At Downsway, English is taught daily and reading and phonics are taught in accordance with the NationalCurriculum and the Revised Literacy Framework, with work appropriately differentiated to match all abilities. We aim to foster in the children a love of literature and language and the confidence to continue reading and writing throughout their lives.
Therefore in partnership with parents and guardians, we expect our children to be able to:
- Speak clearly and confidently in any situation
- Listen actively and respond appropriately, developing knowledge and opinion
- Read fluently for both pleasure and information
- Write clearly and with confidence in any given genre
- Use spelling rules, phonics and grammar accurately
- Be able to proofread their own work and make amendments and improvements
Each child’s reading journey begins in EYFS where phonics is introduced using the Jolly Phonics scheme. Initially children's listening skills are developed through the use of music, environmental sounds and rhyme. In Foundation Stage, children are introduced to phonemes (sounds) linked to the letters of the alphabet, as well as one way of spelling each of the other 16 phonemes used in the English language, such as 'igh' and 'ch'. Children are taught to blend or sound out phonics to read a variety of words and segment or break down the sounds in simple words for spelling. Jolly Phonics gives children an action for each sound, which supports children who learn in an active way.
In Year 1, children learn more about the variety of ways in which each phoneme can be spelled and they also learn about the different pronunciations made by different letters or groups of letters, such as 'a' in 'ant' and 'was'. At the end of Year 1, children will be tested on their phonics knowledge, using a national test featuring 20 real words and 20 pseudo-words. From Year 2 onwards, children consolidate their phonics knowledge, learning when to apply different spelling rules as well as how to spell plurals and different verb tenses.
As children progress through school and their phonetic awareness develops, children can choose from a variety of reading books. The reading books we use are colour banded and, as children become more confident and able readers, they will take home books from different colour bands. The books in the first few colour bands are primarily phonics based, allowing children to apply their phonics knowledge. Once children become fluent readers, a greater range of books is provided to allow children to engage in more lengthy discussions about the content of the book. The reading scheme is later supplemented with books from our well-stocked library. If children continue to struggle they may have one-to-one tutoring using an Intervention strategy such as FFT, Rapid Reading or Catch Up, in order for them to get back on track as soon as possible.
Children also participate in guided reading sessions in small groups applicable to their ability, where they can apply their phonic and reading skills to a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts.
We encourage children to read at home to an adult every day. In Foundation Stage, children begin by taking home wordless books, to allow them to spend time talking to a parent about the book, without being constrained by the necessity to read words. Once children have a good understanding of how books work and have gained some phonics knowledge, they begin to read books containing simple words which can be blended or sounded out.
The main reading schemes used at Downsway School are Oxford Reading Tree (including Snapdragons, Bug Club Treetops and Project X) Phonics Bug, Collins Big Cat and Jelly and Bean.
As with reading, the alphabetic code is embedded first, so that children can write simple consonant-vowel- consonant words early on and build on their success. The children write every day, rehearsing what they want to say orally and composing, sentence by sentence, until they are confident to write independently. They write at the level of their spelling knowledge, that is, they use their knowledge of the alphabetic code and the ‘tricky’ words they have learnt. In every lesson, they are rapidly building up their knowledge, so that they are soon able to spell more complex words confidently, accurately and fluently. The children can use adventurous vocabulary in their writing because they have encountered such language in their reading and they have talked about what the words mean.
Science is an important part of the curriculum at Downsway. Children take part in Science lessons at least once a week but depending on the class’ current topic, the frequency of these lesson can be more. Not only do we endeavour to broaden the children’s scientific understanding through imparting knowledge, we also aim to enhance and improve the pupil’s investigational skills.
Our science lessons are often hands on and involve the children exploring, using equipment and experimenting. We make the most of the school environment and classes can often be seen using the field, playground and nature area during their science lessons. Many classes have attended workshops led by visitors to the school which has consolidated and complimented the learning that has taken place in the classroom.
Whilst the primary focus of our lessons is to build science knowledge, we also try to provide opportunities for cross-curricular links particularly with Mathematics and English, for instance through measuring or writing the method for an experiment they have carried out.
Our aim is to engage and inspire pupils during their science lessons in order to foster and encourage any budding scientists here at the school.
Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) Education
How do with enable children to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence?
We help children to develop their self knowledge, self esteem and self confidence in a variety of different ways both inside and outside the classroom. This is achieved through homework and extended learning tasks in the classroom. We have a system of praise and rewards including certificates for both academic achievement and social performance which are presented in assembly and house points. Our rich extracurricular provision includes an array of after clubs and school sports teams. The school council and house system provides opportunities for children to take responsibility and to work collaboratively and in support of each other. As a school, we value the Arts and place emphasis on performance of speech, music and drama. Through teaching our Core Values, we encourage children to develop good character traits for life.
How do we enable children to distinguish right from wrong and respect civil and criminal law?
At the start of each academic year, the class teacher develops a code of conduct through discussions with the children. Through Personal, Health, Social and Emotional lessons, (PHSE) and RE lessons children develop an understanding of right and wrong. For example, in literacy lessons the behaviour and conduct of a book character is analysed and discussed.
Staff have high expectations of the children in terms good behaviour and conduct. This is routinely modelled to the children by both Staff and visitors to the school. These behaviours are extended to extracurricular activity and school trips where the children are reminded that they are ambassadors for the school and behave accordingly.
The older children have ‘First News’ delivered weekly and children are encouraged to comment on the stories within the paper. Topical concerns are shared and discussed through assemblies and pre-planned discussion time. We have a thriving school council who represent the schools views and concerns. This group goes to the Houses of Parliament to experience ‘real law’. We have regular contact with our local MP, Alok Sharma, who has attended school voting and discussion sessions. We also have good relations with the local Police Community Officer who visits school to talk to the children on a range of subjects.
How are children encouraged to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative and understand how they can contribute positively to the lives of those living and working in the locality in which the school is situated and to society more widely?
Through high expectations and consistent application of these, our children are very aware that they are responsible for their own behaviours. We organise a range of Charity Events, Young Enterprise activities and provide support for the Friends of Downsway (FOD) events. These activities teach our children about other children in difficult situations, the value of money and gives them an opportunity to work as a team in support of others.
We visit elderly residents in our local area at Christmas, sing Carols at the local supermarket for Charity and engage in local and National events and competitions.
How do our children gain a broad general knowledge of public institutions and services in England?
Through our International Primary Curriculum (IPC) topic work, children experience a range of public institutions and services, e.g places of worship, factories, and businesses. We encourage them where applicable to write to local institutions for support in school. Through homework and attendance in local trips, e.g Waitrose, ASK and Pizza Express, children gain a range of experiences and an understanding of how the enterprise works.
How do our children acquire an appreciation of and respect for their own and other cultures that promote tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions?
Through our Collective Worship and RE syllabus, the children are exposed to all Religions. We encourage contribution from all faiths in topics eg. All about Me, Food, Places of Worship and People who help us. Our Values education, emphasises the importance of tolerance and harmony through stories, displays, writings, drama and music. We adopt a particular value each term where the children can earn certificates through demonstrating the value in their everyday life. Children are encouraged to be respectful of the views of others and to conduct themselves with care and consideration at all times.
What priority is given to PHSE and SMSC?
These are planned for throughout the year, but in addition we address issues as they arise. As a Values school we place a high importance on SMSC provision through all that we teach and our expectations of behaviour and conduct. We are an inclusive school and as such we welcome all denominations, and abilities. Through our PHSE and SMSC provision, we use every opportunity to prepare our children to live in a multicultural world with a mixed society.