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St Martin's Church of England Primary School

ENGLISH at St Martin's


Our aim is to ensure that every child becomes a reader, a writer and a confident speaker by the time they leave St Martin’s. We aim to broaden pupils’ exposure to high level vocabulary, allowing them to apply their understanding of language and grammatical features across the English curriculum.



At St Martin’s we see the systematic teaching of phonics as a high priority throughout the school. We know that becoming a life-long reader starts with the acquisition of letter sounds, segmenting and blending skills.

All pupils are encouraged to read widely across both fiction and non-fiction through the use of a range of high quality texts. Through this they will establish an appreciation and love of reading, gain knowledge across the curriculum and develop their comprehension skills.  By the end of their primary education, all pupils will have developed a love of reading, be able to read fluently with confidence and understanding.



We intend to provide rich and varied learning opportunities that help children to become confident, creative and enthusiastic writers. We want them to acquire a wide vocabulary and a solid understanding of grammar. They will be able to spell new words effectively, using their understanding of phoneme-grapheme correspondence and applying the spelling patterns and rules they have learned. We want them to write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences. All pupils will be encouraged to take pride in the presentation of their writing, developing a clear cursive handwriting style. Our pupils will be able to independently evaluate their own writing, identifying areas for improvement and editing their work effectively.


The English curriculum at St Martin’s aims to develop children’s skills in reading, writing and speaking and listening.  It also aims to develop a love of reading, writing and language which will last our children a lifetime and enable them to fulfil their potential. 


Children are exposed to a wide range of high-quality texts throughout the school. This is supported by the core book list we are developing and continually reviewing.  These books are read to the children, used in play-based activities and used as the basis for units of work. Children are immersed into the texts through a variety of activities, encouraging a greater depth of understanding, enjoyment and engagement.  


Reading Schemes

It is important for children to access texts that are appropriate for their ability in reading in order to enable them to apply the skills taught in phonics as well as other reading skills.  Books for individual and guided reading (in EYFS and KS1) are banded according to colour bands.  In KS2 guided reading is taught through whole class study of quality texts, many of which are matched to the themes being studied across the curriculum. Throughout the school, phonically decodable books are also used, and these are allocated according to Benchmark assessments.  It is vital that early reading is done using phonically decodable texts and therefore we ensure that the first books children receive to read at home are matched to the phonic step they are on and contain graphemes that they will be familiar with at any point in their learning.   A range of reading schemes is used in school including: Bug Club, Oxford Reading Tree, Rigby Star and Big Cat. 

Children are regularly assessed to ensure that their reading level is correct for them using running records, PM Benchmarking and reading conferencing.


English Phonics Scheme

We use Unlocking Letters and Sounds which was validated by the DfE in December 2021. We begin teaching Phonics in the first few weeks of Term 1 in Reception and children make rapid progress in their reading journey. Children begin to learn the main sounds heard in the English Language and how they can be represented, as well as learning ‘Common Exception’ words for Phases 2, 3 and 4. They use these sounds to read and write simple words, captions and sentences.

Children leave Reception being able to apply the phonemes taught within Phase 2, 3 and 4 - please see link for more information >> Phase 2 - Actions, Images and Letter Formation

In Year 1 through Phase 5a, b and c, they learn any alternative spellings and pronunciations for the graphemes and additional Common Exception Words. By the end of Year 1 children will have mastered using Phonics to decode and blend when reading and segment when spelling. In Year 1 all children are screened using the national Phonics Screening Check. In Year 2, Phonics continues to be revisited to ensure mastery of the phonetic code and any child who does not meet age related expectations will continue to receive support to close identified gaps. For further details please click here for the  >> Unlocking Letters and Sounds progression overview 


To ensure no child is left behind at any point in the progression, children are regularly assessed and supported to keep up through bespoke 1-1 interventions. These include GPC recognition and blending and segmenting interventions. The lowest attaining 20% of pupils are closely monitored to ensure these interventions have an impact. Reading Scheme at St Martin’s we promote a 'phonics first' approach and in both our guided reading sessions at school and in the books children take home, texts are very closely matched to a child's current phonics knowledge so that every child can experience real success in their reading. In these crucial early stages of reading we primarily use books from Ransom Reading Stars Phonics to ensure complete fidelity to the Unlocking Letters and Sounds progression we follow.

Once children progress beyond decodable texts, they move onto our book scheme so that they can continue to progress in their decoding, fluency and comprehension skills to become avid, expert readers.  


Reading for meaning is embedded in our teaching across the school. Alongside guided reading lessons, each class holds a supported written comprehension lesson each week to help children express their understanding.  In EYFS and KS1 discussions are predominately verbal with some recording beginning in Year 1. The children then have a chance to practise new skills and show their understanding through complementary follow-up tasks. There is also a focus on language – discovering new words and understanding their meaning so that children can extend their vocabulary repertoire in both reading and writing. In KS2 there is a greater focus on written responses to

questions showing a progression in comprehension skills in line with the National Curriculum requirements. 



We aim to develop enthusiastic writers who can use their writing skills in a variety of contexts and for a range of purposes.  This includes developing language and transcription skills but we also aim to ensure children feel ‘like a writer’ and not just someone who can write.



Children are taught spellings in an interactive way through a variety of activities. In Reception and KS1, they use the North Somerset Phonics into Early Spelling programme alongside their phonics. From Year 1, children are taught spelling rules according to the programme devised by North Somerset through discrete daily spelling sessions. The spellings and rules being taught are displayed clearly in the classrooms and are referred to by adults and children during writing sessions. 



The teaching of handwriting skills starts in EYFS where activities are provided to develop the gross and fine motor skills needed when beginning to write letters.  Mark making is highly valued and a wide range of tools and contexts encourages children to experiment with it. Throughout EYFS and KS1 children also take part in short dough disco sessions to help improve their hand strength. They also regularly complete pencil control tasks.

From EYFS onwards children are taught to write through regular handwriting sessions using the Letter-join scheme.  Those who need to develop their motor skills or letter formation are identified for intervention groups across year groups giving focused support. A variety of pencil grips is also available to aid pencil grip and writing.



Grammar is taught discretely throughout the school in isolated lessons. Once an aspect of grammar has been taught it is then modelled through shared writing, guided writing and independent writing and referred to in every writing lesson.  Children revisit grammar that has already been taught to ensure they have chance to practise and extend their learning.


Teaching approaches

Throughout the school, children have the opportunity to take part in shared, guided and independent writing sessions in all writing genres and across the curriculum.


Writing at St Martin’s usually begins with reading an example from a quality text.  Children are immersed in the language of quality texts which provide hooks, or reasons to write as well as providing new vocabulary, language patterns or text structures which will be used in children’s own writing. 


The Talk for Writing approach is used to help prepare children by using oral rehearsal of text.  They then move onto modelled writing, where sentence structure and grammar are also a focus before working on shared writing. Children then have the opportunity to write independently, where they are also taught the skills of proofreading and editing their work.


Speech and Language

We recognise that communication is crucial to future success for our children and the development of excellent speaking skills underpins all areas of our curriculum. 

We are developing oracy units across the school with the aim of developing this further. Vocabulary is explicitly taught through topic work and in guided and shared reading and writing. Talk for Writing provides a structured platform to develop children’s speaking skills. There are also opportunities for children to develop their awareness of an audience through a range of performance activities, including productions, poetry performances, debates, assemblies and presentations.


English Interventions

We provide a range of support to minimise the gaps in children’s attainment in reading.  These include phonic support at sound, sight word, word and sentence level, fluency support, additional guided reading pre-reads, inference training, Rapid Reading and 1:1 reading. Some children have also recently been able to access extra support through the Lightning Squad, which supports catch up learning.


Writing interventions are carried out throughout the school through writing conferences, where individual needs are addressed and supported.


Children who are identified as requiring speech and language interventions are supported through schemes such as Neli.

Free Reader Book List:  If your child has just become a free reader or is an established reader but struggling to find books that are challenging, please look at the list of titles below.  All books are quality children's fiction; many are the first book in a series or written by a prolific author.  So once this book has been read and enjoyed then there are multiple options as what to read next.  

All these books can be found in our school library.