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“We’re all a bit different but there’s something kind of fantastic about that isn’t there?”
Roald Dahl

At Penny Field School, we acknowledge that reading is so much more than just books. Our approach is that ‘every child is a reader’. It is the way in which we contribute towards the foundations of communication through a communicative literacy approach, and through a literacy-rich environment. It is the way in which we:

  • Preempt routines from using the sounds and cues around us
  • Respond to stimuli through our senses
  • Enable self-initiated communication
  • Develop all of our senses and early comprehension skills in order to prepare for adulthood, making sense of cues, pictures and text around us

At Penny Field School, reading enables ALL of our pupils to explore and respond to their environment, making sense of the world around them. This looks very different for each and every pupil at our school, and that is what makes it so special.

Pre-Reading and Writing Skills

Our curriculum has been created to develop early reading skills for pupils from the earliest steps. This is detailed in our ‘Reading for All’ document and explores:

  • Developing reflex responses
  • Exploration of heightened expressive reactions, as well as positive and negative reactions to stimuli
  • Locating sounds and moving objects
  • Using our senses to explore things in front of us
  • Developing tolerance and interest windows in which stimuli is explored for
  • Building and developing attention
  • Turn taking
  • Purposeful communication
  • Anticipation of routines
  • Indicating preferences and following simple instructions
  • Recognising text and images
  • Handling books
  • Developing fine and gross motor skills
  • A love and interest in books through personalised delivery

Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP)

Pupils on our Working Towards Independence (WTI) Pathway explore phonics through the Twinkl Phonics scheme. The way in which Phonics is taught is bespoke to each class on the pathway, this may be through discrete lessons or through a cross-curricular approach. We acknowledge that learning to communicate must develop before our pupils learn to read, and this is why we place a strong emphasis on learning our Makaton finger alphabet to ensure that pupils know their name, its initial sound, and therefore have the ability to communicate their own name and those of familiar people around them. SSP is taught to all pupils on this pathway in order to provide them with the skill to decode any word in their environment.

Language Comprehension

Similarly, we acknowledge that our pupils on the WTI pathway must have early language comprehension skills in order to apply meaning to word reading. Regular exposure to books and sensory story sessions provide and develop key vocabulary, present the structure of language and understanding that our pupils require in order to progress their reading skills. The majority of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device users on the WTI pathway use whole-word reading to complement their SSP knowledge. This is due to their strong visual memory skills that they have acquired in order to use their devices.

We also follow Twinkl’s reading scheme ‘Rhino Readers’. The books on this scheme follow everyday experiences and language that, whilst promoting curiosity and imagination, are adapted so that our pupils have an understanding and an experience to relate to when they share these books. They are also adapted to meet sensory impairments. The scheme also allows us to overcome barriers for pupils with complex physical needs through adaptive technology.

‘If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn’
Ignacio Estrada