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We prioritise English in our curriculum due to the difficulties many of our students experience with communication. Developing speaking and listening skills, as well as reading (with comprehension): supports all students’ life skills and their access to learning in other areas. In Year 1 and 2 we have given additional time to developing play skills as opportunities for the student to choose activities and subjects appropriate to their interests, skills, and abilities. ‘Know[ing] thyself’ is particularly challenging for students with ASC but in Venturers’ Academy (VA) we will maximise every student’s ability to understand their own experience and the needs at the heart of it. Once established the students learn the skills to both make decisions and communicate effectively in order to maximise their educational progress. VA believes that such skills provide a very solid foundation for other learning, whether in the Academy or community, especially in those unfamiliar to the extent that the student becomes confused and distressed. As effective communication plays such an important role in this process the Academy employs a speech and language therapist to work individually with students and to advise staff and parents/carers.
English is taught daily in the primary and secondary phases as a discrete subject. In Years 1 to 6 students are streamed and taught in ability groups. In Year 10 and 11 students are encouraged to use their literacy skills to understand the world around them. Students are taught to recognise words in their environment that will help their independence when they leave the Academy.
Early years and primary curriculum
Reception to Year 6
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.