Our Curriculum

At the heart of our curriculum lie three core values: the pursuit of academic excellence; the explicit development of metacognition; and crucially, character education.​

Academic Excellence is fundamental within our curriculum model. The children’s acquisition of a deep body of knowledge within subject disciplines will enable them to express their learning to the highest standard. When children achieve excellence, this gives them the confidence to challenge themselves further. Through this process of experiencing success, they will develop character, for example grit, determination, self-efficacy, and courage.

Character Education

Whilst academic success remains a core priority, developing character is also an essential element of our curriculum model. Our curriculum gives children opportunities to make a positive impact on society. We want them to grasp the possibilities and opportunities of life beyond the classroom, to enable them to thrive at each and every challenge they face in life and make a difference to themselves and those around them.


Our curriculum not only focuses on achieving character whilst pursuing academic excellence but also emphasises deep learning through developing the skills of metacognition. We use an enquiry approach to drive our learning experiences, making the reflective learning process explicit. In addition to this, tools for thinking will be taught to support children’s higher-order thinking, synthesis of knowledge, and creating of new thinking. However, metacognition can only be developed within a knowledge-rich curriculum.

Our extensive grounds and Forest School allow us to use different environments to teach in imaginative ways. We also make regular trips into Totnes and the surrounding area as well as undertaking day trips and residential trips. We are very lucky to be a short walk from the east bank of the beautiful River Dart and Totnes town centre which offer fantastic learning opportunities for our children.


As a Church of England school, St John's is linked with the local parish church, St John's the Evangelist, in Bridgetown. The whole school visits the church three times a year for a harvest festival service, Christmas and Easter, with an additional welcome service for Reception and a leavers' service for Year 6 in the summer.  In addition to visiting the church, the school's Christian links are consolidated with weekly bible stories during assembly and daily prayer at lunchtime. Our vicar, Fr Jim Barlow, regularly attends the school. Although we are a church school we are completely inclusive and welcome children and families of all religions and denominations.

Totnes St John’s is a one form entry school which caters for 210 pupils from Reception to Year 6. Our children are taught in year groups as follows: 

Reception       4-5 year olds


Key Stage One

Year 1              5-6 year olds

Year 2              6-7 year olds


Key Stage Two

Year 3              7-8 year olds

Year 4              8-9 year olds

Year 5              9-10 year olds

Year 6             10-11 year olds


Foundation Stage Objectives

Understanding the World
Physical Development
Literacy Objectives
Expressive Arts and Design
Communication and Language

Maths at St John's

Mathematics is essential to everyday life, critical to science, technology and engineering, and necessary for financial literacy and most forms of employment. A high-quality mathematics education therefore provides a foundation for understanding the world, the ability to reason mathematically, an appreciation of the beauty and power of mathematics, and a sense of enjoyment and curiosity about the subject. Our Maths Strategy sets out Totnes St John's aims.

Maths Strategy 2020/21

Reading at St John's

Teaching children to read is a key priority for the school because reading is the gateway to all learning. We want every child to leave us with a high standard of reading and a love of literature.

Phonics and Early Reading 

Daily phonics teaching in Reception and Year 1 underpins early reading; it continues into Year 2 for all children that need it.

The Government strongly supports the use of systematic synthetic phonics for teaching early reading and spelling. Synthetic phonics teaches children to convert a letter or small group of letters into sounds that they can then blend together (synthesise) into a word to read it.

We use the Read Write Inc (RWI) synthetic phonics programme to get children off to a flying start.

Read Write Inc Structure 

When using RWI to read the children will:

  • Learn 44 sounds and the corresponding letter/letter groups, using simple prompts

  • Learn to read words using sound-blending (‘Fred talk’)

  • Read lively stories, featuring words that contain the sounds they have learnt

  • Show that they comprehend the stories by answering 'Find It' and 'Prove It' questions

  • We assess the children regularly. They are grouped across the school according to their phonics knowledge and learn with a RWI-trained teacher or teaching assistant. In this way we can ensure every child has the fundamental early reading skills.


When using RWI to write the children will:

  • Learn to write the letter/letter group which represents each of the 44 sounds

  • Learn to write words by identifying and saying each sound in the word, in order (‘Fred fingers’), and writing down the letter or letter group that matches each sound they hear

  • Learn to spell ‘tricky words’ (that is, words in which some of the sounds and letters are unusual).


When using RWI the children will also work collaboratively:

  • To answer questions

  • To take turns talking and listening to each other

  • To give positive praise to each other


Please help your child learn to read words by sounding out and blending (‘Fred talk’). For example, c-a-t = cat, sh-o-p = shop. Also help your child to say the pure sounds (/m/ not 'muh', /s/ not 'suh' etc.) as quickly as they can, and then to blend the sounds together to say the whole word.


Reading Books Sent Home

Children in Reception who are learning letter-sounds and are not yet blending fluently enough to read will bring home sound sheets to practise their sounds, picture books and a library book for you to read and talk about with them.

Once children can blend fluently, they will bring home RWI Ditty sheets or a red Ditty book, or other well-matched books. We want the children to have plenty of practice in reading words that contain letter/letter groups they already know. This helps them to feel successful as a reader from early on. It also helps them to learn that, if they don’t know a word, they can use phonics to work it out.

Reading Strategy

Using Read Write Inc Books at Home

Please encourage your child to read through the speed sounds page first, then the ‘green words’ and ‘red words’ page. Then check your child understands the meaning of the words on the vocabulary check page before they start reading the book.

Your child will already have read the book at least three times in school. This means they should be able to read it with fluency and expression by the time they bring it home to practise with you. They should also understand what the book is about. At the back of the book are ‘Find it/prove it’ questions for you to ask your child.

Reading for pleasure

Why do we want children to read? What are the benefits of reading for pleasure?

  • Children who say they enjoy reading for pleasure are more likely to score well on reading assessments compared to children who said they enjoyed reading less.

  • There is some evidence to show that reading for pleasure is a more important determinant of children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status.

  • It can have a positive impact on children’s emotional well-being and social behaviour.

  • It can have a positive impact on text comprehension and grammar.

What works in improving independent reading?

  • An important factor in developing reading for pleasure is providing choice: choice and interest are highly related.

  • Parents and the home environment are essential to the early teaching of reading and fostering a love of reading; children are more likely to continue to be readers in homes where books and reading are valued.

  • Reading for pleasure is strongly influenced by relationships between teachers and children, and children and families.


​Accelerated Reader 

We use the Accelerated Reader programme across Key Stage 2 to develop children's reading skills and support their home learning.

Accelerated Reader (AR) is a software tool used by an increasing number of schools to foster reading growth. It encourages children to read widely and independently while allowing staff to monitor their progress and support them where necessary.


The programme works out children’s reading level (or STAR reading level) at the start (by means of a STAR test, done in English lessons). Children then read books within this level. All the books in the library that are registered with AR have a coloured star label on the spine to help children to recognise books within their ‘zone’. They take a quiz on the AR website after reading each book to assess how well they understood it. Their STAR level is tested every other term to see how they have progressed.

As well as being about promoting reading and academic achievement, AR also contributes to the enjoyment of reading and a real culture of reading at Totnes St John’s.



We use a style of learning called Talk for Writing to teach children to write well. This includes looking at – and learning from – high-quality texts that teach children the sort of language (vocabulary and grammar) they need to write a text of that type. They learn to adapt and re-use that language in different situations until they can write their own text independently, using and applying what they have learned in a new context.

Through these texts we also teach children the grammar set out in the 2014 National Curriculum, some of which is tested in the assessments at the end of each key stage (Years 2 and 6).

A vital part of the writing process at all ages is for children to redraft and edit their work. They also need to be able to talk about what they had to do – or will need to do next time – to make the writing better.