Reading & Phonics

Reading Intent:

At St. Helena’s, our reading curriculum is designed to inspire and unlock potential and wisdom in all children. We aim to ensure that every learner flourishes through a challenging, supportive, and balanced curriculum rooted in shared values and high expectations.

We view reading as the gateway to the curriculum and a key contributor to children’s hopes, academic success, and lifelong learning. Our goal is to teach children to become fluent, confident readers who enjoy a wide range of texts. Texts that also highlight British values and protected characteristics, so that compassion and respect can be fostered.

We maintain consistently high expectations, providing both challenge and support to ensure all learners can foster endurance and see themselves as readers. Our staff are highly trained to support those who find reading difficult, ensuring they receive prompt and effective assistance.

Our cohesive and progressive curriculum equips learners with the word reading skills and language comprehension knowledge necessary to engage with diverse texts. Our philosophy is that children will first 'learn to read' and then 'read to learn'.

Reading Implementation:

The systematic teaching of phonics is a high priority in EYFS and KS1. The phonics scheme also continues into KS2 as needed. All learners in Reception and KS1 participate in daily phonics sessions using the ‘Read Write Inc’ systematic synthetic phonics program. This program teaches letter sounds and blending techniques to read and write words.

Teachers use observations and continuous assessments to stretch and challenge learners while identifying those who need additional support. Phonics interventions continue into KS2 for children who did not pass the phonics screening or require extra support.

While high-quality phonics teaching is essential, additional skills and opportunities are necessary for children to become well-rounded readers. We emphasise fluency and comprehension, teaching language and reading comprehension across the curriculum through methods like book discussions and whole-class reading sessions.

From Year 2 onwards, after completing the Read Write Inc. program, reading comprehension strategies are explicitly taught using diverse texts. We use the Renaissance reading scheme to ensure books are appropriately levelled. Children take comprehension quizzes at the end of each book, providing scores that help guide their reading choices and track their progress. These results are celebrated monthly in reading assemblies, with parents invited to share in the success.

In reading sessions, children participate in whole-class and small-group reading, engaging with texts and learning key reading strategies through VIPERS, ensuring consistency and comprehensive coverage across all classes.

Daily reading sessions after lunch focus on developing reading fluency and fostering a love for reading. Children have ample opportunities to read aloud and listen to staff read aloud, with daily story time in every classroom. Assisted reading sessions provide one-on-one support for those who need it, focusing on fluency and guided oral instruction.

Vocabulary development is crucial, with new and difficult words pre-taught and strategies provided for understanding word meanings in context. Vocabulary teaching is integral to every reading session. Books are age-appropriate and matched to the children’s level, with learners encouraged to take home books that match their phonics level, as well as additional books for pleasure.

As children advance past the Read Write Inc. program, they move on to age-appropriate books using the Renaissance scheme. Each class also enjoys a daily class reader to excite and engage children while introducing new vocabulary.

Reading Impact:

By the time our Year 6 children transition to secondary school, we aspire for all learners to be fluent, confident, and capable readers. They should be able to access a range of texts for both pleasure and academic purposes, using their reading skills to unlock learning across all areas of the curriculum. We believe that reading is the gateway to the curriculum and the key to all learning, making the impact of our reading curriculum extend beyond statutory assessment results.