also opportunities for students to develop their English skills through participation in extra-curricular activities such as Creative writing, Journalism, Debate Mate and Book club.