‘Without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry, or savour their songs.’
At the Whiteoak Academies we recognise the important place that English holds in education and in life. If we teach our children to speak well and write fluently, they will be afforded the best chance to communicate their ideas and emotions with others. If we teach them to listen carefully and to read widely, then others can communicate effectively with them.
In the early years of reading and writing, we place a strong emphasis on the systematic teaching of phonics in order to give all children a solid foundation upon which to build. English, however, is not just a series of daily, discrete lessons but is at the cornerstone of our entire Whiteoak curriculum. Exposure to high quality texts and immersion in vocabulary-rich learning opportunities and environments, will not only enable them to become literate and knowledgeable but will also develop their love of language and their understanding of speaking, reading and writing with purpose.
The life skill of reading is one of the most important that we teach our children; it opens up to them worlds of wonder, curiosity and joy and enables them to independently gather information for further learning. The sharing of carefully chosen texts, helps children in our family of schools to develop an appreciation of our rich literary heritage and exposes them to the best that children’s literature has to offer in terms of a fiction and non-fiction diet. Through reading our pupils have the chance to grow emotionally, intellectually and socially. Our aim is for them to develop reading for pleasure habits that extend far beyond their primary years.
‘Reading is like breathing in, writing is like breathing out.’
At the Whiteoak Academies, children are inspired to write to share their thinking. They are taught to write coherently, adapting their language and style for a variety of genres and wherever possible, writing has a real purpose and audience. This motivates our children to produce beautiful work and to communicate their ideas with pride. We acknowledge that writing is hard and that for many, learning in this area will need to be underpinned with opportunities to talk and shape ideas, internalise stories and examine the features of model texts. The study of spelling, punctuation and grammatical conventions in meaningful ways, helps our pupils to make their writing make sense and teaches them how to engage with and entertain their audience. A progressive scheme for handwriting ensures that children develop the technical skills needed to write clearly, freeing the cognitive space for them to focus on the content of their work. Being able to proofread and edit are fundamental to our children making improvements in their own and others’ work and time is dedicated to the development of these skills.
‘One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.’
To speak and to be heard is an entitlement for all children. Having their voices heard, builds confidence, fosters a sense of belonging and encourages affirmation and respectful challenge of their ideas. It is through listening to each other that our pupils will expand their knowledge, refine their own ideas and develop a sense of respect for those around them. Through poetry, drama and debate, children at the Whiteoak Academies will build a strong command of the English language and be given opportunities to test its use in many different scenarios. Experiences such as these will allow them to explore the characters and settings they read about and prepare content for their writing.
By placing English at the heart of our curriculum, we strive for our children to understand that through literacy, in all its forms, they learn to make both sense of the world and shape their own place within it.
‘Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow.’
Lawrence Clark Powell