Speaking and Listening (Communication)

At Manor School, functional communication is at the heart of all curricular and noncurricular activities. Activities are designed so that pupils are engaged and motivated to participate, and a ‘Total Communication’ approach is adopted.

Pupils’ attention and listening skills are supported in communication-friendly environments, where distractions are minimised and understanding is supported by the use of real-life objects, photos, symbols and Makaton signing as appropriate. The Attention Autism approach also supports the development of attention and engagement.

Pupils are also given frequent opportunities to make choices and share their thoughts with others. Whilst some pupils are vocal communicators, others require the use of an Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) system, which may include the use of objects of reference, Aided Language Stimulation with communication boards and/or communication books, Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) books, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Makaton signing, or high-tech Voice Output Communication Aids. We aim to ensure that each pupil has a functional method of communication in the classroom and beyond.

Class-based staff work closely with our large, in-house Speech and Language Therapy team to ensure that pupils’ communication goals are targeted and reviewed regularly, and embedded into learning and communication opportunities throughout the school day. Progress in functional communication enables our pupils to achieve a greater degree of independence and encourages stronger self-esteem, to support them as they become young adults, as well as giving them a way of communicating what they are learning.

Reading for Enjoyment

The use of high quality books within the reading curriculum is at the heart of Manor School’s approach to engage and support pupils to become motivated and independent readers. We believe that, if pupils enjoy sharing books and reading, they become better readers.

The texts that we use at Manor School enable pupils to develop knowledge of a wide range of books, authors, illustrators and genres. We explore books as a whole class focus through a range of creative approaches involving talk, drama and visual representation. The books provide pupils with experience of the rhythms and patterns, vocabulary structures and ideas in written language that they can draw on in their own writing.

The selection of books for the classroom plays an important part in the development of an effective reading curriculum, thus we have a selection of multi-sensory books for the pupils who cannot benefit from ‘mainstream’ books. These books can be enjoyed without being understood, as they are told interactively through voice and emotion rather than words and pictures.

Early Reading and Phonics

We believe that systematic, high quality phonics teaching is essential for pupils to become proficient readers and writers. At Manor School, we use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised systematic synthetic phonics programme (SSP). The programme is based on the original Letters and Sounds, but extensively revised to provide a complete teaching programme meeting all the expectations of the National Curriculum and the Ofsted Deep Dive into reading.  

Many children at Manor School follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised ‘Foundations for Phonics’ guidance, where the focus is on daily oral blending and language development through high-quality stories, poems and rhymes. We start teaching high quality phonic work (phases 2-5) at the point we judge pupils are ready to begin the programme, and we use a range of multi-sensory activities where pupils can recognise letters by touch, sight and sounding out simultaneously. To help pupils progress from decoding words to reading fluently and for pleasure, we use fully decodable reading books aligned to Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised (Collins Big Cat Phonics for Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised).

If you are a parent and would like more information about how to support your child with phonics at home, please follow this link to find the overview, videos of the sound pronunciations and other helpful resources:

Reading for Meaning

When pupils are able to automatically apply their decoding skills to read decodable books (Collins Big Cat Phonics for Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised) with greater accuracy and fluency, we focus on comprehension. The reading practice sessions for comprehension help us develop pupils’ comprehension skills. We use the reading content domains, such as drawing on pupils’ knowledge of vocabulary to understand texts, identifying/explaining key aspects of fiction and non-fiction texts, identifying and explaining the sequence of events in the text, inference and deduction, and prediction. Each reading practice session on comprehension focuses on a specific reading domain.

We use ambitious and effective questions that challenge pupils’ thinking to achieve a greater depth of understanding. When answering comprehension questions, we encourage pupils to develop accuracy and depth in their answers by finding the answers in the text. We teach deeper thinking about the text by asking pupils to show how they know the answer to the question, for example by pointing to illustrations/pictures, words or phrases. We encourage pupils to make links between their experiences and knowledge and the text when appropriate.


At Manor School, pupils have access to a variety of mark-making/writing tools and have the opportunity to develop skills in mark-making and writing at all levels. We believe that learning to make marks and write should be fun, so that pupils  are more motivated to participate and engage in (pre-)writing tasks. We work in a stimulating writing environment with displayed and celebrated examples of pupils’ own writing and opportunities to use writing in play activities.

At Manor School, pupils take part in a variety of activities designed to improve their gross and fine motor skills (e.g. core strength; postural stability; strength and stability of shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers; effective use of both hands; finger individualisation) to support them in learning to write. Pupils often start with mark-making; they are offered opportunities for independent mark-marking throughout the day, using a range of tools (e.g. marker, paintbrush, chalk, crayon, etc.) and in various media (e.g. tactile trays).

This can support the development of both their interest in and motivation for writing, and also the skills required to do so. Pre-writing strokes required for letter formation are introduced using the ABCBoom! multi-sensory approach to handwriting, through a variety of engaging activities. Pupils learn about the various strokes that make up letters in developmentally appropriate ways. They experience the direction of the strokes in lots of multi-sensory ways (e.g. pictograms, associated sounds, experiencing the direction of the strokes with their whole body, etc.).

This is the foundation from which they can begin to learn to write, and places emphasis on practising pre-writing strokes with large arm movements and in different media, before moving to pen and paper tasks. As a pupil’s confidence and skills develop, we aim for them to produce neat, legible writing, and we offer many varied opportunities for pupils to write throughout the day.

We have an agreed letter formation method to support consistency in the development of writing across the school. The development of fine motor and writing skills is supported by our Occupational Therapy Team. We acknowledge that it is also important for pupils to develop skills in typing when appropriate in terms of their profile of skills.