English Curriculum

English sits at the heart of our curriculum – it is through language, story and text that children learn to form concepts, connect ideas and express themselves. Through literacy, children learn to both make sense of the world and shape their place within it.

Across both writing and reading, we place a heavy emphasis on developing a child’s vocabulary. By the time children leave Charles Dickens in Year 6, the limited word hoard they arrived with in Reception will have expanded enormously, giving them the language they need to understand sophisticated texts and express themselves in a wide range of contexts.


In all year groups, we teach writing through high-quality texts – ranging from picture books to Shakespeare, immersive real-life experiences, such as school trips, or a combination of both. Over their time at the school, children will write a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts, including stories, news reports, explanation texts, poems and plays. We use drama, storytelling and discussion to engage the imagination, before moving on to vocabulary exploration, sentence craft and creative writing.

Throughout the Early Years and Key Stage 1 children are taught the key principles of writing in order to lay a solid foundation for developing their skills later on. An emphasis is placed on developing clear handwriting with ‘finger spaces’ between in each word. Children are taught to apply their knowledge of phonics to help them spell accurately, and to structure their work. The children are taught to add variety and description to their work by developing their vocabulary and exploring different sentence types. By the end of Key Stage 1, children have been taught the fundamentals of punctuation and grammar.

This process continues into Key Stage 2, by which time children have mastered simple sentence structure enabling them to develop their writing style. As they progress towards Year 6, children are taught to write for a range of purposes – to entertain, inform, explain, persuade and discuss – using explicit sentence models and ambitious vocabulary. They then learn to shape these sentences into coherent paragraphs before planning and creating their own original works of fiction and non-fiction. Children also apply their writing skills across the curriculum: writing up experiments in Science, recounting events in History and describing processes in Geography, for example.

When children leave Charles Dickens, they consider themselves skilled writers, confident in their ability to express themselves through language.


First and foremost, we want all children at Charles Dickens to develop a life-long love of reading. Phonics lessons at Charles Dickens are taught daily from Nursery up to Year 2. To find out more about our approach to Phonics, please click here: http://www.charlesdickens.southwark.sch.uk/academic-excellence/phonics.php From Year 2 onwards, twice weekly Guided Reading lessons focus on the skills of both fluency and comprehension, first through exploring vocabulary, before moving on to unlocking the meaning of whole texts through modelled fluent reading and critical discussion.

Teachers read a huge variety of written material regularly with the children across fiction and non-fiction within English as well as in the Humanities and Science. Each year group has access to a ‘Class Book Library’ containing challenging and interesting novels for teachers to read to their classes, exposing children to language and classic stories which they may find too challenging to read independently.

We have a home-school reading system (up to Year 6), which ensures that children read a book at the appropriate level for them, for at least ten minutes each day. In Reception and Key Stage 1, children follow The Oxford Reading Tree Scheme, giving them a thorough grounding in the fundamentals. Moving up into Key Stage 2, children read within ‘book bands’ ensuring they are making progress up a clear scale.

We have a fantastic library in the middle hall, where children go once a week to take out books and read with their teachers and each other.  Our school librarian keeps the library in order and ensures that we the selection of books is regularly refreshed. Each term, we launch our Reading Passports.  The texts on the passports challenge the children to read ambitious books which they might not normally choose, including classic books, non-fiction (linked to their Humanities and Science learning) and poetry.  

Alongside this, we have regular author visits, books fairs and World Book Day – one of the highlights of the year! 

Handwriting, Spelling and Grammar

We use Oxford University Press’ Nelson schemes for the teaching of spelling and grammar, and for handwriting we use LetterJoin. Handwriting is taught regularly from Reception to Year 6, beginning with mark making and patterns in Early Years all the way up to legible, joined handwriting in Year 6. When a child has legible, joined handwriting they are awarded a pen licence and badge to wear with pride!

Spelling is taught from Year 2 – 6 every week, following the Nelson schemes, which build on the National Curriculum’s statutory word lists. Spellings are sent home as part of homework and children are tested each week. In Years 5 and 6, grammar becomes an explicit focus and is taught weekly using the Nelson scheme. In the years prior, grammar is interwoven into English lessons.