Our Lady’s is proud to be part of a richly diverse community across our federation and we want all of our children to flourish. Appreciating that language has a leading place in education and society, we provide a high-quality curriculum in English. We teach children to speak and write fluently so that they can communicate their ideas, researched facts, opinions and feelings to others and, through their reading and listening, others can communicate with them. 

More than any other subject, English – and especially reading – gives children access to the rest of the curriculum and is fundamental to their educational success. This is why the introduction to the national curriculum says: ‘Fluency in the English language is an essential foundation for success in all subjects.

But English is so much more than the gateway to success in other curriculum subjects. Through studying literature, children’ eyes are opened to the human experience; they explore meaning and ambiguity as well as the beauty and power of language. English also has a strong creative and expressive dimension.

At the heart of Our Lady’s English curriculum, high-quality literature ensures that every lesson is engaging and purposeful, enabling our children to access language, grammar and punctuation in context, acquire knowledge and build upon what they already know. The content has been carefully selected to reflect our diverse school community as well as complementing and deepening the understanding of other curriculum areas to inspire children’s speaking, listening, reading and writing opportunities. In addition to the main text chosen to inspire each unit, resources such as digital texts, picture books, paintings, songs, poems, lyrics, TV, film and media clips are also used as a stimulus to engage our children. Effective teaching strategies are employed so that every child can build upon their successes. Through developing the fundamental skills of language as a means of communication, including the acquisition of new vocabulary, we give our children access to all of the other subjects taught and provide vital skills for future learning as well as life beyond the classroom. 

A love of reading is shared from the moment children begin their education at Our Lady’s. Our youngest children are immersed in language through books and environmental print as well as listening to and sharing songs, rhymes, poems and stories. Using phonics as their first strategy, we teach children to become fluent readers and actively encourage reading for pleasure. We believe that every child can love reading and we inspire in them a want to read for themselves. We teach children to be curious about our world, to ask questions and to engage with texts to form their own ideas. 

Children have opportunities to write every day to develop their confidence, fluency and voice. With genuine links to their reading, we endeavour to engage all writers, but especially those who may at first appear reluctant. While a range of genres are modelled in order to develop children’s knowledgebase, there is some flexibility within the curriculum for children to choose their own written response to a stimulus and children are guided through the planning, drafting, revising, editing and publishing process for whatever type of writing they choose to do. At Our Ladys, we understand that children learn best when there is a purpose to their learning. Therefore, whenever possible, the writing that children are asked to produce, will have a genuine purpose and audience.

Statutory requirements for the teaching and learning of English are laid out in the ‘Communication and Language’ and ‘Literacy’ sections of the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (2021) and in the National Curriculum in England: English Programmes of Study – Key Stages 1 and 2 (2014). 

Building on the aims of the statutory frameworks and considering the unique context of Our Lady’s, we intend our children to:

  • be interested in books and read for pleasure and for information both in school and at home;  

  • appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage; 

  • have an interest in words and their meaning and a growing vocabulary, including a suitable technical vocabulary through which to understand and discuss their reading and writing as well as other areas of their learning; 

  • have fluent and legible handwriting;

  • understand the sound and spelling system and use this to read and spell confidently, fluently and with understanding; 

  • develop an awareness of purpose and audience for both written and oral language and develop an understanding of how purpose can dictate form; 

  • be able to reflect on and accurately evaluate their own and others’ contributions, feeding back sensitively and acting on advice as appropriate;

  • write confidently in a variety of styles and forms appropriate to a range of situations; 

  • be confident, competent and expressive users of the language with a developing knowledge of how it works, e.g. grammar, spelling and punctuation; 

  • plan, draft, revise, edit and publish their own writing; 

  • be competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate.




Teaching reading skills and developing a love of books is vital. We prioritise teaching of phonics, which begins in the Nursery, moving throughout the EYFS and into Year 1 with the ambition that all children can learn the English alphabetic code: the 150 plus graphemes that represent 44 speech sounds.

‘Essential Letters and Sounds’ is the phonic scheme that we use. It is based on a scientifically proven method of instruction that is effective in reducing cognitive load and works within the known limits of a child’s working memory. The way that information is presented builds upon prior knowledge, reduces children’s memory load and increases their ability to transfer knowledge from their working memory to their long-term memory, retaining what they have learnt quickly. It is used in Nursery, Reception Class, Year 1 and Year 2. It is also used for intervention in other year groups as needed to quickly address gaps in a child’s learning so they can become a fluent reader.

In Nursery, children initially start to explore sounds in the environment. In daily phonics sessions they use ‘Jolly Phonics’ songs and action rhymes to engage children in their learning, helping them to associate sounds with actions. Children listen to stories, and share books, songs and rhymes daily. They participate in structured activities around phonics as part of the continuous provision provided in both indoor and outdoor learning. When children are ready, the teacher begins to introduce more formal teaching of phonics through delivery of the DFE approved ‘Essential Letters and Sounds’ scheme. This prepares them for learning in Reception Class.

Daily teaching of phonics continues in Reception Class and Year 1 where all children are engaged in the delivery of systematic, synthetic phonics lessons. Phonemes(sounds)and graphemes are taught, and applied in early reading and writing, following the systematic order set out in the Essential Letters and Sounds scheme.

As children learn the 44 phonemes and the different graphemes that represent them, they will be able to blend those sounds together to read words. c   a   t   cat.  Then connections will be made with other similar words: sat, pat, spat etc. building on children’s existing knowledge.

It is very important that everyone reading with the child at school and at home, know how to pronounce each phoneme correctly. Therefore, workshops and videos are shared with parents to demonstrate the correct pronunciation. This enables all parents to support their children at home.

Pronunciation of pure sounds:


In addition to the daily phonics lesson, children participate in activities each day to apply what they have learnt in both their reading and writing. There are lots of opportunities for repetition of learning and reviewing and building upon what they know. They each have a phonics activity book with carefully structured activities to apply what they have learnt. Use of clearly focused smart board presentations, mnemonic association, rhymes, stories, and phonics- based spellings, all support the development of learning phonics.

Parents and carers are encouraged to:

  • Watch the videos: Pronunciation of Phonemes and Blending Phonemes

  • Read together with their child every day and talk about the book.

  • Attend phonics and reading workshops

  • Make reading fun and stress free.

Reading Behaviour and Book Talk

In the EYFS, children listen to and share several books every day. They do this as a whole class but also in story groups. The teacher models book reading behaviour and engages children in book talk. With story books, they look at the front cover and title and predict what the story may be about. They learn that we read words from left to right, how to turn pages, they talk about characters and what is happening in the story, they learn how to predict what may happen next and they talk about the sequence of events and how the characters feel and why. They act out stories and express what they like or dislike about the story. They are encouraged to make links to the story and aspects of their own lives. This helps to develop their comprehension of the story. They read widely to include fiction, non-fiction and poetry. They gain lots of pleasure from listening to and talking about stories.


Some children can use their phonic knowledge to read any word but they do not understand the content of what they have read. It is important for all children to develop an understanding of vocabulary.

The extension of vocabulary is promoted in class throughout all subjects.  In reading, comprehension skills are developed in each year group and questions are refined to encourage the children to move on from literal understanding and simple retrieval of information from a text, to developing the ability to deduce and infer, comment on the writer’s use of vocabulary, explain the purpose and effectiveness of the layout and organisation of a text, make comparisons and summarise key points from the text.

Children will learn to evidence their answers to questions, by quoting from the text.  They learn to put their answers coherently and concisely in writing, rather than in spoken answers.

Range of Reading Books

All children start by accessing fully decodable ELS and Oxford Reading Tree scheme books, matched to the phonic phase in which the child is working. As they progress, their reading experience is integrated and enriched with a range of graded books including fiction, non-fiction and poetry books from ORT and a range of age/stage appropriate texts including recommended reads from Book Trust including literature from significant authors.

Literature is carefully chosen to share and study. The language in the literature studied – the words writers choose and how they use them can fire our children’s imagination and introduce them to new ways of expressing themselves.

Children have opportunities to engage in a range of independent, guided group and whole class shared reading throughout the week. A diverse range of books are available including:

  • ELS – phonics matched and decodable books

  • Oxford Reading Tree scheme books- traditional tales, graphic novels, fiction, non- fiction, Tree Tops, All Stars, Poetry etc.

  • Floppy Phonics and Songbirds

  • Book Banded Guided Reading sets

  • Shared-whole class readers – significant authors Y1-Y6

  • Free reading, high quality texts for fluent readers (range of levels)

  • Pathways to Write Collections for reading and writing stimulus.

  • Library Books

  • ‘The Week’ and ‘National Geographic’ magazines

  • Class collections

  • Bug Club online reading texts and comprehension exercises.

Our children read a vast range of books across all curriculum areas. Not just in ‘reading lessons.’ We believe that it is important to provide all children with a wide selection of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books from different genres and a range of cultures. Books are purposefully selected which have positive images that challenge stereotypes and reflect diversity.  We are a multi lingual school with over 40% of children with English as an additional language. We have a range of bilingual books in school and reference books in a variety of languages to give children opportunities to read in their first language.

Speaking and Listening

Developing children’s language and vocabulary skills is a priority in Our Lady’s. Good language development, including vocabulary, benefits all children beyond their reading.

Developing spoken language is especially important as spoken language proficiency is known to have a positive effect on later economic well-being, and on happiness and mental health.

As a rights respecting school, we want all our children to have a voice, be able to express their thoughts, ideas and opinions and to communicate them effectively with others.

We aim to teach our children to use spoken language competently and to make progress in all aspects of language including:

·         physical (vocal control and body language, such as making eye contact and speaking loudly and clearly)

·         linguistic (knowledge of vocabulary and grammatical constructions, and use of rhetorical devices to influence or engage an audience)

·         cognitive (knowledge of content, organisation of ideas, and tailoring talk to a specific purpose, such as to persuade or inform). This includes children learning about ‘exploratory talk’ (to explore new ideas and come to new understandings) and ‘presentational talk’ (to share their thinking with others). Children learn how to ask questions, and use talk to narrate, explain, speculate, imagine, hypothesise, explore, include, discuss, argue, reason and justify. They are given opportunities across the curriculum to develop and practise these skills.

·         social and emotional (considering the needs of different listeners, responding appropriately to others and developing the confidence to share ideas with different audiences)

Children from age 3-11 years are given opportunities across the curriculum, in assemblies, debates, recitals and performances, to develop and practise these skills.

Our Lady’s has invested in training and has a qualified ‘Elkan Champion’ who promotes knowledge, skills and strategies to enrich speech, language and communication across the school.

Writing – Handwriting and Composition

Writing involves transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech, before writing them down). Our children are taught how to form individual letters correctly from the Early Years. We use the MSL handwriting scheme across the school which enables children to learn how to join letters in cursive script (joined handwriting). Fluent transcription skills are an important focus for Early Years and Key Stage 1. Not all children will have the spelling and handwriting skills they need to write down everything that they can compose out loud.  In order for them to become fluent in writing, we use dictation so that children have opportunities to practise and apply their spelling. The National Curriculum recommends using dictated sentences for children to apply and practise spelling knowledge and segmenting skills, without having to compose sentences by themselves. It requires them to distinguish between the sounds they hear in order to choose the correct graphemes to represent the sounds and to form the letters correctly. They also have to understand what they are hearing to distinguish between homophones (for example, ‘to’/ ‘two’ and ‘there’’/ ‘their’).

Book Led Approach -Pathways to Write Scheme’

Our School has introduced a scheme into Year 2 - Year 6 called Pathways to Write.’ In each class, the writing each half term is introduced from the reading of a stimulating book. The book is read and analysed in reading lessons. Lots of work is completed around the book and it is used as a model for good writing. Children imitate the writer at first but then move on to innovate, then invent their own independent writing, using what they have learnt throughout the unit of work. Here we see the technique of ‘Reading as a Writer’ and then ‘Writing as a Reader,’ considering our audience and how to engage the reader.

The Pathways books, written by significant authors as a stimulus for writing, often link with our wider curriculum. For example – ‘Star of Hope’ – is used as a reading and writing text in Year 6 and also links well with their learning about the persecution of Jews in their World War 2 History topic. It helps them to form connections between learning, which reinforces and consolidates learning so that it is more likely to be remembered.

We are proud of our pupil’s achievements in writing and regularly share their work in assemblies. We enter competitions to share our writing more widely. We also celebrate past pupils who have excelled in writing such as: Isaiah Hull -performance poet and Kemi Alemoru -successful journalist.

Reading Support

Reading ability is assessed throughout the year to identify children who require additional support with their reading. Staff are deployed throughout the school to work with children in order to improve their phonic application, fluency, intonation, decoding skills and comprehension. Phonics intervention and inference intervention sessions are provided where necessary. The lower attaining 20% of readers in each class are targeted for regular 1:1 or guided group reading in school.  Some children are screened for Dyslexia and receive appropriate additional support in school. Reading Booster sessions are offered after school when needed.

Parental Support

Home reading is strongly encouraged and is an integral part of the child’s development. In order to have strong communication between teachers and parents/carers, each child has a reading record book where both the staff and parents can write comments about how the child is progressing with his/her reading.

Reading and Writing Promotion/Initiatives

Reading buddies, challenges and competitions, ‘Drop and Read’, Performance Poetry, Extreme Reading, Author visits, Book Fairs, Story Club, World Book Day, Recommended Reads, Book Swap, Phonics Bingo etc. are some of the ways in which reading is encouraged in school.

Reading for pleasure is extremely important. Children from Nursery to Year 6 are keen to access our well stocked library every week. During library lessons, they often share and talk about a book and they also learn about the way that a library is organised. They can choose a book to take home from a wide range of books available and they can change their books each week.

Children are involved in choosing books for the library. Groups go out to a local book shop each year to purchase books that reflect the interests of the children. We are aware of gender bias in books and are proactive in finding books that avoid stereotypes and promote equality and positive role models.

The school has excellent links with Manchester Libraries. We regularly attend workshops and audiences with authors. We also attend local theatre performances which bring books to life for our children.

The school also subscribes to journals and magazines such as ‘The Day’ and ‘The Week’ which provide reports on current local and global issues. They are interesting and vastly improve children’s general knowledge and are a great source of inspiration for discussions and debates.

In order to develop a strong culture of reading in the whole school community, we have introduced a ‘book swap’ resource for both children and adults. This consists of families donating books. These are available for parents or children to take from the school then replace if they can when finished. We generate and make available a large number of books which can be shared and enjoyed across the whole school community. All families have access to a large number of books regardless of their financial position. We provide parents with recommended reading lists so that they can make informed choices when purchasing books for their children.

Cultural Capital

Our pupils regularly have opportunities to attend theatre performances at our many fantastic theatres in Manchester. Children enjoy experiencing the books they have studied being brought to life on stage from Early Years onwards. There are opportunities for children to perform in theatres e.g. participation in the Shakespeare School’s Festival. They have opportunities to work with the Royal Northern College of Music, composing and performing opera on stage. Children experience the thrill of working together and putting their language skills into practice, performing literary texts on stage in front of an audience.


Teachers assess the children formatively throughout the year through 1:1 reading, whole class/shared reading and guided reading sessions, oral and written comprehension activities. Children from Year 1 to Year 6 will sit termly Pira Reading tests which give a summative assessment for each child. A Reading Age is attained from this as well as a standardised score. Individual children’s progress is tracked. Gaps in learning are analysed so that intervention can be put in place for children needing support.

Phonic assessments are carried out regularly to ensure that children are making age related progress through the ELS programme.

Y1 children take the statutory Phonic Screening Check in June. Those who don’t meet the expected standard in Year 1 will repeat the screening in Y2.

Y6 take the statutory SATs Reading test in May.

Writing is assessed using writing exemplifications and assessing writing against age related objectives. 

Pupil progress is tracked using the Family Fischer Trust online tracking tool.

Continual Professional Development

Teachers and Teaching Assistants attend training to develop their skills in the teaching of reading and writing. This includes the teaching of phonics, ELS training, inference intervention training, Talk for Writing strategies. We regularly use an experienced training provider EY2P, made up of experienced English advisors from the local authority. 


By mastering the knowledge, skills and understanding required in English, we aim for our children not only to be ‘secondary school ready’ but to have the speaking, listening, reading and writing skills to actively and confidently participate in any area of learning and for their lives to be enriched through an enjoyment of literature.

Impact is measured through end of Key Stage Assessments in EYFS and Y6 as well as phonic outcomes in Y1 and Y2.  Staff also assess the children formatively throughout the year through 1:1 reading, whole class/shared reading and guided reading sessions, oral and written comprehension activities. Phonic assessments are carried out regularly to ensure that children are making age related progress through the ELS programme.

Children from Year 1 to Year 6 sit termly Pira Reading tests which give a summative assessment for each child. A Reading Age is attained from this, as well as a standardised score. Individual children’s progress is tracked. Gaps in learning are analysed so that intervention can be put in place for children needing support.

Independent writing is also assessed against the National Curriculum writing objectives and exemplification materials are used to support assessment. Children are set writing targets to work towards as part of the ongoing day to day assessment and feedback from teachers and they are encouraged to edit and improve their writing in response to this feedback.

Attainment in Reading and Writing is inputted on the online FFT tracker and is analysed termly. Throughout the course of the year, the English subject leader undertakes learning walks and monitors teaching and learning. Pupil voice exercises, observations of reading, scrutiny of work samples and moderation of writing are used to monitor standards and progress in English. This informs curriculum development, training and school improvement targets.



Get in touch

Our Lady's RC Primary School

Whalley Road, Whalley Range, Manchester, M16 8AW

Head of School Anna Ward and Executive Head Catherine Gordon

0161 226 2767admin@ourladys-pri.manchester.sch.uk

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