‘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
Our Aims for English
At the Whiteoak Academies, we have developed our own curriculum to help ensure that each and every child thrives by becoming:
- Knowledgeable & Curious
- Respectful & Compassionate
- Independent & Fulfilled
In support of our curriculum vision and aims, we have crafted our own Whiteoak Way for English. This has been carefully planned, with our children in mind, to ensure that they leave us not only able to speak, read and write effectively, but with passion, pleasure and purpose.
As a family of schools, we aim to ensure:
- Our children are immersed in vocabulary-rich learning environments that foster a love of language and encourage them to be ‘word curious’
- Our children learn not only to read, but to fall in love with reading and develop reading skills and habits that they will carry with them far beyond their primary years
- Our children are exposed to high-quality texts across the curriculum that have been chosen with thought and care
- Our children are inspired to write to capture their thinking and are taught to write coherently
- Our children take pride in producing beautiful work and, wherever possible, they are provided with a genuine audience and purpose for their writing
- Our children are given meaningful opportunities to develop speaking and listening skills – using drama, discussion and debate as a means to generate ideas, explain and challenge thinking
Our English curriculum has also been designed and developed using the National Curriculum which aims to ensure that all pupils:
- Read easily, fluently and with good understanding
- Develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information
- Acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language
- Appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage
- Write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences
- Use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas
- Are competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate.
British Values and SMSC in English
To help ensure that children leave school prepared for life in modern Britain, the DfE issued guidance to all schools on improving the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development of children through the promotion of fundamental British values. Across our family of schools, we aim to develop a climate where the British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs are deeply embedded at every level and lived through our vivid vision, core values and curriculum.
As outlined in our aims and vivid vision, we seek to encourage our children to act with integrity and respect so that they embrace and celebrate diversity and understand our rich cultural history. Furthermore, we aim to empower our children to become humble, compassionate global citizens who learn how to live successful and happy lives where they are informed, courageous advocates of the things that matter to them. Underpinning this are the key concepts of being and belonging: being hopeful, considerate human beings who know they matter and that they can shape a positive future for themselves and others, understanding how they belong to their community, modern Britain and the world, recognising they can make a difference now.
At the Whiteoak Academies, English plays a vital role in helping us to deliver our vivid vision by supporting the personal development of children and promoting fundamental British values.
Through reading, the doors to the world are opened to our children. The texts that we use to drive our curriculum have been chosen with care and are reflective not only of the community that we serve, but the wider community of Britain and indeed the world. These books teach our children about tolerance, but more than that, about how we can celebrate diversity and challenge prejudice. Through reading, our children not only see their own lives reflected, but they explore and find out about cultures, faiths and beliefs that may be different to their own.
Our children understand that we live in a democratic society and English provides them with opportunities to have their voice heard. Through discussion, classroom debates and written outcomes, children have the chance to ‘have their say’ and put forward an opinion. Ensuring that we have respect for ideas that are different to our own and that we can expect the same respect in return, is an important part of learning in this area.
Each year, across our family of schools, we hold a British Values Week, which is text driven. The picture books chosen for study and enjoyment, help our children to understand a little better what these values mean to them. Reading ‘Something Else’ by Kathryn Cave and Chris Riddell shows our Reception children that you can be different and still belong, while ‘Mixed’ by Arree Chung opens up discussion in Year 5 about difference and acceptance.
Through reading and writing about the characters and events that they meet in stories, we give our children the opportunity to acquire a set of moral beliefs and values. They have the chance to witness what the consequences are of different courses of action and the impact that a character’s actions can have on others. This is such a powerful way to develop and deepen an understanding of right from wrong.