Our Lady of Compassion Catholic Primary School

To live as Jesus taught us



Placing a Literature-led Approach at the Core of English Teaching




‘The overarching aim for English in the national curriculum is to promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written language, and to develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment.’ The English national curriculum (2014)


  • We believe the exposure of children’s literature within the primary school setting is vital as a rich context for learning; not only within English as a subject but to support building a reading culture throughout the school.


  • We aim to use high quality books that offer opportunities for empathy and can aid philosophical enquiry, where children see their cultures, families and relationships reflected, as a means of developing the spoken language requirements through debate, drama and discussion using the issues raised through, and within, the text.




By placing books at the core, we are allowing teachers to use the text as the context for the requirements of the national curriculum. The national curriculum states that:


‘'This guidance is not intended to constrain or restrict teachers’ creativity, simply to provide the structure on which they can construct exciting lessons.'


This would suggest that a context for learning is vital – and this is where our chosen approach can support teachers with ensuring that objectives for reading and writing, including those for grammar can have purpose.

We will always aim for our writing opportunities to be meaningful and to feel authentic. Whether these are short or long and that the audience is clear. Books offer this opportunity: our aim would be that that children have real reasons to write, whether to explain, persuade, inform or instruct and that where possible, this can be embedded within text or linked to a curriculum area. Writing in role using a range of genres is key to our approach and we would always model the tone and level of formality. This sits comfortably alongside the following statement from the English national curriculum:


‘The national curriculum for English aims to ensure that all pupils write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences.'



Reading Journey at OLC

‘All pupils must be encouraged to read widely across both fiction and non-fiction to develop their knowledge of themselves and the world in which they live, to establish an appreciation and love of reading, and to gain knowledge across the curriculum.’ DfE (2013:4)




‘Reading aloud [to children] is a research-based strategy that helps children of all ages develop a love of literacy, grow their vocabulary, read independently and think critically.’ (Casasola, 2016)


Research tells us that the journey to becoming skilled and fluent readers begins at an early stage and is in part driven by the quality of conversations that parents have with their children that enables them to expand and extend their vocabulary:




Infants who experienced more child-directed speech became more efficient in processing familiar words in real time and had larger expressive vocabularies.’ (Weisleder & Fernald, 2013)


The research indicated that by the time children are 5 years, the number of words that the children would have heard are as follows:


Never read to - 4,662 words

Read to 1–2 times per week - 63,570 words

Read to 3–5 times per week - 169,520 words

Read to daily - 296,660 words

Read to five books a day - 1,483,300 words.


At Our Lady of Compassion School, we are passionate about ensuring all children have great opportunities throughout their journey through their school years to become confident and enthusiastic readers and writers. We believe that this in important in supporting the children to be able to independently access their learning, to move from learning to read, to reading to learn.





Based on the model of the Simple View of Reading by Gough and Tunmer (1986), our reading journey strives to establish readers who are competent in both word reading and comprehension; we strive to support children in developing into confident and established reader and writers through the implementation of an accredited systematic synthetic phonics programme (Bug Club Phonics), which provides the children with the foundations of learning.


Through our programme of systematic synthetic phonics, the graphemes and corresponding phonemes are taught just before the introduction of words that contain these letters. To read these words, children are taught to pronounce the individual phonemes (sounds) associated with the graphemes (letters) they see, and then to blend them together (synthesise) to form the word. (Within Bug Club Phonics, slashes / / are used to denote phonemes, and inverted commas ‘ ’ to denote graphemes.)

The process is as follows:

  • Children see a word, eg cat; it is not pronounced for them.
  • They break it down into its individual letters (graphemes) and pronounce the corresponding sounds (phonemes) for each letter in turn: /c/ /a/ /t/
  • Then they blend the separate phonemes together to form the word.

This process is known as blending.


Systematic synthetic phonics within Bug Club Phonics teaches letter sounds very rapidly, explicitly showing children how to build up words with letters from the start, and always includes blending with printed words. As part of the Bug Club Phonics programme, spelling is taught by reversing the reading process described above, that is:

  • Children hear a word, eg “cat” and say it.
  • They say the first phoneme: /c/.
  • They write the corresponding grapheme: ‘c’.
  • They say the word again and say the next phoneme: /a/.
  • They write the corresponding grapheme: ‘a’, and so on.

This process is known as segmenting and is followed by the children reading the word they have produced by sounding and blending.


The teaching sequence adopted is as follows:

  • Introduce – learning intentions and outcomes discussed
  • Revisit and review – previous learning reviewed and revisited
  • Teach – grapheme-phoneme correspondence introduced
  • Practise – practise opportunities implemented
  • Apply – opportunities to apply developing skills to the reading, spelling and writing of captions and sentences implemented to secure knowledge
  • Assess learning – progress within each phase monitored to inform planning and establish gaps in learning

In our approach (as part of Bug Club Phonics), both blending for reading and segmenting for spelling are fully scaffolded. Whilst modelling takes place within each lesson, demonstrating to the children how to sound and blend words for reading, during each lesson, children must attempt to sound and blend words for themselves to find out how they are pronounced. Segmenting for spelling is also modelled; scaffolding is in place to support the children through the process with each word they spell. This ensures that they identify each phoneme and choose the appropriate grapheme in turn, until the word is spelt.


Phonics is taught daily to all children in Foundation Stage and KS1, with extra support provided to those in Year 2 who have not passed phonics screening in Year 1 and interventions planned for children working below expected levels; further support is also offered to children in KS2 who have not yet cracked the phonics code.


Regular assessments establish gaps in learning and support the teachers with their planning. The children are given decodable reading books which match their current phonics level, so as to practise skills that they have secured. They are encouraged to read regularly at home. Children also choose a further book to take home; parents are encouraged to read this to the children to help the children extend they are exposed constantly to a rich and varied diet of book experiences to ensure their enthusiasm for reading is nurtured, their comprehension skills are being developed, and their speaking and listening skills are extended.


Once children have cracked the phonics code and become established and fluent readers (for the vast majority, by the end of Year 2), move on to independent reading which is a critical part of children’s learning and growth, where children further enhance and embed the pleasure and power of reading.


Finding the right book at the right time can light an emotional spark within children that motivates them to read more, understand more and read joyfully. When that happens, the world opens and everything becomes possible.


Children have the opportunity to access books from the class libraries or the main library. This year, we have established further reading areas for the children to further instil and enhance their love of learning; a Reading Den has been set up for UKS2 and we are also in the process of establishing a Reading Corner (LKS2) and a Reading Nook (FS/KS1). On their way home, the children also have the opportunity of visiting the 'Little Free Library (LFL) - Take a book, share a book', where they are able to 'take' a book by choosing one to take home with them, and 'share' a book by bringing from home a book that they have already read and placing it in the library.





















Through the teaching of systematic synthetic phonics, our aim is for children to become fluent readers by the end of Key Stage One. This way, children can focus on developing their fluency and comprehension as they move through the school and children make good progress from their starting points. The vast majority of the children are then ready for their next stage in their education. Attainment in reading is measured using the statutory assessments:

  • Phonics Screen Check at the end of Year 1
  • Reading SATs at the end of Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.

 These results are measured against the reading attainment of children nationally.


However, we firmly believe that reading is the key to all learning and so the impact of our phonics and reading curriculum goes beyond the results of statutory assessments and can be seen in the success across the curriculum as children progress through school.