Addington School

Literacy and Communication at Addington


We are a community committed to excellence and the development of the potential of all.

Our aim is that every pupil will be able to communicate in the way best suited to his or her needs, both in school and out in the wider community. We provide a ‘Total Communication’ environment so that pupils are enabled to communicate whenever and wherever they are.

We also aim to provide a rich and broad literacy experience through verbal, non-verbal and written forms, appropriate to the developmental needs of each child. We aim to provide strong foundations for reading and writing to enable our pupils to access these at the highest level they can and in a way that is suited to them. These skills can then be transferred to daily life beyond school years, enabling our pupils to access as independent a life as possible as they move into adulthood.



Literacy and Communication extends across all curriculum areas and is one of the key components on every pupil’s personal learning plan. Communication is key to enabling our pupils to access learning. We work closely with the Speech and Language team (SaLT) and the Autism team (ASD) to support pupils and train staff in using Total Communication in all classes (please see our Total Communication policy for more detail). SaLT provide bespoke speech and language therapy plans for those who need them. To develop social communication, we use Intensive Interaction© and/or Attention Autism© for our pre- and semi-formal learners. Our more formal learners follow Alex Kelly Talkabout© Social Skills scheme.

We build our learners’ pre-reading skills from the very beginning, with the aim that all will access reading or reading-based activities to suit their developmental level (please see our ‘Roots to Reading’ document for more detail). We build on these foundational skills through our systematic synthetic phonics programme based on Letters and Sounds, which the majority of pupils access.  This programme includes daily opportunity to read carefully matched phonics books containing sounds with which the pupil is already familiar, so that learning is consolidated. Besides this, children are exposed to a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction texts, presented in a way that is appropriate to the developmental level of the child. We also use several classroom strategies to boost the teaching of reading and writing, including See and Learn©, social sight words, Write Words, colourful semantics© and shape coding™, Call and Response and sensory story. Our pupils develop at their own pace, so while some are accessing writing through early mark making and/or sensory play, others are engaging in shared or independent writing. We have a topic-based approach which means that literacy skills can be taught whilst reading and learning stories, gaining history or geography knowledge and engaging in practical experiences such as cooking and trips outside school. Our school library offers pupils a lovely calm space where books are attractively ordered and displayed, alongside story boxes, small world book characters, puppets and other multi-sensory approaches, to invite children to immerse themselves in reading and experience reading for the pleasure of it.

In KS4 and 5, we move to a more work-related learning approach and our students follow ‘pathways’. Literacy and Communication extend across all pathways. Functional Skills in Literacy are taught as a discrete lesson, to those on a work skills pathway.



A strong ethos of Total Communication and wide-ranging classroom strategies to develop literacy skills ensure that every pupil’s individual needs are met. Our children will become effective communicators and their learning environment will allow them to develop literacy skills at their own pace. This in turn will contribute to leading as full and independent a life as possible beyond their years here.




What is Total Communication?

Total Communication means ensuring that the environment around a learner is completely geared to support their communication. This means providing opportunities, visuals, objects of reference, gestures and signs, as well as a suitable atmosphere in which the learner feels safe and supported to communicate.

What is AAC?

AAC stands for augmentative and alternative communication. It can refer to either paper-based or electronic communication devices.

What are the different types of AAC?

Paper-based AAC is usually in the form of symbols, communication boards or PODD books. Electronic AAC may be in the form of Big Macks (large buttons that can give a single audio message), GoTalks, VOCAs or Eye Gaze devices.

What is eye pointing and Eye Gaze?

Eye pointing is a method of communication whereby the person uses their eyes to point at a picture, word or letter. Eye Gaze is an electronic device that tracks the user’s eye movements and generates electronic speech from this.

What is Intensive Interaction?

A method whereby a communicative partner (parent, teacher, carer, peer) engages with a learner by mirroring their gestures, sounds and movements. This might then develop into one or both of the participants initiating a new gesture, sound or movement which the other copies. This approach practises the early skills of interaction – such as eye contact, facial expressions, vocalisations and turn taking. More information at: https://www.intensiveinteraction.org/ 

What is Makaton?

A programme that uses signs and symbols alongside speech to facilitate communication. Makaton supports the development of essential communication skills such as attention and listening, comprehension, memory, recall and organisation of language, and expression. More information at: https://makaton.org/ 

How can I help my child to communicate?

True communication cannot be forced. It must be stimulated by the right environment, motivation and opportunity. Try not to talk for your child but to give them space and time to communicate in whatever way they can. This often means not solving problems too quickly for them, and even creating problematic situations which they must then solve (known as ‘sabotage’). Signing, and using visuals or real objects helps reinforce the meaning of your words and increases your child’s understanding of language.

For more information on how to promote communication, please see the link at the bottom of this page: ‘Speech and Language Communication Advice pack’.

How can I help my child with reading?

The best way to get your child interested in books and reading is to read to them very often. Don’t worry if they love a particular story and want to hear it over and over again - follow their interest, and now and then introduce something new by saying ‘first we will try this one, and then we will read [child’s old favourite]'. This way, they are exposed to new stories and also have the comfort of hearing a familiar one. Talking, singing, playing games and retelling stories informally are also key factors in developing your child’s love of story and understanding of story structure. For children with sensory needs, raise the level of engagement by adding objects to stories that they can hear, taste, touch or smell. Make your child more aware of text in the environment by reading signs, shopping lists, recipes, adverts and more aloud. You may want to introduce your child to the local library, if you feel they can cope with the environment. If your child is a formal reader, hear them read to you. Try not to overload them with questions; instead comment on what is happening now and then, to reinforce their understanding of what they are reading.

For more information on how to support your child with reading, please see the link at the bottom of this page: ‘A parent’s guide to helping your child with learning to read’.

What is phonics?

Phonics is the relationship between the written forms (graphemes) and sounds (phonemes). These are called GPCs – grapheme-phoneme correspondences. Addington has its own phonics scheme, which uses the Letters and Sounds order for teaching sounds and tricky words, as organised by the Department for Education’s Letters and Sounds phases (2-5). Addington Phonics is designed to be delivered in very small groups or 1:1, which enables our pupils to make progress and consolidate their learning at a rate suitable for them. We also believe that it is never too late for a pupil to learn to read, if they show interest and aptitude, so our scheme is designed to be age-neutral.

For more information on phonics at Addington, please see the link at the bottom of this page: ‘Addington Phonics handbook’.