Why we teach English at Stewart Headlam

A high-quality education in English will teach pupils to speak and write fluently so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions to others and through their reading and listening, others can communicate with them. Through reading in particular, pupils have a chance to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Literature, especially, plays a key role in such development. Reading also enables pupils both to acquire knowledge and to build on what they already know. All the skills of language are essential to participating fully as a member of society.


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 word, and to develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment. The national curriculum for English aims to ensure that all pupils:

  • read easily, fluently and with good understanding
  • develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information
  • acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language
  • appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage
  • write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences
  • use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas
  • are competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate.

Transference of skills

At Stewart Headlam we emphasise the transference of reading and writing skills across the wider curriculum. Children are expected to use high quality reading and writing skills in subjects outside of the core subjects. Teachers plan activities within subjects such as Topic, RE, Science and ICT for children to showcase their English skills.


At Stewart Headlam, we want to instill a love for reading in our pupils so that they want to lose themselves in the world of books.

Guided Reading

Children are taught the skills required to read during guided reading. These are focused sessions led by an adult in which children are taught in groups based on their reading levels. The main purpose of guided reading is for children to read a variety of texts with ease and deep understanding. It also provides them with opportunities to develop as independent readers through supported activity.  During these sessions, the text is easy enough for children to read with skillful support. The text offers challenges and opportunities for problem solving, but is easy enough for students to read with some fluency.

Whole Class Reading

Every year group from Years 2 to 6 has whole class reading sessions. In these sessions children read high quality books, which have been carefully selected to help challenge all the children; make them critical thinkers and continue to develop their love for reading. Teachers plan these sessions to ensure that students have ample opportunities to explore themes and vocabulary; develop their comprehension skills (both oral and written) and improve their stamina so that they are able to read texts and answer questions under time constraints.

In addition to this, children have access to a range of books to read for pleasure both in the classroom and at home. Children also have the opportunity to read across a range of subjects through the thematic curriculum. Children from years 1- 6 will continue to participate in the SH Reading Challenge, which allows children to read more widely.  


In the Foundation Stage there are lots of mark making and writing opportunities in all the activities we explore both inside and outside. Children practice their phonics and high frequency words so that they can be even better at reading and writing.

We carefully plan writing units using the Tower Hamlets Unit Plans thinking about the purpose for writing and our audiences. Children’s writing is developed through exposure to high quality texts as models of what makes good writing. Children learn to write using a range of genres within non-fiction, fiction and poetry. We provide regular opportunities for children to write independently and across a range of subjects through the thematic curriculum. Children from years 1 to year 6 have spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG) sessions in addition to an hour of English. We provide children with the opportunity to edit their work at the end of each unit as this is an important part of the writing process and enables children to produce a piece of work that they are proud of.

Speaking and Listening: All adults in the school are required to provide good models of English with the children at all times. Children are expected to respond in full sentences and are provided with language structures in each year group with which to develop these skills.


At Stewart Headlam we teach systematic synthetic phonics from Nursery to Year 2. Our aim is to develop the children’s phonological awareness, ability to segment and blend words and read tricky words on sight. We use the Tower Hamlets Phonics Structure to plan and deliver Phonics. Phonics is taught daily for 20 minutes.

"School leaders display unwavering commitment to sustaining improvement and have the highest expectations of teachers"

- Ofsted, 2017