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. We want every child to leave us with a high standard of reading and love of literature. Early reading is underpinned by the use of daily phonics in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. 

Phonics and Early Reading 

The Government strongly recommend the use of synthetic phonics when teaching early literacy skills to children. Synthetic phonics is simply the ability to convert a letter or letter group into sounds that are then blended together into a word.


Here at the Totnes St John's, we are using the Read Write Inc (RWI) programme to get children off to a flying start with their English. RWI is a method of learning based upon letter sounds and phonics, and we use it to aid children in their reading and writing.


Reading is the gateway to learning.

The children are assessed regularly, grouped according to their ability across the school to ensure every child has the fundamental early reading skills. All pupils will work with a RWI trained teacher or teaching assistant.


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 they have learnt to sound out

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


When using RWI to write the children will:

  • Learn to write the letter/letter groups which represent the 44 sounds

  • Learn to write words by saying the sounds and graphemes (Fred fingers)


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


Help your child learn to read words by sounding-blending (Fred talk) eg. c-a-t = cat, sh-o-p = shop. Children learn to read words by blending the letter-sounds that are in the Speed Sounds set.


Help your child to say the pure sounds ('m' not 'muh', 's' not 'suh' etc.) as quickly as they can, and then blend the sounds together to say the whole word.


Reading Books Sent Home

Children in Reception who are learning the first 44 letter sounds and are not blending fluently will bring home sound sheets, picture books and a library book for you to read with them.

Once children can blend fluently and know the first 44 sounds they will bring home Ditty sheets or a red Ditty book, an Oxford Reading Tree Songbirds book, Big Cat Phonics Book or a Floppy’s Phonics Book.


Reading Books Sent Home

Children in Reception who are learning the first 44 letter sounds and are not blending fluently will bring home sound sheets, picture books and a library book for you to read with them.

Once children can blend fluently and know the first 44 sounds they will bring home Ditty sheets or a red Ditty book, an Oxford Reading Tree Songbirds book, Big Cat Phonics Book or a Floppy’s Phonics Book.

Reading Strategy

Read Write Inc Books

Please encourage your child to read though the speed sounds page first, then the green and red words page and then check your child understands the meaning of words on the vocabulary check page, before they start reading the book. Your child will have read this book at least three times before they bring it home. They should be able to read this book with fluency and expression by the time they bring it home and they should have a good comprehension of what the book is about. At the back of the book are find it/prove it questions for you to do with your child.


​Accelerated Reader 

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

Why do we want students 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 pupils 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 pupils’ emotional 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.

What is Accelerated Reader?

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

The programme is designed to work out a reading level (or STAR reading level) for students at the start (by means of a STAR test, completed in English lessons). Students then read books within this level – all books in the library that are registered with AR have a coloured star label on the spine to help them recognise books within their ‘zone’. Students take a quiz on the 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 is also about enjoyment of reading and creating a real culture of reading at Redhills Primary School.



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


Through these texts we also teach the grammar that is now explicitly set out in the new 2014 National Curriculum and included in the statutory assessment points at the end of each Key Stage (Years 2 and 6).


A vital part of the writing process at all ages is children editing and redrafting their work. They need to be able to talk about what they had to do - or need to do next time - to make the writing better.