English has a pre-eminent place in education and in society. A high-quality education in English will teach pupils to speak and write fluently so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions to others and through their reading and listening, others can communicate with them. Through reading in particular, pupils have a chance to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Literature, especially, plays a key role in such development. Reading also enables pupils both to acquire knowledge and to build on what they already know. All the skills of language are essential to participating fully as a member of society; pupils, therefore, who do not learn to speak, read and write fluently and confidently are effectively disenfranchised.
Spiritual Moral Social Cultural development in English
In responding to a poem, story or text, pupils can be asked: ‘I wonder what you wonder?’ ‘How would you feel if you were the person in the story?’ ‘Where have you met these ideas before? Questions like these can lead children to empathise with characters facing problems within their the narrative. There is the opportunity for children to enhance their emotional understanding through the widening of their vocabulary and by appreciating the emotive effects of language, e.g., poetic language within stories and poems. The use of drama allows opportunities for insight, self-expression and the chance to walk in someone else’s shoes.
Moral development involves children analysing the dilemmas many characters face in the books and texts as well as searching for hidden messages. In the younger year groups, we aim to teach and recognise morals such as the way we treat others by reading a range of books and understanding the message they are trying to teach us. In the older year groups, we aim to teach and recognise more complex moral dilemmas and ways to overcome or deal with them. We achieve this by giving them the opportunity to explore the motives of particular characters and certain issues both verbally and in their writing, for example the behaviour of various characters in The Iron Giant.
Social development in English involves pupils developing their ability to learn as a team, valuing active listening and taking on a responsibility within a group. We read novels and short stories that offer perspectives on society and the community and how it impacts their lives. In taking different roles in group discussions pupils are introduced to ways of communicating fairly and effectively with each other. This also develops their confidence and knowledge of language, which is an important aspect of individual and social identity. We enable children to understand and engage with the feelings and values embodied within poetry, fiction, drama, film and television. Our use of the outdoors to enhance English lessons has immediate impact on the children’s relationships to each other.
Cultural development involves engaging with texts from other cultures in order to expand pupils’ exposure and awareness of other backgrounds, for example the use of Val Bloom’s poetry in Year 5. Through imaginative writing, poetry, imagery, drama, role play, myth and historical narrative, the children explore the viewpoints and attitudes of those from other cultures as well as their own. Pupils are given the opportunity to compare their own culture and community with ones that are different and to develop their cultural awareness through speaking, reading and writing opportunities in their thematic work.
Phonics and Spelling
In the Early Years Foundation Stage (ages 4-5) and Key Stage 1 or Years 1 and 2 (ages 5-6 and 6-7), we use a ‘synthetic’ approach to teaching phonics. This means that children are explicitly taught how certain phonemes (sounds) are represented by certain graphemes (letters or groups of letters), for example the long vowel sound a- can be made by ai, as in maid, a-e as in made, ay as in may and so on. If you would like to see a list of these, please see the National Curriculum for English below (English Appendix 1: Spelling), or a more ‘friendly’ age appropriate version is in the middle of your child’s reading record. This approach to teaching phonics means that the children learn individual letter sounds, then clusters or blends of letters, with those sounds blending to make whole words.
EYFS and Year 1 follow Letters and Sounds for teaching phonics and spelling. From Year 2 to Year 6, we use the No Nonsense spelling programme, which incorporates phonics work as well. You can find an overview of both below.