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Headteacher's News 08.02.23

All the most recent news from Edith

8th February 2023

E -cigarettes (vaping):

I am hearing reports of e-cigarettes becoming more and more popular amongst young people, and have even heard about Year 6 children being exposed to and using e-cigarettes.

Although e-cigarettes are almost certainly significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco, they aren't risk-free. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, as well as other ingredients such as propylene glycol, glycerine and flavourings.

E-cigarettes have been regulated by the government since May 2016. From April 2017 it has been illegal to sell e-cigarettes to, or buy them for, under 18s.

We will educate our children about the dangers of smoking and using e-cigarettes at our school through our PSHE lessons, but I thought it would be useful to alert you to the fact that e-cigarette marketing seems to be aimed more and more at young people, with flavours such as gummy bears being offered at the moment. It might be worthwhile having a discussion about this at home as well. 

Governors visit alongside Tower Hamlets advisor 

Some of our governors visited our school last Thursday morning; alongside Martin Tune, who works as a school advisor for THEP (commissioned by Tower Hamlets Council to provide school development work), they took part in a number of activities as part of our school evaluation process. They visited classes, looked at children’s books and spent time talking to children and senior staff.

We were very pleased and proud to hear that they agree with what school leaders have told them about our school, and that things are going very well indeed. Our children are making lots of progress, are motivated to learn and remember their learning over time. Well done to all of our staff who work so hard to do their best for our children and who are so successful in achieving this. Thank you also to our governors who are giving up their time to come along and support us on our journey.


The NEU has called for the second of four strikes to happen on Mar 2nd. I will be writing to parents nearer to the time with an indication on the likelihood of a further school closure (either full or partial). 

School Uniform reminder

Please remember that grey or black tracksuit bottoms are not allowed to be worn instead of school trousers. Thank you. 

Our reading strategy

We all know the importance of becoming a good reader in order to become a successful lifelong learner.

At Stepney Park Primary School, our reading strategy consists of three broad strands: 

  • Early reading

  • Developing reading 

  • A wider reading culture. 

Below are our approaches to each of these strands:

  • Early Reading. Early reading is a major priority at Stepney Park: ensuring children become competent readers is at the heart of our organisational purpose and we know that a successful early reading programme is an essential part of this aim. For phonics, we use the Tower Hamlets Education Partnership’s phonics programme, which has been accredited by the Department for Education. Children also benefit from extensive decoding practice in guided reading sessions. These take place in a small group with an adult and the books that children read are matched to the phonics sounds they have learnt. Our early reading strategy generally covers EYFS and key stage 1, though it includes older children where necessary:
    • Nursery. Phase 1 of Letters and Sounds is used to prepare children for the beginning of the THEP phonics programme. In addition, staff read to children daily to build their vocabulary and enjoyment of reading.

    • Reception. The THEP phonics programme begins with daily teaching as soon as possible in children’s first term in reception, usually within the first weeks. Once children have learnt the first set of sounds, guided reading sessions begin. Children benefit from several of these sessions a week, which offer extensive decoding practice. In addition, staff read to children daily to build their vocabulary and enjoyment of reading.

    • Year 1. The THEP phonics programme continues with daily phonics teaching. Children also benefit from daily guided reading, which offers extensive decoding practice while also ensuring children understand reading as the extraction of meaning from text. Guided reading in key stage 1 is a major priority: we redeploy support staff from across the school so every group has an adult to support them every day. This provision is supplemented by a daily story time in which the teacher reads aloud to the class.

    • Year 2. The THEP phonics programme continues for any children who do not pass the Phonics Screening Check in year 1. Other children have a phonics review for a number of weeks before moving onto No Nonsense Spelling. Daily guided reading sessions with an adult continue into year 2. This extensive practice supports children to become increasingly fluent, while daily conversations about what they are reading also develop their comprehension of the written word. This provision is supplemented by a daily story time in which the teacher reads aloud to the class.

    • Key Stage 2. In a small minority of cases, our early reading strategy supports children in key stage 2. This may be where they have significant SEND or are new to English. This may take the form of phonics groups or 1:1 reading to develop fluency.

  • Developing Reading. Our strategy for developing readers is designed for children with a secure knowledge of phonics and relatively fluent decoding skills. There are three main approaches taken across key stage 2, all of which are taught in a whole-class context, though the volume of these varies. Firstly, in extended reading sessions, a combination of modelled reading by the teacher and independent reading are combined with rich discussion about the text. Secondly, fluency practice seeks to develop children’s fluency, intonation and prosody explicitly. Finally, close reading focuses on a smaller section of text in detail and offers children the opportunities to practise written responses to text.
    • Year 3. In year 3, four reading lessons are dedicated to extended reading, with a significant proportion of modelled reading. This ensures children read very extensively over the year, significantly broadening their vocabulary. One reading session a week is for fluency practice.

    • Year 4. In year 4, extended reading continues for 3 sessions a week, with the amount of independent reading gradually increasing over the year. Year 4 also benefits from one session of fluency practice and one session of close reading. The latter begins at some point in the Autumn term.

    • Year 5 and 6. Children in years 5 and 6 have 3 or 4 extended reading sessions a week, and 1 or 2 close reading sessions a week. This seeks to achieve a balance between reading extensively and building vocabulary while also considering shorter passages in depth and, for example, examining their use of language in finer detail.

  • Wider Reading Culture. In addition to our early reading and developing reading strategies, which seek to equip children with the skills and knowledge they need to read, at Stepney Park we also aim to develop a reading culture. This seeks to promote reading for pleasure and to support children in becoming lifelong readers using a range of approaches:
    • Modelled reading. All children in every class in the school benefit from regular, generally daily, modelled reading by an adult. We believe that this time to enjoy a text significantly boosts children’s enjoyment of reading.

    • Range of texts. Our curriculum includes a wide range of texts, including non-fiction and poetry every term, in addition to a range of fiction genres. We believe the richness of this selection promotes a reading culture by showing children the breadth of what is available for them to read.

    • Home Reading. The school supports children to read at home to supplement their reading in school. Early readers take home a book that matches their level of phonics knowledge and a second text, which they are free to choose, the intention of which is to read and enjoy with family. Developing readings choose a book from their class library. Teachers support children to select books that will be appropriately challenging, for example by making recommendations.

    • Class Libraries. Our class libraries are stocked with specially selected books (for example, sequels to books on our curriculum and other texts by the same author). This allows us to capitalise on children’s enjoyment of reading lessons.

    • Visibility of texts and reading. We have sought to ensure books and reading are visible around the school to highlight the importance of reading to children.

    • Opportunities to read. We have sought to provide additional opportunities for children to choose to read, for example in the ‘Reading Room’ at lunchtime.

Examples of good work in Art

This week we reviewed Art provision in school. We are very fortunate to have Helen as our specialist Art teacher. Helen is an artist as well as a teacher, she is incredibly passionate about her job and she has really inspired children at Stepney Park! The standards of work in Art as a result are very high. I’m confident you would be very impressed if you were to speak to your child about the artists they have studied and what they have learned.

Children at Stepney Park create a self-portrait every year, below are a few examples of the standards they achieved in Yr 1,3 and 6.

Thank you for reading this newsletter and have a nice half term holiday!

Kind regards,

Edith Philipsen

Headteacher - Stepney Park Primary School.