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English - Subject Lead: Helen Warrender (supported by Cat Young and Melanie Haines)

Developing a good command of the English language is central to our children at St Mark’s developing the knowledge, values and skills that will enable them to become lifelong learners and worthy citizens of the future. We believe a strong understanding of phonics is a fundamental life-long skill and are dedicated to enabling our pupils to develop the strong foundations they need in order to become fluent and motivated readers and writers. Research shows that reading for pleasure can promote better health and wellbeing, aids in building social connections and relationships with others and is associated with a range of factors that help increase the chances of social mobility and we therefore work hard to develop, promote and sustain a strong culture of Reading for Pleasure throughout the school.

Whatever their starting point, we aim for our children to:

  • speak clearly and convey their ideas with confidence, using Standard English
  • build strong foundations of early reading skills based on a systematic, synthetic phonics approach
  • contribute to our active Reading for Pleasure community, using reading skills to read both fiction and non-fiction with fluency and understanding, both at home and at school
  • develop the stamina and skills to write at length for a variety of purposes and audiences, using correct grammar and with accurate spelling and punctuation
  • develop research and library skills so that reading and writing across all subjects supports their acquisition of knowledge

Curriculum Overview

  • We follow the requirements of the Early Years Framework in our Reception class and use the 2014 National Curriculum as the basis for our curriculum in KS1 and KS2 to ensure clear progression and a sufficient level of challenge. National guidelines have subsequently been adapted to fit with our own school vision at St Mark’s and the particular needs of our learners, with units of work designed to build upon skills and knowledge learned in other curriculum areas and regularly updated to reflect this.
  • Units of work usually run for several weeks and they are based on quality literature wherever possible, incorporating the teaching of reading and writing skills. Children are given regular opportunities to write for a variety of purposes and audiences and grammar, punctuation and spelling skills are taught so that skills and knowledge build progressively. For more information about writing and our units of work, please click here.
  • In the implementation of our entire English curriculum, consideration has also been given to the additional challenges posed by disruption to pupils’ education during the Covid-19 pandemic, with units of work being adapted based on teachers’ ongoing assessment.

Early Reading and Phonics

To develop Early Reading skills, we use Essential Letters and Sounds, a systematic synthetic phonics programme based on Letters and Sounds. This involves daily phonics sessions complemented by regular opportunities to be read with by an adult using books that have been matched to their developing phonetic ability. For more detail on our teaching of phonics, please click here.

Independent Reading

To develop independent reading skills, children learn in a 'language rich' environment across the school where a range of examples of print are displayed and quality texts are widely and freely available within our classrooms and our library. In KS1, children’s reading books are carefully managed and matched to children’s phonic ability with a watchful eye on progression and challenge for all children.

Once children are independently choosing their own reading material, teachers continue to monitor their choices to ensure children are challenging themselves and reading a range of genres and authors. Guided Reading Sessions are planned by teachers to teach a range of skills and techniques which enable children to comprehend the meaning of what they read and develop their understanding of the vocabulary and techniques used by authors. For more information about reading, please click here.

Alongside our taught reading curriculum, we are working hard to develop a strong ‘Reading for Pleasure’ community. Our school library was fully refurbished in 2020 and is a calm and engaging space where children can browse from over 6,000 titles, both fiction and non-fiction. Teachers and children are able to borrow books from the library to enhance study of, and research skills for, other curriculum subjects.

All children in Key Stage One and Two have access to the school library where they are encouraged to browse and choose independent reading books. Our teachers are enthusiastic readers who are able to recommend books to suit the interests, tastes and needs of children and draw on this knowledge to inform their planning. Teachers share their own love of books and reading through regular discussions with children.


To help children convey their ideas and use the spoken word with confidence, opportunities for oracy are interwoven through our entire curriculum. This begins in the Early Years class, and progresses through both Key Stages, through opportunities for discussion, debate, presentations and performance. For more information, please click here .

Overall Impact of our English Curriculum

At an age appropriate level, children at St Mark’s:

  • Speak with confidence, using a wide vocabulary and showing a good command of the English language.
  • Have a secure phonic knowledge that they can apply to both reading and spelling.
  • Have a desire to read for pleasure.
  • Are proud of their ability to write coherently and accurately and, as they progress through the school, for a variety of purposes and audiences.
  • Present their work well, forming letters correctly.
  • Make good and sustained progress from individual starting points, as proven by our progress measures.
  • Have the skills and knowledge they will need for the next stage of their education, as proven by strong performance in Statutory testing.
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