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Spoken Language

At all ages, the ability to listen and respond appropriately to others is a critical life-skill and key to accessing and developing children’s learning in school and the world around them.

We use talk in the classroom daily, we model and teach children to articulate their answers, questions, opinions, arguments, descriptions and explanations, as well as express their feelings. We encourage children to use the English language articulately in order to communicate with their audience effectively. We regularly use talk to clarify and solidify thinking and learning through ‘Talk Partners’ in the classroom or loosely following the principles of ‘Talk for Writing’ in KS1. We provide real life contexts throughout the curriculum that provide opportunities for children to adapt their tone and style for a particular audience, from presentations to performances and role plays to debates. Talk is very much seen as a key to success.

Phonics and Early Reading

At Primrose Hill C of E Primary Academy we are proud of our approach to reading, recognising its importance in opening up an exciting world of discovery.

Essential Letters and Sounds

Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS) is our chosen Phonics programme. The aim of ELS is ‘Getting all children to read well, quickly’. It teaches children to read by identifying the phonemes (the smallest unit of sound) and graphemes (the written version of the sound) within words and using these to read words.

Children begin learning Phonics at the very beginning of Reception and it is explicitly taught every day during a dedicated slot on the timetable. Children are given the knowledge and the skills to then apply this independently.

Throughout the day, children will use their growing Phonics knowledge to support them in other areas of the curriculum and will have many opportunities to practise their reading. This includes reading 1:1 with a member of staff, with a partner during paired reading and as a class.

Children continue daily Phonics lessons in Year 1 and further through the school to ensure all children become confident, fluent readers.

We follow the ELS progression and sequence. This allows our children to practise their existing phonic knowledge whilst building their understanding of the ‘code’ of our language GPCs (Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence). As a result, our children can tackle any unfamiliar words that they might discover.

Children experience the joy of books and language whilst rapidly acquiring the skills they need to become fluent independent readers and writers. ELS teaches relevant, useful and ambitious vocabulary to support each child’s journey to becoming fluent and independent readers.

We begin by teaching the single letter sounds before moving to diagraphs ‘sh’ (two letters spelling one sound), trigraphs ‘igh’ (three letters spelling one sound) and quadgraphs ‘eigh’ (four letters spelling one sound).

We teach children to:

  • Decode (read) by identifying each sound within a word and blending them together to read fluently
  • Encode (write) by segmenting each sound to write words accurately.

The structure of ELS lessons allows children to know what is coming next, what they need to do, and how to achieve success. This makes it easier for children to learn the GPCs we are teaching (the alphabetic code) and how to apply this when reading.

ELS is designed on the principle that children should ‘keep up’ rather than ‘catch up’. Since interventions are delivered within the lesson by the teacher, any child who is struggling with the new knowledge can be immediately targeted with appropriate support. Where further support is required, 1:1 interventions are used where needed. These interventions are short, specific and effective.

Supporting Reading at Home:

  • Children will only read books that are entirely decodable, this means that they should be able to read these books as they already know the code contained within the book.
  • We only use pure sounds when decoding words (no ‘uh’ after the sound)
  • We want children to practise reading their book 4 times across the week working on these skills:

Decode – sounding out and blending to read the word.

Fluency – reading words with less obvious decoding.

Expression – using intonation and expression to bring the text to life!

We must use pure sounds when we are pronouncing the sounds and supporting children in reading words. If we mispronounce these sounds, we will make reading harder for our children. Please watch the videos below for how to accurately pronounce these sounds.

Phase 2 pronunciation 

Phase 3 pronunciation

Phase 5 pronunciation

Our Oxford University Press reading scheme supports the teaching of phonics by providing children with fully decodable reading books, linked to the Essential Letters and Sounds phases. When children are confident with the sounds in the phase, they move to phonetically plausible reading books and eventually to richer readers when they are secure in all phonic phases. Children remain on the reading scheme throughout their time at Primrose Hill and supplement their scheme book with a richer reading book from our well stocked library.

At the beginning of each academic year, we will hold an information session for parents and carers to find out more about what we do for Phonics, Reading and English at our schools. Please do join us.

More support and information about ELS can be found here.

A copy of our phonic milestones can be found here.

Learning to Read

At Primrose Hill we have a passion for reading from early reading until the children are ready for secondary school.

We have prioritised the importance of reading by starting each day with a class read in KS1.  This novel is deliberately challenging therefore exposing the children to a wide range of vocabulary and themes.  Our curriculum each term is centred around a core class text. Our curriculum outline can be found here (PDF).

Whole Class Reading is taught daily from Years 2 – 6 through VIPERS. This scheme exposes children to age related texts or film clips that are fiction, non-fiction and poetry based; texts are either complete or extracts. Throughout the school the importance of good comprehension skills is emphasised so that children understand what they are reading, as well as developing fluency and speed. The children have regular opportunities to read a range of texts throughout the school week as well as experiencing structured reading lessons which teach these key skills. The focus of the lesson follows the VIPERS structure.

All children have a reading book and reading record book which goes home on a daily basis. It is expected that all children will read at least four times a week at home and have this recorded in their record book.

We have a school library, which is well stocked and all pupils are allowed to borrow a book at any time. Teachers can also access theme books to support learning in classes. Newspapers are also available for pupils to read. We have a dedicated, trained group of KS2 librarians who help to run the library during lunchtimes and help to organise the borrowing and returning of books.

We promote a love of reading through displays of books, book corners, author visits, trips to the Cheltenham Literature festivals and theatre group productions.


Children start making marks on paper at an early age and from these early mark makers we aim to develop confident and fluent writers. Across the school children are encouraged to write for different purposes and we constantly look to develop their vocabulary and sentence structure skills.


The National Curriculum requires children to learn to spell different words in different year groups. Please find further information below. There are a number of games which can aid spelling that are available free of charge on the internet or via an app store if you would like to practise together at home.

Key stage one

In Year 1, children are taught to:

  • Spell words containing each of the 40+ phonemes (sounds) already taught
  • Spell common exception words (e.g. such as the and was)
  • Spell the days of the week
  • Name the letters of the alphabet
  • Add some prefixes (e.g. un–) and suffixes (e.g. –ing and –ed) to words

In Year 2, children are taught to:

  • Use knowledge of phonics to spell words correctly
  • Learn new ways of spelling phonemes for which one or more spellings are already known, and learn some words with each spelling, including a few common homophones (e.g. there/they’re/their )
  • Spell common exception words (e.g. because)
  • Spell more words with contracted forms (e.g. it’s)
  • Learn the possessive apostrophe (singular)
  • Add suffixes to spell longer words (e.g. –ment, and –ly)

Key stage two

In Years 3 and 4, children continue to develop their spelling.

  • Use further prefixes and suffixes and understand how to add them (e.g. dis– and –sure)
  • Spell further homophones (e.g. except/accept)
  • Spell words that are often misspelt
  • Use the possessive apostrophe accurately (plurals)
  • Use the first two or three letters of a word to check its spelling in a dictionary

In Years 5 and 6 children learn to:

  • Use further prefixes and suffixes and understand the guidance for adding them (e.g. –able and –ible)
  • Spell some words with ‘silent’ letters (e.g. knight)
  • Continue to distinguish between homophones and other words which are often confused
  • Understand the origin of words and know their relationships to other words in the English language.
  • Use dictionaries to check the spelling and meaning of words
  • Use a thesaurus

Below is a link to the National Curriculum expectations for spelling in primary schools for your information.

National Curriculum Spelling (PDF)

Reading Advice for Parents

The Importance of Reading

Evidence suggests that children who read for enjoyment every day not only perform better in reading tests than those who don’t, but also develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures.

Learning to read is about listening and understanding as well as working out print. Through hearing stories, children are exposed to a rich and wide vocabulary. This helps them build their own vocabulary and improve their understanding when they listen, which is vital as they start to read.

Reading for pleasure is more likely to determine whether a child does well at school than their social or economic background.

As children start to learn to read at school, you can play an important role in helping to keep them interested in books, finding out what interests them and helping them to find books that will be engaging and fun for them. Give time to helping them practise reading the books they will bring home from school.

Research shows that reading with your child for as little as 10 minutes a day can significantly boost how well they do at school. Set aside a regular time every day to read with your child, whether it’s for 10 minutes when they get in from school or reading a bedtime story together. Little and often works best.

Explore different reading materials: as well as fiction there is a whole world of comics, magazines, ebooks, audio books and non-fiction for your child to discover.

Get the whole family involved: encourage your child to read with other family members, such as grandparents, brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles.

Be positive: praise your child for trying hard at their reading and let them know it’s alright to make mistakes.

Be a reading role model: your child learns from you, so seeing you enjoying and valuing books can be a great inspiration!

10 top tips for parents to support children to read from the DfE

Reading helps your child’s wellbeing, develops imagination and has educational benefits too. Just a few minutes a day can have a big impact on children of all ages.

Try to read to your child every day. It’s a special time to snuggle up and enjoy a story. Stories matter and children love re-reading them and poring over the pictures. Try adding funny voices to bring characters to life.

Give children lots of opportunities to read different things in their own time – it doesn’t just have to be books. There’s fiction, non-fiction, poetry, comics, magazines, recipes and much more. Try leaving interesting reading material in different places around the home and see who picks it up.

Choose a favourite time to read together as a family and enjoy it. This might be everyone reading the same book together, reading different things at the same time, or getting your children to read to each other. This time spent reading together can be relaxing for all.

Make a calm, comfortable place for your family to relax and read independently – or together.

Libraries in England are able to open from 4 July, so visit them when you’re able to and explore all sorts of reading ideas. Local libraries also offer brilliant online materials, including audiobooks and eBooks to borrow.

This is a great way to make connections, develop understanding and make reading even more enjoyable. Start by discussing the front cover and talking about what it reveals and suggests the book could be about. Then talk about what you’ve been reading and share ideas. You could discuss something that happened that surprised you, or something new that you found out. You could talk about how the book makes you feel and whether it reminds you of anything.

You could try cooking a recipe you’ve read together. Would you recommend it to a friend? Alternatively, play a game where you pretend to be the characters in a book, or discuss an interesting article you’ve read.

Play games that involve making connections between pictures, objects and words, such as reading about an object and finding similar things in your home. You could organise treasure hunts related to what you’re reading. Try creating your child’s very own book by using photos from your day and adding captions.

You know your child best and you’ll know the best times for your child to read. If they have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) then short, creative activities may be the way to get them most interested.

If English is an additional language, encourage reading in a child’s first language, as well as in English. What matters most is that they enjoy it.

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