Wolvercote Primary School


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At Wolvercote School, we offer a rich and diverse range of English teaching and learning activities.

Our aim is to develop highly literate and self-motivated learners who have a confidence and love of the subject. There are different interrelated parts to the English curriculum: speaking and listening, reading and writing.

Speaking and listening development is planned into all areas of the curriculum. Our children are articulate and enjoy challenging themselves in debate and discussion. Good speaking and listening skills are vital for success in all areas of life.

Reading is given a high profile in the school. Teachers read to the children every day; we meet authors; we encourage reading for pleasure, while at the same time explicitly teaching the skills necessary to be a successful reader.

We want our children to enjoy writing and see it as a creative means to express themselves and as a vital tool in communication. A sense of purpose and clear understanding of who the audience is helps the children to remain motivated and to set high expectations for themselves.

Our Literacy coordinator is Mrs Newbury. She leads whole school training so that all staff are kept abreast of current developments and latest research. All adults aim to improve their own knowledge and skills, just as we expect this from the children.

Our school consistently achieves above the national and local averages for external assessments; this also includes the number of children who are working at a greater depth level. While results are a pleasing validation of the work that we do, our prime motivation is to help children to become lifelong learners and to develop the skills needed both for secondary school and in their lives beyond.


Our Aim

We aspire to support our children to become confident readers with a love of books. We believe that this can be best achieved through reading widely and reading ambitiously. ‘Book Talk’ supports understanding and helps to develop a language rich culture in the school.

Teaching & learning

Each teacher reads daily to their whole class. These sessions help children get enthralled in a story which can have a higher complexity than one they would read to themselves. They can share discussion with their peers and learn from the teacher modelling expressive and fluent reading while demonstrating their own love of books.

We teach early reading through a phonics scheme called Read Write Inc (RWI). Other reading skills (skimming, scanning, inference etc) are taught in a progressive and carefully planned way throughout the school. In KS1, we use the RWI reading scheme: this is taught through guided reading sessions where children read in a group supported by the teacher. In KS2, reading is taught through some guided reading sessions and also whole class teaching.

We organise a range of activities designed to promote an interest and love of reading: an annual celebration of World Book Day; a book fair in school selling books; visits to hear authors discuss their books; sharing stories with ‘buddies’ in other classes and many practical and fun book-based events.

We have an active PTA who has developed a working library which is incredibly well stocked with a wide range of books: this is used by every class each week.  The book selection in the library changes each term to link to the topics classes are studying. In addition, each class has an attractive reading environment where books can be shared and enjoyed. We are very fortunate to have a wealth of books on display in each room.

Equality of opportunity

Our books are carefully chosen to make sure that they represent diversity and give children a broad experience of subjects which embrace differences in gender, disabilities, age, social, and economic backgrounds.

Some children find reading more challenging and we provide additional support in a variety of ways, most notably through specific reading interventions run by trained teaching assistants, volunteer readers supported by our special needs coordinator, and  booster groups with the class teacher. It is our ambition to make sure that every child leaves our school able to read confidently.


Our Aim

Research has shown that the ability to decode is a crucial element in reading success.

The goal of phonics instruction is to teach children the relationship between sounds and the written spelling patterns which represent them. Children use phonics to learn how to decode (to read) and encode (to write/spell). Our aim is to provide high quality systematic teaching to ensure children’s success in becoming early readers.

Teaching & learning

In Reception and Year 1, children have daily discrete phonics lessons. This is continued in Year 2 for children who require additional support. We use the Read Write Inc programme to teach phonics.

Parent and Carer Phonics Meeting

The Reception team hold a phonics meeting each year in October. This is an opportunity to find out about how we teach Phonics at Wolvercote. This years presentation can be viewed by clicking the document link below.

Equality of opportunity

Children’s progress and phonics knowledge is regularly monitored. If any child requires additional support this is put in place as early as possible. We use the RWI tutoring program.

Speaking and Listening

Our Aim 

Speaking and listening skills are the foundation of a child's success and we aim to make them a priority in Wolvercote School. Research shows that language skills are closely linked to improved life chances and social mobility.

Teaching & learning  

Children have regular opportunities to speak with a partner to develop their ideas. They learn skills to communicate in larger groups and to know what ‘active listening’ means. We build vocabulary acquisition across the curriculum. When children answer questions in class, we encourage them to speak in full sentences and to use the appropriate technical language.  The adults working in school  model speaking in full sentences and with a wide range of vocabulary when communicating with children.

Equality of opportunity

 We run a ‘Spiralls’ intervention and provide other high-quality support for children with delayed language development.


Our Aim  

We aim for our children to leave in Year 6 with the ability to write using their own style of fast, fluent, legible and sustainable handwriting, as well as other styles of writing for specific purposes.

Teaching & Learning 

We teach handwriting in regular handwriting lessons and have high expectations that what is taught and practised in these lessons will be used in all writing activities. We encourage children to take pride in their work and good quality presentation is an integral part of this.

We use Penpals for Handwriting (Cambridge University Press) throughout the school. This  is a handwriting scheme for 3–11 year olds that offers clear progression through five developmental stages: physical preparation for handwriting; securing correct letter formation; beginning to join; securing the joins and practising speed and fluency, and developing a personal style.

Penpals uses whole class teaching with the interactive whiteboards to enable modelling and interactive learning, along with practice books and workbooks to support independent work.

Equality of opportunity

All of our children have equal access to handwriting lessons and to the resources available. We recognise that some children take longer to develop the necessary skills and we cater for those children by providing additional opportunities for skills development. Children who need specific fine motor or handwriting interventions are identified early and the impact of interventions is carefully monitored. Children with a physical disability are catered for, and progress is monitored, according to their individual action plans.


There are two broad areas of writing: the technical side, for example, handwriting, spelling, grammar & punctuation, and the composition side, for example, planning, sharing ideas and communicating for a purpose. Learning to write is a complex process because good writing involves balancing all these different parts. There is a lot for a child to juggle. We aim to help children develop their voice and to learn the skills necessary to communicate effectively through the written word- and to enjoy themselves.

Most writing is done through our topics and therefore will also be cross curricular, for example writing in a geography topic lesson is just as important as in an English lesson.  During English lessons, writing is taught by studying examples of different types of text. Children are provided with high quality examples of texts so they can see and discuss what effective writing looks like. Writing will be modelled by the teacher so that children see and understand the steps a writer goes through and what their thinking process can be. Relevant points of grammar and punctuation are taught within English lessons.


Our Aim

To continue to improve the quality of writing in our school we introduced an initiative called ‘Write-On’. The aim is to help the children to build resilience when writing longer pieces of writing; to provide a whole school topic where children can see the development through the school, and to create regular times for children to incorporate their classroom learning into an independent piece of writing. This also serves as a useful assessment opportunity for teachers to then adapt their teaching as appropriate.

Teaching & Learning

Write-On runs across the whole school with everyone discussing the same topic and genre of writing (poem, letter, story etc). A talk topic is set as a homework activity so families can discuss this together. This is an important part of the process as it gives children time to develop their thoughts and imagination. Later in the week, a quiet and extended session is set aside for the children to write. Work is displayed on a Write-On board to share and celebrate writing. This year this will be run every two weeks.


We asked the children, staff and parents what they thought about Write- On.

Teacher:It allows them to run with their imaginations, practise writing silently and writing more extensively. It has been amazing how it has helped build stamina.”

Teacher: “Children have been given an opportunity to look at a wide range of genres. There has been lots of celebrating their own and others’ writing.”

Child: “It’s hard but fun and when you finish you feel good about yourself.”

Child: “I liked it being creative. You really had to think. It helped my imagination.”

Parent: "It helped thinking ahead about what to write and children were very excited about it."

Parent: "It helped to come up with different ideas and enriched their vocabulary.  We enjoyed discussing them as a family."

Parent: "It encouraged my son to put in more effort to see good results. It gave him time and structure to prepare ideas."

Equality of opportunity 

Talking about the topic is essential preparation for Write-On. Children who do not have this opportunity at home are identified and additional ‘talk groups’ are formed to give them a chance to clarify their ideas, plan their writing and develop their vocabulary.

Chrome books are provided for children who find writing at length physically challenging. Children who require additional support in their writing can recieve an intervention called 'Write Away Together'. 


Our Aim

Spelling helps children to communicate confidently in the written form. It also helps with reading and vocabulary development. We aim to teach our children to become competent at spelling but also to have an interest in words themselves, for example the word origin and history (etymology).

Teaching & Learning

All children have weekly spelling patterns to learn. These are chosen from the lists provided for each year group in the National Curriculum, whilst recapping on previous year groups patterns where needed. Specific teaching is given in school and homework set to ensure extra practice.  There are also statutory word lists that don’t follow specific patterns for each phase; common exception words for KS1, and word lists for year 3/4 and 5/6. Children will work on these at regular intervals throughout each phase, discussing the word meaning and using it in context.

Equality of opportunity

Dictionaries, thesaurus, word banks, alphabet cards etc are available for all children to refer to and are differentiated for those who find spelling particularly challenging. Additional intervention groups are provided as appropriate. All teachers have been trained in dyslexia and specific dyslexic aids (such as spelling apps) are available. 

Vocabulary Development

Our Aim 

Research shows that the size of a child’s vocabulary is a strong predictor of reading success and also for success in future tests and exams. We aim to provide lessons where we explicitly teach vocabulary, raise children’s interest and motivation to develop their own vocabulary and celebrate exploring and using ambitious word choice. We want to support all our children to use a wide vocabulary, whilst recognising that children join our school at very different starting points.

Teaching & Learning

We use a number of practical strategies to help children to develop their vocabulary

  • Class reading: vocabulary can be discussed in the context of the book being read. Children are encouraged to apply this learning in their class discussions and written work.
  • Class environment: working walls display specific vocabulary that children can refer to. They are kept up-to -date and accessible. We aim to develop a rich language environment.
  • Word Up! New vocabulary is displayed in the classroom and children move the words up a traffic light system from red (unknown), to amber (used with guidance) to green (confident and now part of the child’s everyday known vocabulary).
  • Topic specific vocabulary gets sent home to parents on topic overviews so words can be discussed at home
  • Specific teaching where the teacher identifies certain words and provides direct instruction in word learning strategies (looking at root words, finding synonyms and definitions etc).
  • We create excitement about discovering new words (it is okay not to know what a word means).
  • Children are encouraged to use new vocabulary accurately within full sentences in their speech as well as their written work.  Ambitious or new vocabulary used by the children is celebrated by the teachers through verbal and written feedback.

Three tiers of vocabulary have been identified and teachers explicitly plan how to use and explore words from each tier.

Tier 1 words – basic words used in the child’s everyday setting (e.g. go, play).

Tier 2 words – complex words (e.g. compare, neutral).

Tier 3 words – highly specialised, subject-specific words (e.g. isosceles).

Equality of opportunity 

The gap between vocabulary used by children from a ‘word-rich’ environment and by those from families where children are not read to or spoken to as frequently is significant. It is our aim to narrow this gap and we provide additional support for children who have a limited vocabulary. Children who have English as an additional language are also supported to develop their vocabulary.

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