Head Teacher's Update - Spring 2022

Head Teacher UPDATE


Spring Term 2022

Curriculum themes around the school

EYPS - Lifestyles


This term we started of  off by finishing our transport topic. The children were desperate to learn about space so we did two weeks of rockets, spacemen and space travel. For the rest of this term we are learning about life cycle. This week we have been looking at daffodils blooming and planting our own seeds ready for the sunshine. Our frog spawn is arriving in class today and we are looking forward to learning all about tadpoles and frogs over the next few weeks.



We have continued working with our read write inc phonic scheme and we are amazed at the progress that the children are making. The children have been using their phonic skills in their own writing and we are really impressed with the progress they are making.


Here are some staff statements about the impact of RWI phonics


“I am really impressed with the success of RWI phonics. It is fantastic to see the daily progress that the children are making. The continually assessment of children really supports the children having access to the correct sounds and supports them to make amazing progress.”  Reception Teacher.

“I love how well resourced the scheme is; it gives me confidence with my teaching to know I have the correct resources to support the children. The virtual classroom is a great support and helps support our phonics club.” Reception Teaching Assistant.



We have continued to use the NCTEM planning for our Maths, both in teaching and in continuous provision. The planning is fantastic for the children; it involves Numberblocks which the children love interacting with. This term we have extended our maths lessons to include group activities and encourage more independence with completing Maths learning.

Key Stage 1 - Fire and Dragons


As a part of our history topic, we have been learning about the Great Fire of London. We been looking at similarities and differences in day-to-day life of people and what impact the fire has had on life today. The children have created timelines to sequence events and have learnt several songs to help them understand the importance of such a significant event.


The children have recently built their own Tudor houses as a part of a DT unit; they have combined materials and even added moving parts. The children are eagerly awaiting our next outdoor learning session where we will be reenacting the great fire by setting fire to our houses.


Alongside learning about the Great Fire of London we have taken the opportunity to learn about fire safety. We have learnt all about the ‘Fire Triangle’ and have explored how fires can start and be easily put out with the right knowledge and equipment.


In Science we have been learning about ‘Materials’. We have learnt about materials and their uses and have identified strengths and weaknesses in their properties. The children loved exploring the term ‘waterproofing’ when creating shelters at Forest School.


The children were fascinated when identifying how you can change materials. We learnt about heating and melting materials in order to change its shape and appearance. The children enjoyed making their own crayons by melting wax and using a mould.


In Art the children have focussing on developing their painting skills. They have been inspired by V. Van Gogh; they have learnt about changing colour using different techniques; their water colour work has been outstanding.


RWI has had a huge impact on Reading progress this term. Staff have worked tirelessly regards delivery of lessons and we are now reaping the benefits. ALL children are reading daily and you can see the impact this is having on the children's learning.


RWI has been a positive introduction into daily life at Orchard Vale. The small step repetition of sounds and words has shown to support children to have a much more embedded understanding of phonemes and allows for small group structured support in grapheme formation. Reading has become a natural part of everyday life and children celebrate their achievements and show pride in their individual abilities. The partner time is a wonderful way to encourage children to support each other in listening and reading with a friend.


The 6 week assessment process allows for children to show the skills they have learnt to either move coloured bands, but also clearly highlights each child's gaps in learning.


The other huge impact RWI has had at OV is the impact it has had on ALL staff. Everyone is involved and invested in this programme, this has opened up a new world of discussion and professional dialogue across all colleagues.


“RWI is an exciting new way for children to learn sounds using simple techniques whilst building confidence reading books that will contain the sounds and words specific to their individual level. The programme is easy to use and the online information is informative and easy to use!” -H.Golding (TA)


“Teaching RWI in small groups has increased pupil confidence in terms of grapheme: phoneme correspondence, in addition to developing reading fluency through ‘partner read’ and 1:1 time with the lead practitioner. The children have developed a sense of security which enables them to ask questions to aid understanding of sounds, word composition, word meaning, and text comprehension. I believe that the repetition of daily speed sounds alongside the green and red words, greatly supports recall, which positively impacts both reading and writing. Fred talk has been an asset as the children learn to hold a sentence. I like that the children can explore their own interpretations e.g. why something happened or how the character feels, as this provides an opportunity to develop vocabulary and view alternative ideas and perspectives. S.Quilter (TA)



Years 3 and 4 - Ancient China 
This term we started a new topic of Ancient China with a focus on ancient civilizations including the Shang Dynasty. We have linked our topic specifically to our units of writing which include writing a newspaper report for the construction of the Great Wall of China and a biography of the first emperor of china. All of these links help support fact based learning where children can recite key dates and how these events have impacted the world we live in today.


In Maths children are making good progress in their streamed classes. They have specific focuses on curriculum objectives hey need to meet and lessons are adapted to reflect this. The children are continuing to work through White Rose Maths as a main starting point for planning, alongside other resources such learning through song, practical activities and exploration.


In Science children have researched light and dark, how shadows are formed and can explain that dark is the absence of light. They have understood the importance of ‘being seen’ by wearing reflective and high visibility clothing, alongside how the pupil changes size depending on the amount of light rays. They also designed items to keep safe in the sun, away from UV rays. They are now exploring the topic of ‘animals including humans’ and are starting to explore the human skeletal system and bones. They have also started to understand the importance of diet and the nutritional value in certain food groups. This links to our DT project of seasonality, in which we hope to make and eat a healthy Chinese stir-fry using seasonal vegetables.


We have shifted our focus of outdoor learning to ensure that the sessions in the forest school area enhance the learning in the classroom. This includes lessons such as making a skeleton and explaining the different bones in the body (as shared on the newsletter). 


We have begun to ensure that ciizenship and PSHE lessons are linked to what is happening in the world around us, such as using picture news to support the delivery of child friendly current affairs. These have been important in ensuring children feel safe, secure and listened to. We have considered mental health displays and even made clouds of all of the things that make us special.


Finally, as a team we have started to explore CPD opportunities. One teacher is undertaking their Level 5 in Leadership and Management and another has started their NPQH.


Years 5 and 6 - Our Local Area


Our topic, this term, is ‘Our Local Area’. We have been exploring the geography of our local area, through locating places on maps and understanding why some places change through time and why some stay the same. This has been connected with our history learning, where the children have been finding out more about Barnstaple’s history of trade and development of our travel connections. In RE, we have been reflecting on the overarching questions of ‘Why is the Torah so important to Jewish people?’ and ‘What matters most to Christians and Humanists?’


In our science lessons, we have been learning about living things and their habitats – learning how organisms can be grouped, significant biologists in history, how organisms reproduce and grow and comparing life cycles of organisms from different kingdoms.


Linking to our local area topic, this term we began with studying the life and works of Rudyard Kipling, due to his connections to the Appledore/Westward Ho! area. We continued this throughout the first half term, through exploring the original ‘The Jungle Book’ as a whole class novel.


In the first half of term, we explored part 1 of ‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes, familiarising the children with classic poetry and poetic techniques. Once familiar with the first part of the narrative poem, the children drafted, edited and published their own prose narratives, with some children portraying this from differing viewpoints with varying formalities and sentence structures. There was rather a surprise when we revealed part 2 of the poem!


Following on from our Highwayman studies, the children explored and analysed a range of classic poetry, including ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allen Poe; ‘The Cold Earth Slept Below’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley and ‘The Lady of Shalott’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson. We used these as stimuli for the children to compose their own gothic poetry.


In the second half of term, we are developing our knowledge of our local area and carefully considering the audiences of our writing: creating non-chronological reports about animals native to North Devon or places in our locality, followed by creating persuasive texts on the subject of littering in Whiddon Valley. We have also connected our persuasive writing to the school’s ‘Raise a heartbeat’ appeal, creating flyers for local homes to inform them of the campaign and to encourage them to get involved.


In reading, we are continuing to promote ‘reading for pleasure’ through our Tri-reading Tournament challenge and whole book study sessions. This is enabling pupils to be guided in their reading selections whilst having access to quality texts, building stamina, daily.


This term, in maths, there is a focus on fractions, decimals and percentages. We have continued to use White Rose mastery resources as our starting point for teaching and learning, with all teachers then adapting this to best suit the children in their teaching group. In line with our work as part of the NCETM Jurassic Maths Hub, a mastery approach is being applied to all teaching and learning in maths, whereby all children are working on the same focus, with different support provided, to allow the children to access the mathematics independently.


We are having a significant focus on retrieval of key facts, this year, to ensure that topics covered previously in the teaching sequence are regularly recalled and retained.


We have continued to develop our SEN provision in year 5/6 to ensure all children are accessing the appropriate curriculum for their stage of development. Miss Knight is continuing to support year 5 children within Mrs Rana/Ms Richardson’s class, including leading small group interventions in maths and using the Fresh Start phonics programme. Miss Lowin has joined the year 5/6 team this term and is an additional support to the year 5s, supporting individual children who are working out of key stage. Miss Knight and Miss Lowin have begun trialling afternoon reading interventions within this group of children.


Miss Passmore has continued to support the year 6 SEN learners, who are now working within a larger intervention group for maths, led by Miss Yorke, where they are covering KS2 content. Miss Passmore continues to lead Fresh Start phonics with this group, daily.


Mrs May has been supporting and supervising two children within our year 6 cohort who require daily physiotherapy.


We have continued to develop our blended learning platform, continuing to include Teams and One Note in our daily practice. This ensures that pupils can access their learning from home and school, can develop homework and home learning, building carefully on their lessons and learning in school. This has ensured consistency and progress for all pupils, across the year.


Alongside our curriculum strategy implemented in year 5/6 this year, we have developed our enrichment program to ensure continual growth and access to different experiences for all children.


Some of these events have included:


  •          Mental Health Ambassadors
  •          Forest School/Outdoor learning
  •          Visits to the science department of Park Community School
  •          Eco-committee visit to Woolacombe for tree-planting
  •          Year 5 Swimming lessons
  •          School council-run tuck shop
  •          Primary Dance Festival
  •          Rising Stars sports
  •          Football tournament
  •          Netball tournament
  •          Athletics festival