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The Downley School

“Learning, Growing and Succeeding Together”

English Information and Guidance


At Downley we aim to deliver an ambitious writing curriculum which develops and promotes a true love for writing within all ages and boy and girls alike. We aim to teach an inspiring curriculum that continuously creates moments of awe and wonder whilst, ensuring our curriculum is coherently planned and sequenced, successfully adapted, designed and developed for all children and to bridge the gap between reading and writing. We do recognise that reading and writing go hand in hand therefore we aim to provide classic cannons of literature that act as model and mentor texts for children when writing. By the end of their time at Downley, all children should be able to write with confidence, which will enable their access to any subject in their forthcoming secondary education.




At The Downley School we are committed to the delivery of excellence in the teaching of Phonics. We aim to develop each child so that they are able to read with fluency as well as develop a love of reading that will stay with our children all their lives. Being able to read is one of the most important skills children will learn during their early schooling and has far-reaching implications for lifelong confidence and well-being. The independent review of early reading conducted by Jim Rose confirmed that ‘high quality phonic work’ should be the prime means for teaching children how to read and spell words. The review also highlighted the importance of developing from the earliest stages children’s speaking and listening skills, ensuring that beginner readers are ready to get off to a good start in phonic work by the age of five. Such work should be set within a broad and rich language curriculum. We recognised that good quality phonics teaching allows the child to be secure in the skills of word recognition and decoding which allows children to read fluently and that Phonics should be taught systematically and involve a variety e.g multi-sensory resources for all learners.

Our children are exposed to Phonics sessions which enable them to:

 · apply their phonic knowledge and skills to decode unfamiliar words fluently and accurately.

· read rapidly to apply what they have learned across the whole curriculum.

· create fluent readers, confident speakers and willing writers.

· develop a life-long love of reading.


In line with The Downley School’s commitment to excellence in Phonics, each class in Reception and KS1 will teach phonics as a discrete lesson every day and will include Phonics as part of teaching and learning throughout other curriculum lessons on a daily basis. The structure of each lesson at Downley, and the journey of Phonics across the week, enables all aspects of the blending and segmenting of phonemes/graphemes; lessons are uniquely planned to incorporate all learning styles and tailored to meet the needs of all our learners. Teachers provide stimulating experiences and opportunities to motivate the child, using a range of resources to engage individuals and groups of children. Technology is used and embedded in all teaching to enhance phonics learning.

Our phonics sessions are:

· Systematic

 · Discrete

 · Interactive

· Practical

· Engaging

· Multi-sensory

Our children are provided with a variety of opportunities to develop and extend their phonics skills in and across Reception and Key Stage 1. It is also continued into Key Stage 2, where necessary, to support those children who do not yet have the phonic knowledge and skills they need.

Links between phonics knowledge and understanding are made to learning in both reading and writing. These lessons proceed at pace and incorporate a wide range of practical and interactive learning opportunities to engage the children. These learning opportunities are carefully chosen to ensure that children develop their skills in phonemic and rhyme awareness, blending and segmenting as well as grapheme-phoneme correspondence.

The Downley School follows Phonics Shed. This programme meets all the expectations of the National Curriculum, prepares our children to go beyond the expectations of the Phonics Screening Check and draws on the latest research into how children learn best; enabling our children to become highly competent readers.

Reading Books

Reading books given to the children match each individual child’s level of phonic knowledge, enabling them to move through the early stages of acquiring and practising phonic skills. We ensure that the books provided for each child reflect their knowledge and skills as well as challenging them too. Children read to an adult twice a week and teachers share feedback with parents each week.

Intervention and Assessment

We continually assess our children and record their progress. Information for assessment is gathered in various ways: talking to the children, asking questions, observing their independent learning, listening to them read and playing games with them. Children are formally assessed every 5 weeks using Phonics Shed. As a result, children who may need extra support to develop their phonic knowledge are identified early and targeted for 1:1 intervention or group intervention daily. There are a range of intervention strategies which the school uses and the most appropriate one is selected once a child’s needs have been assessed.

The attainment and progress of children in phonics is assessed regularly across the year, both discretely at the end of each phase and through Reading and Writing assessments. At the end of Year 1, children participate in the phonics screening check which assesses their knowledge of grapheme-phoneme correspondence and their skills in blending. This information is submitted to the LA. In the very few cases where a child does not reach the standard for phonics at the end of year 1, targeted intervention continues into year 2 to ensure that every child achieves it by the end of the year.


Phonics acquisition and reading progress for children at The Downley School is extremely high. As a result, children develop a love of reading and are given a rich, wide range of genres to enjoy and explore.

Guided Reading In Key Stage 1

In Key Stage one, children take part in reading activities every day during their class reading sessions.  These sessions enable teachers to focus on teaching the key skills for becoming a fluent and skilled reader.  For these sessions, children will be divided into groups of no more than 6, grouped by their Nation Book Band colours, which enables teachers to select appropriate texts for the pupils reading ability and tailor their teaching to the specific needs of the children in each group.  We have over 30 sets of books in each book band colour to ensure children have access to high quality fiction and non-fiction books during these sessions.

Whole Class Guided Reading In Key Stage 2

In Key Stage 2, all children follow our Whole Class Guided Reading scheme.  Research shows there are many incredible benefits to this approach to class reading. Firstly, it means that children are reading texts 5 days a week, increasing the time they spend trying to decode and discuss texts with both their peers and teacher. It is a fantastic way to encourage a love of reading – something as a school we are very passionate about. 
Every child in each KS2 class will have one book between two. Our aim is to have each child reading the same word at the same time and having one book between two allows for maximum absorption and minimum distraction during sessions.

What Does Whole Class Guided Reading Look Like?

Part 1 – The Introduction

The first lesson of a new unit begins with an introduction to the novel and exploring the cover and blurb.  Each subsequent lesson begins with a question recapping the last chapter in order to consolidate the children’s understanding of the text so far and review key events.

Part 2 – The Vocabulary Check

Before each chapter, teachers create a short list of vocabulary that the children will encounter within the chapter that they will find challenging.  These words will be discussed as a class and in some cases this can be extended as an activity for the children to use dictionaries to find definitions and then use the words in a new sentence.  All new vocabulary will then be added to Magpie walls in class.

Part 3 – Modelled Reading

One of the most important aspects of WCGR is teachers modelling of reading including fluency, expression and intonation.

In addition to this modelled reading, teachers will use a variety of reading strategies and methods depending on the skills, abilities and needs of the children in their class.  These include:

  • Selecting individual children to read
  • Silent, independent reading
  • Teacher listening to selected pupils to check their fluency, while the others read independently
  • Use of ‘Drop in’ reading
  • Pupils reading in pairs, alternating paragraphs or pages
Part 4 – Lesson Focus And Modelled Task

Each lesson concentrates on one reading objective in particular and ensures that different aspects of comprehension are developed and reinforced while reading the text.  These focus objectives are suitable for pupils of all abilities but activities are differentiated for children requiring support or extension as required.
Before attempting tasks relating to the focus objective, teachers use a modelled task to provide clear instruction and example to the children.

Part 5 – Main Activity With Differentiation

Main activity tasks include a range of activities, such as answering questions, drama, discussion, recording observations, group or paired work.  These activities are differentiated to meet the needs of children working below age-related expectation or those working above their age-related expectations.