Teaching English

What is our English mission?

At Hillcrest we promote a love of books, words and writing. This is what underpins all our English lessons. We aim to encourage a passion for reading and writing which will service our pupils long after they leave our school.


What is ‘Write for the Reader’?

Hillcrest pupils are expected to always write for an audience. At the beginning of every writing lesson they are introduced to a reader and will discuss what would interest them. The teacher will refer to the reader regularly in lessons, particularly in their verbal and written feedback.

What is the Hillcrest Standard?

All Hillcrest pupils are expected to meet the Hillcrest Standard in their writing. Examples of pupils’ work will be regularly and clearly displayed around the school. Staff should model the Hillcrest Standard in their own writing and refer to it regularly. Hillcrest Standard posters should be displayed in every classroom. Once a term, part of an assembly should be devoted to the Hillcrest Standard. Anyone who fails to meet the Hillcrest Standard in any week must show their writing to the deputy head once a week until they start meeting the standard. You can see the Hillcrest Standard by clicking HERE 

What are the expectations for handwriting?

The majority of pupils by the end of the Foundation Stage should be able to form all letters (both upper and lower case) and numerals correctly, with the correct starting position and orientation.

The majority of Year 1 pupils should be able to form all letters (both upper and lower case) and numerals correctly, with the correct starting position and orientation. They should also write the letters at a consistent size, using ascenders and descenders correctly.

Year 2 pupils will be introduced to the whole range of joins and most pupils will have started writing in a cursive style by the end of the year.

In Year 3, pupils will consolidate their joins from Year 2. They will focus on increasing the legibility, consistency and quality of their handwriting, for example by ensuring that downstrokes are parallel and equidistant and that lines of writing are spaced sufficiently so that ascenders and descenders of letters do not touch.

In Years 4, 5 and 6, the formation of capitals, lower case letters and the two basic join types (horizontal and vertical) should now be familiar and secure. The majority of pupils should be able to use joined-up writing for most of their work. By Years 5 and 6, it is expected that almost all pupils will be writing fluently (apart from in exceptional circumstances, e.g. some SEN) and are joining their writing across the curriculum.

Pen licences are only given to children once they have developed a fluent cursive handwriting style.

Should pupils practise their spellings at home?

At Hillcrest we believe that spelling is one of the most essential components of successful writing. We want our pupils to strive to be the best spellers they can be. Learning new spellings takes practise so pupils will need to practise at home. There is a spelling test every Friday in Years 2-6, and Year 1 from Term 3. Pupils are introduced to the spellings for the following week every Friday.

Pupils will be exposed to many different spelling strategies. These include, but are not limited to, the following:  Look, say, cover, write, check; trace, copy and replicate (and then check); segmentation strategy; quickwrite; drawing around the word to show the shape; drawing an image around the word; words without vowels; pyramid words; rainbow writing; saying the word in a funny way.

These strategies will be shared with the whole school during Spelling Day in Term 1 and should be shared regularly by the teachers.

What genres do the children cover?

Each year group, use a rich variety of fiction and non-fiction texts in their English lessons to inspire the children’s writing and to build imagination, introducing them to many different authors and types of writing.

Where possible teachers should link their core texts to their humanities enquiries but they should only promote this link if it is meaningful and not at the cost of high quality literature.

For a more in-depth look at the breadth of genres for each year group, click HERE


Our priority is to teach reading skills and to develop the children’s enjoyment of literature, enabling them to become lifelong, confident readers.

What phonics programme does the school follow?

At Hillcrest Primary School we follow the ‘Letters and Sounds’ phonics resource published by the Department for Education and Skills. To meet differing learning styles and to apply phonics in a lively and interactive way we also use the ‘Jolly Phonics’ songs and actions, and ‘Read Write Inc’s’ letter formation sayings.

Our aims:

• To teach pupils how to decode a word and how to blend to read

• To teach pupils to learn to read and write all 44 graphemes in the English language

• For pupils to experience multisensory, fast-paced and engaging phonic lessons

There are discrete daily lessons between 15 and 20 minutes in Reception and Year 1.  Year 2 will have a combination of discrete and embedded lessons depending on the learning objective. 

The correct terminology is taught to the children, e.g. phoneme, segmenting, blending or digraph.

You can find out more about Letters and Sounds HERE

What comprehension skills do the pupils focus on?

Pupils have whole-class reading lessons at least four times a week. These will be centred on the book they use for writing stimulus or a similar piece of text by the same author or perhaps deals with similar issues. Reading lessons will focus on the comprehension skills, DERIC:

Decode: Word Reading
Explain: Discussing vocabulary in context and discussing understanding of whole-class text
Retrieve: Finding information in the text
Interpret: Inference skills with an emphasis on using evidence.
Choice: Focus on author’s chosen words and layout.

Pupils will be expected to have a clear understanding of these skills and their symbols.

Should my child read at home?

Pupils are expected to read at home for 15 minutes at least four times a week, ideally with a parent or carer.

They should leave school with one book in their bag every day. These books can be picked up from our outside bookbarn every morning and afternoon. The children’s reading level is regularly Benchmarked so it is important that they go home with the correct level book.

We do not expect pupils to always read a levelled book at home as they need to read a broad range of texts.  We encourage adults to always discuss books with pupils to ensure they are understanding what they are reading or what is being read to them. A guide to type of questions you could ask can be found HERE.

Pupils in Reception to Year 5 also have online access to Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress. This is a learning resource that supports your students’ reading skills with carefully designed online reading games and activities which are easy to follow, student-driven, progressional and highly engaging. You can find out more about Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress HERE.