The Springfields Academy

Reach South Academy Trust

Our central mission is for Reach South pupils to aspire to achieve beyond the expectations that others place on them.

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The Springfields Academy Curriculum Statement: Reading.



To build safe independent lives for autistic young people though support, understanding and enablement.

For pupils to have functional reading skills to:

  • Understand printed communication in its varied forms to enhance knowledge and understanding of the world around them
  • Read to access the curriculum successfully and achieve within it
  • To read printed communications through a range of mediums
  • To have reading skills to access knowledge throughout life


A range of strategies and techniques are used at Springfields building on the strengths of our learners with autism and their individual learning styles. 

Early reading skills:

A child’s reading journey in Key Stage 1 begins with the development of the understanding that print (in all its forms) has permanence and meaning.

This is encouraged through the exploration of pictures, symbols, signs, letters and words throughout the environment and through discrete teaching. Readers are actively encouraged to communicate about what they can read in the world around them and discuss their interpretation of its meaning.

Readers are encouraged to join in with songs and rhymes to develop language and communication skills, this is further developed in daily story times and opportunities for individualised reading exploration including sequencing activities, role play and reading with others.

We recognise that many of our learners present with Executive Dysfunction and therefore employ a range of autism enablement strategies to support our readers to organise their thoughts (e.g. scaffolding a sequence of events), plan their responses (e.g. accessing prior knowledge and making connections) and monitor their understanding (e.g. creating mental images, engaging in discussions and summarising)


All children have the opportunity to learn to read through a synthetic phonics approach.

The detailed and cumulative structure of this approach to learning to read builds on some of the strengths our learners with autism have who see the detail within the ‘whole’. We have adapted the DFE ‘Letters and Sounds’ progression document and teach phonics through various multi-sensory formats providing our learners with a range of experiences to develop their phonetic awareness. We use a range of resources such as ‘Jolly Phonics’ to inform our teaching and plan frequent opportunities for ‘over learning’ concepts so that our learners experience them in a range of contexts to help scaffold the generalisation and transference of skills which some of our learners find more difficult in line with their diagnosis of autism.   

Action words/Whole word approach:

Some of our learners with more specific and complex learning profiles are more suited to learning to read using a ‘whole word’ approach (particularly where blending phonics has not been successful for example where a child has barriers to learning linked to weak central coherence and therefore is unable to bring details together to a central concept).

Whole words are taught through a variety of multi-sensory mediums combining a visual prompt, an action and where required an association (building on the concept of Grandin (1995) ‘Thinking in Pictures). Readers are encouraged the use this approach in a variety of contexts to support the generalisation of the skill.

Reading for meaning – teaching comprehension skills:

Comprehension of what a reader has read can be a difficult skill for our learners with autism to develop, especially for readers who are still developing ‘Theory of mind’ and find it difficult to understand others’ point of view or perspective.

Some readers may present with elements of ‘Hyperlexia’ which is characterised by an intense fascination with letters or numbers and an advanced ability to decode/read words however comprehension of what has been read is significantly more difficult.

To enable our readers to comprehend what they have read we use the following strategies personalised to a reader’s level of comprehension:

Before reading:

  • Allow the reader to access and build background knowledge
    • Present the reader with visual support in relation to the text
    • Pre-teach key vocabulary
  • Create mental images
    • Picture walk through the text
  • In Year 9 and above texts will often be sequenced thematically or by genre, allowing learners to draw on their prior learning

During reading:

  • Make connections
    • Make a visual representation of the story e.g. graphical organiser

After reading:

  • Reciprocal questioning
    • Modelling how to generate and answer questions – presented visually
  • Summarise understanding
    • Story Recall Teaching students to create causal connections and causal chains – presented visually
  • Use the 5Ws to summarise: who, what, where, when, why

Reading opportunities:

Readers at Springfields have a variety of opportunities to read and enjoy a range of materials, fiction and non-fiction through books, newspapers, magazines, comics and a variety of electronic texts and audiobooks.

Many of our learners have a special interest which is embraced as a motivator to encourage reading for pleasure through the reading material that most engages our learners.

Reading is planned daily throughout the academy both through discrete lesson (in Primary Phase – bespoke to cohort approaches), embedded throughout the curriculum and through additional personalised intervention as required. As learners progress through the academy they will progress to reading whole texts at an appropriate level, for examples short stories, plays or novels.

Reading from Key Stage 1 to end of Key Stage 4 accreditation:

Reading skills are developed using a cumulative structure bespoke to a learning pathway to accreditation as documented in the Reading Key Performance Indicators document.

Specific intervention is planned on an individual basis where there are barriers to learning. At Key Stage 4 all pupils will be able to decode texts independently, at a level appropriate to their accreditation pathway.


  • Feedback on reading learning tasks within the lesson (reference cohort/pathway guidelines in autism handbook)
  • Teacher assessment against reading Key Performance Indicators that are cohort/pathway specific. Reading assessment is regularly moderated to ensure accuracy.
  • Progress towards end of year reading targets is evaluated through the pupil assessment and progress cycle (reference flow chart)
  • The reading curriculum is evaluated through the termly curriculum review which is informed by:
    • Progress Frameworks - autism, knowledge and skills bespoke to cohort pathway. 
    • Progress towards EHCP outcomes 
    • Accreditation achieved 
    • Pupil progress and attainment cycle 
    • Pupil voice
    • Staff curriculum evaluation 
    • Parent voice