At the heart of English at Westhaven School is a commitment to developing students’ literacy skills to allow them to access learning across the curriculum. We strive to ensure that every student is able to engage in conversation with others in a considered and thoughtful manner, that they are able to read with confidence and pleasure and that they can write clearly and accurately.

We have a range of strategies to enable this. In the first instance, we encourage students to read for pleasure. We have a well stocked library which students visit on a regular basis and are able to choose books from to take home. Next, within the guidelines of the 2014 National Curriculum, we select texts which inspire and engage our students, studying a range of authors including Michael Morpurgo, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe and Dr Seuss as well as non-fiction texts such as Boy by Roald Dahl. Finally, we set a wide range of written tasks which engage our students and allow them to write freely, both by hand and by word processor. The process of planning, drafting and redrafting is taught and repeated throughout.

Lower School

In Lower School we have five lessons of English a week, taught by the class teacher in mixed ability classes. The week combines a mix of topic based learning, SPaG, handwriting and motor skills as well as free writing opportunities and mark making. We have a heavy emphasis on reading using a phonics approach, and all students read to an adult at least twice a week. We use interactive e-book sites, such as Bug Club as well as utilising our school library and we are developing our bank of books for guided reading sessions. A range of practical, creative and written activities are delivered in English sessions with a flexible focus on child-led interests at the core. A diverse selection of texts are studied in each class, ranging from Traction Man, The Twits, Handa’s Hen, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and many more. All students take reading books home in their book bags and are rewarded with Class Dojo points for reading regularly at home.

Middle School

Middle School groups have English 5 times per week, taught by their class teacher in mixed ability classes. Of these lessons, one is dedicated to SpaG, one is dedicated to handwriting practice and the remaining lessons cover topic and reading skills. Students follow a 4 year rolling programme, studying a variety of authors from a range of genres and eras. These include Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl, Dr Seuss, Edgar Allan Poe, The Brothers Grimm and William Shakespeare. Non-fiction texts include The Diary of Anne Frank and author biographies. Reading and spelling homework is set once a week.

Upper School

In Upper School (years 10 and 11), pupils are taught by specialist teachers in streamed by ability classes. In year 10, students have 4 lessons a week, in year 11 this reduces to 3 lessons a week due to college placements on Fridays. All students in Upper School follow an accredited English course: AQA Entry Level Step up to English, AQA GCSE English or Functional English. Due to the changing nature of the qualification landscape at KS4, we are constantly striving to identify new qualifications which are appropriate and challenging for our students. There is a significant emphasis on word processing and writing for purpose (e.g. letter writing, composing emails) and students are encouraged to read independently and form opinions on what they have read.

Assessment in English

In Lower and Middle School, students are continually assessed in English using the Westhaven Learning Ladders for Reading, Spoken Language and Writing. Twice a year, students are formally tested in reading and spelling. All staff across the curriculum use these levels to inform their planning. In Upper School, students are assessed against the criteria of the qualification syllabus they are following.

Literacy across the curriculum

Students complete a piece of My Best Work three times a year in terms 2, 4, and 6. This is an opportunity for students to produce an extended piece of writing in their very neatest cursive (where appropriate) script. The title of each piece of My Best Work is set by the Head of English. All teachers at Westhaven have a My Best Work folder containing copies of My Best Work of all of the pupils they teach. Teachers use this to improve standards of handwriting in their lessons and to encourage students to produce their best handwriting at all times.

Pen License

In September 2017, the Westhaven Pen License was introduced with the aim of encouraging all pupils to write neatly and consistently in cursive script. When a pen license in awarded in assembly, students sign to agree to continue producing their best handwriting in all subjects across the school.