Valued – Inspired – Prepared
Westhaven School is a unique learning environment with high expectations for learners who experience barriers to learning for a range of reasons. We promote a calm environment which enables everyone to learn. The golden thread that permeates our curriculum and our conduct through every school day are the core values which shape our learners to be:
- safely independent
- confident communicators
- respectful citizens
- resilient learners
- inquisitive thinkers
The Westhaven Way is our ethos and it underpins our daily approach to behaviour and learning.
The Reading Curriculum
(Open English Curriculum Map)
At Westhaven, we want reading to be the heart of our curriculum.
We want our learners to be able to read easily, fluently and with good understanding.
We want each learner to be inspired and to develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information.
We recognise and value the importance of developing confident readers with a love of reading, in all its forms.
Reading at Westhaven
We recognise that being a confident and competent reader is a key skill for every learner that will enable them to achieve in all areas of their life. We believe that every learner has the right to learn to read and to develop a love for reading – which we aim to achieve at Westhaven with the right teaching and encouragement from enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff. In order to achieve this, we place reading at the heart of our curriculum and have developed a clear and coherent whole school strategy for teaching the skills of reading and promoting reading for pleasure.
The golden thread that permeates our curriculum and our conduct through every school day are the core values which shape our learners to be:
- safely independent – Being able to read unlocks the world in which we are required to navigate. Our learners, once able to read, can access independent living by being able to access signs and information around them and in the home.
- confident communicators – Reading is a key step towards more informed communication methods.
- respectful citizens – Teaching our children how to respect books isn’t only about looking after the text in that moment, it is about helping them to learn key values in life for respecting everything that is precious around them. Reading exposes children to a wide range of differences whether it is culture, faith, nature, race when they might not see this in their immediate lives. Through this exposure we show that respect must be given at all times.
- resilient learners – Learning to read is one of the hardest, and yet most rewarding, tasks to master. It takes time, dedication, and patience. Not giving up is a valuable life lesson and one that we hold in high regard at Westhaven.
- inquisitive thinkers – Reading allows the imagination to be free – to think, feel and discover the world in both reality and in fantasy.
Our reading culture
Our reading culture is embedded across the school, with school staff acting as champions for reading. We weave reading into as many aspects of school life as possible. For example, on our weekly newsletter to our families a member of staff is featured and their favourite book and book quote shared. We also celebrate wonderful books with learners in our ‘love to listen’ sessions and share favourites in our reading shed. We hold termly inter-house competitions linked to the texts we love and also have a staff ‘recommended books’ display. This is a great opportunity for our teaching teams to show learners that they are readers and allows them to share some of their favourite stories.
Our reading environment
To achieve an environment in which learners love reading, all classes have a designated reading area. We also build time for all learners to read independently and for pleasure within the school day. We invest in quality resources that meet the needs of our context covering a range of genres so that our readers can be enthused and inspired.
Knowing the significant role they play, we also involve our families to encourage the extension of our school reading culture to the home environment.
Our approach to teaching reading
In order to ensure that we are teaching reading in its fullest sense, we have separated the teaching of reading into 3 explicit strands, which are all interlinked: fluency, enjoyment, comprehension.
Reading for enjoyment
From the very youngest to our oldest learners, we aim to create a culture where books are valued, treasured and loved, no matter their starting point or SEND. By explicitly creating an environment where reading for pleasure is prioritised, we hope we can develop a generation of learners who have the independence, stamina and desire to immerse themselves in books.
Carefully chosen non-fiction texts linked to foundation subjects are displayed in classrooms and library spaces and made accessible for learners to deepen their knowledge and understanding of what they are studying.
All classes up to year 11 also have a daily ‘Love to Listen’ session to help promote a love for the escapism stories can bring.
In order to love reading, learners need the skills to access texts with automaticity and fluency. At Westhaven, we follow the Unlocking Letters and Sounds programme, which is a systematic, synthetic and rigorous approach, to teach decoding and word recognition skills.
The teaching of fluency skills goes well beyond phonics and word recognition and we continue to explicitly teach learners to become fluent readers throughout their entire school journey. We recognise that fluency leads to improved comprehension and this, in turn, contributes to a love of reading.
In order to be competent readers who can confidently access and enjoy texts, learners must be explicitly taught strategies to help them to fully understand what they are reading. At Westhaven, we teach comprehension through a progression of skills so that children can access texts for both pleasure and information.
Our reading scheme
The books linked to our phonic scheme are encouraged to be re-read at least three times to develop fluency, prosody and comprehension. Once learners are sufficiently secure in their decoding, are reading with automaticity and show a sense of understanding of what they are reading, they move onto our recommended early readers. These allow the children to fully embed their knowledge of all GPCs and CEWs learnt from Phases 2 to 5.
Our reading spine
Our reading spine has been developed to ensure progression and that children are exposed to a wide range of text types, increasing their familiarity with a wide range of genres, including myths, legends and traditional stories, modern fiction, fiction, non-fiction, poetry from our literary heritage, and books from other cultures and traditions.
The texts on this spine are read for pleasure and/or form the basis of reading into writing.
We are always keen in our drive to involve parents in all elements of our reading offer as we recognise that a strong home-school partnership, with shared reading values, is an essential factor in every learner’s successful reading development. We ask families to support our reading aims and vision by reading, talking about and enjoying books with their child, at least three times a week. In order to achieve this, we offer phonics and reading workshops as well as support links on our website to enable families to confidently support their children with reading at home, as well as providing high quality books for the learners to take home and enjoy with their families.
At Westhaven, we celebrate and promote reading every day of the year, embedding it at the heart of everything we do. However, there are also a number of book related events that are organised throughout the year, including Non-fiction November, World Book Day, National Poetry Day, and National Storytelling Week. We also, as much as possible, link in with ‘Puffin virtually live’ visits from authors, storytellers and illustrators to enthuse the learners and promote a sense of ‘the special and the magical’.
In our celebration assembly, we celebrate reading as well as the learner’s other achievements.
We encourage teachers to share favourite books with learners to demonstrate their own love for reading and we also subscribe to Reading Rocks, where new and exciting books are delivered to our doorstep every two months.
At Christmas time, we publish a story advent calendar for all to enjoy and have a visit from the travelling book fair at least once a year.
All learners have a daily independent reading slot as well as a ‘Love to Listen’ story time session every day (twice weekly for post 16 learners). Our ‘Ready to Learn’ KS3 classes also have weekly guided reading sessions.
In addition to this, learners are provided with opportunities to read during the day both within English lessons and wider curriculum.
Assessment and monitoring
At Westhaven we encourage families to read with their child regularly and support our school reading culture.
Each learner’s reading record is monitored once a week.
Strong AFL is in place in phonics sessions and each learner’s progress is tracked and monitored.
Assessments are monitored by the Phonics lead termly. Where, through classroom AFL, a learner is identified as falling behind, intervention is used to ensure that progress is maintained.
Comprehension is assessed through oral questioning and responses, either in whole class reading sessions, guided reading sessions or during 1:1 reading. For older learners, it is also assessed through more formal written responses to questions in comprehension sessions or written responses during English lessons (e.g. a character description/making links to prior reading).
The PM Benchmark testing box may be used to support teacher judgement when assessing attainment in instructional and independent reading levels.. We also use the Salford Sentence Reading Test and/or GL online reading (and spelling) assessments.
Where appropriate, our learners may take part in the phonic screening assessment in year 1 (and 2), and the statutory reading assessments at the end of KS1 and KS2. In KS4 and KS5, learners follow qualification pathways.
Explicit vocabulary teaching
The teaching of vocabulary at Westhaven is a vital part of our pedagogy. We aim to broaden learner’s vocabulary knowledge to enable them to be successful at school and beyond.
The explicit teaching of vocabulary is key to supporting learner’s reading. The teaching of vocabulary may happen incidentally through class discussions and class texts but we know the teaching of vocabulary explicitly is far more valuable. This ensures all learners are exposed to the same, high-quality vocabulary and helps us to increase learners’ wealth of words.
Vocabulary is key to reading comprehension while reading comprehension is also key to developing vocabulary. When we are faced with unfamiliar vocabulary, we draw upon the knowledge we have of the words around it.
Learners may be confident at decoding but have weak vocabulary knowledge. As language in texts becomes more complex, they will begin to struggle. Not only does this apply to reading comprehension or reading for pleasure, but also in subjects across the curriculum.
Our vocabulary teaching has a direct impact on the learner’s reading comprehension. When people read, they need to have the skills to understand meanings of unfamiliar words in context; explain how meaning is enhanced through word choices and apply vocabulary knowledge when reading independently for pleasure.
We introduce a new word into our learners’ vocabulary each week (“Word of the Week”), and share the application of this word in our celebration assemblies. We then revisit these words regularly to ensure retrieval practice. We also introduce subject-specific vocabulary through the support of word mats linked to topics.
How we feel about phonics and reading at Westhaven
“The ULS programme is easy to follow and engaging. It has been amazing to see their reading skills grow as they work through the phases.”
“It (ULS) has had a very positive impact on all of my learners, with the vast majority of my class now being free readers. I like that it is a consistent approach to each lesson which allows the learners to understand and anticipate what is taught.”
“I have really noticed an improvement in the learners’ decoding skills when completing reading tasks and their ability and motivation in any written tasks.”
“Love to listen sessions are my favourite part of the day.”
“It is great as we can vote for our favourite books.”
“My reading is getting so much better now.”
What Ofsted says
“Schools that take the business of reading for pleasure seriously, where teachers read, talk with enthusiasm and recommend books, and where provision for reading is planned carefully, are more likely to succeed with their pupils’ reading. This success was seen in the survey schools, both in good test results and an enthusiasm for reading beyond the classroom.” OFSTED Excellence in English 2011
Some of our favourite quotes