English is the foundation for all learning across all areas of the curriculum. Speaking and listening is the first step and the heart of young children’s learning. Children need to be confident communicators and active listeners in order to be effective and confident learners across every subject area. Language skills are therefore crucial, and children need to speak and listen confidently before they can learn to read and write. Speaking and listening skills continue to develop as a child grows older and they gain in confidence talking for a purpose, to different audiences and performing. At Newtown we aim to provide a language rich environment where children can learn to speak and listen whether English is their first or second language.
The importance of reading is best said by Dr Seuss. “The more that you read, the more you will know, the more that you know, the more places you will go”
Through reading in particular, children have a chance to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Literature, especially, plays a key role in such development. Reading also enables pupils both to acquire knowledge and to build on what they already know. The Literacy Trust research shows:
- Low levels of literacy costs the UK taxpayer £2.5 billion every year (KPMG, 2009) as it undermines our economic competitiveness.
- 1 in 11 disadvantaged children says they don’t own a book.
- Those who own a book, are 6 times more likely to read above their expected reading level. (22% vs 3.6%)
- Those who own a book are 3 times more likely to enjoy reading and twice as likely to agree reading is cool
- Children who enjoy reading are 3 times more likely to have good mental health.
At Newtown we have developed our own Phonics Programme, called Funky Phonics, based on our early years expertise and best practise from several different programmes, including Letters and Sounds and Jolly Phonics. The children have a twenty minute phonics lesson every day, in differentiated groups across the school from Pre-School to Year 2, which means every child is receiving the reading and writing teaching they need at the correct level, whatever their age or stage. The children are assessed every six weeks to determine whether they need to further embed their current phonics level or move on.
At Newtown we want all our children to be confident, competent readers who have been exposed to some of the best stories and books for their age group and eager to read more. In order for that to take place the children are not given their first reading book until they have the necessary skills to be successful. Children's home readers are ones for rehearsal, practising the skills they have already been taught in school. The staff hear the children read books that stretch and teach the children in school. The children read books from the Oxford Reading Tree Letters and Sounds Range, that are matched to their phonics level until they reach Phase 5.3 of the Funky Phonics scheme.
Writing is the ability to record thoughts, feelings, ideas and what we have learned in a permanent form that can be shared with others and revisited. Learning to write is an extremely complex task that involves many different aspects, the physical ability to hold and manipulate a writing tool, being able to hear the sounds in words and know what the corresponding letter shapes are, deciding what to say and knowing how to say it correctly. At Newtown we want all our children to be confident early writers who can tackle each of the writing aspects confidently at whatever stage they are.