Reading at Hill Mead

Reading For Pleasure & Reader’s Choice

At Hill Mead we believe that reading is not only a key skill for academic achievement and success but one of life’s great pleasures and so we endeavour to foster pupil’s lifelong love of reading. Hill Mead provides the children with a rich diet of high quality texts by a range of children’s authors. We do not use reading schemes.  

We ensure children have daily opportunities to read or listen to a range of texts. Each classroom has a cozy and comfortable book corner for the children to enjoy, discover and share books with their friends and teachers. We also have a well-stocked school library and plenty of quiet areas for individual reading throughout the school. The books on offer are regularly reviewed and updated. We partner with local bookshops, Moon Lane Books and Round Table Books, to provide high quality children's literature. We also regularly visit and actively encourage children to use Brixton Library. 

The children read 1:1 with an adult in school at least once a week and are encouraged to read daily at home. Children have the opportunity to change their book at least once a week. We encourage children to select books of their choosing according to their interests but also guide children to read books that are appropriately challenging. It is important that children experience success to develop their confidence and interest from the very beginning. To support this, one English lesson a week is dedicated to visiting the school library where the children are taught how to choose books, broaden their reading interests and share books alongside their peers. This is also an additional time for children to be read to and read with an adult.

Teachers maintain a dialogue with parents and carers about each child’s reading progress and update their reading record book. Parents are encouraged to ask questions and share any concerns they have about their child’s reading.   We encourage parents to come into school and read with their child and discover more about our Reading curriculum at our class Reading Cafes. 

We have also recently partnered with Children's Book Project https://childrensbookproject.co.uk/  who provide books for all our children to take home and keep or return to school and swap with their friends. All children will receive 6 books over the course of the year. 

Children who require additional support with their reading can access a range of targeted group and individual reading interventions such as focused group reading and keyword or common exception word reading support. 

For over a decade, Hill Mead has subscribed to Coram Beanstalk’s one-to-one reading support - https://www.coram.org.uk/what-we-do/our-work-and-impact/coram-beanstalk/. Fully trained reading volunteers provide weekly one-to-one reading sessions to foster life-long reading for pleasure with targeted pupils in Key Stage 2.  

Reading Aloud, Book Talk and Understanding

Every year group from Year 1 has at least 3 Book Club sessions a week. This is how we deliver the ‘Reading Aloud’ element of our curriculum at Hill Mead. This runs alongside Story Time sessions in Early Years and Key Stage 1. Reading aloud is important for all children, whether they are early or experienced readers. Teachers model fluent and expressive reading to develop the children’s understanding of a range of high quality and carefully chosen fiction and non-fiction texts. Teachers lead ‘Book Talk’ using the ‘Tell me questions’ developed by Aidan Chambers, beginning with basic questions and progressing to more complex questions involving higher order thinking. The focus of the sessions can vary between vocabulary, fluency, comprehension and reading for pleasure. Pupils are given various opportunities to both read independently and as part of the group and to read aloud and be read to. We encourage children to share their likes and dislikes, ask questions and make links between different books they have read. 

Early Reading and Phonics

At Hill Mead we use our own approach to systematic synthetic phonics teaching based on Letters and Sounds 2007. We have built a program and resources around the handbook and review it regularly, adapting it to meet the needs of the children and to bring it in line with current best practice. 

Our approach 

  1. Interactive lessons and multisensory learning: 

We have developed lessons which include games and activities to reinforce learning. Through the use of visual aids and hands-on activities we cater to all of the children's learning needs and strengths, appealing to a variety of learning styles.

  1. Systematic approach: 

Our phonics program follows a structured and sequential approach. There are 6 phases within the program. Children begin accessing phonics learning in our nursery starting with phase 1 and systematically work through each phase as they progress through KS1. All children are assessed at the end of each phase to ensure they are ready to move onto the next phase of learning, with opportunities to repeat phases if needed.

  1. Children with SEND:

Our grapheme by grapheme planning allows teachers to tailor teaching at a pace that's right for each child. Children work in group sizes that are in line with their needs and additional support is provided to those who need it with a focus on oral blending and onset and rime. 

Curriculum overview

Phase 1: In this phase there is an emphasis on training children in the awareness of sounds, emphasising on listening and speaking skills. 

Phase 2:  In Phase 2 children begin to learn the sounds that letters make (phonemes). There are 44 sounds in all. Some are made up of 2 letters but mostly the focus is on the 19 most common single letter sounds. 

Phase 3: Phase 3 introduces the remaining, more difficult and or less commonly used phonemes. There are 25 of these. 

Phase 4: By now children should be confident with each phoneme. Phase 4 is about consolidating and refining their knowledge introducing more spelling patterns and tricky words. 

Phase 5: In this phase we start to introduce alternative spellings. Children will generally master these in reading first and as their fluency develops they will begin using these correctly in their spelling. 

Phase 6: This phase focuses mainly on spelling rules. Children working within this phase will be developing their fluency in reading and becoming more accurate in their spelling. 

Please see below some examples of our phonics planning along with a full list of sounds and words taught in each phase. 

Writing at Hill Mead

At Hill Mead, our Writing curriculum is centred around high-quality texts and ensures there is a clear progression of knowledge and skills from the very start of their Writing journey in Early Years. Each year group sequences its English planning around a different text each half term, such as a traditional tale, the BFG or Skellig. Children are taught how to write a range of fiction and non-fiction texts. We aim to provide our children with real reasons to write, such as writing letters home, inviting family and friends to school events, newspaper articles and, most recently, writing to the Council to improve the facilities at Brockwell Park. 

Our teaching of writing is underpinned by drama, role-play and oral rehearsal opportunities. This is supported by our partnerships with several theatres. We ensure all children visit the theatre at least once a year, providing an engaging and imaginative stimulus for writing, often supported by additional workshops and drama opportunities. We regularly work with Brixton House, the Unicorn Theatre and the National Theatre.

We have also recently completed a collaborative Writing research project, ‘In my own words’, alongside spoken word artist Steven Camden and drama practitioner Catherine Wood. This project centred around collaborative storymaking based on the creation of whole-class imaginary worlds. The findings are due to be published by Laurel Trust.

Spelling and Grammar

From KS1 upwards, children have at least one dedicated grammar lesson a week which is then consolidated in their English lessons.

Children are also given spelling words to learn each week and are tested every Friday. We explicitly teach the spellings and then encourage children to revise at home. Any child requiring additional spelling intervention is supported in school either 1:1 or in small groups. We aim for children to apply the words they have learnt purposefully in their writing and revisit words when necessary. All children in KS2 are assessed termly using a 40 word assessment to support with our planning for additional Spelling intervention, support and groupings. 

For children in Year 3 and above, we celebrate their Spelling successes with a termly Spelling Bee. Children take part in rounds within their class first and then finalists compete in a whole school competition with parents invited.


We have devised our own Handwriting scheme which we use from Early Years. Children are taught good posture, pencil grip and tracing skills before moving onto individual letter formation, learning in letter family groups, and then learning to join letters together. As children progress, we support them to write legibly, fluently and with increasing speed and encourage them to apply their handwriting skills in their everyday writing.