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National Curriculum

Understanding English communication and languages - Programme of learning

Statutory content

Learning in this area should include an appropriate balance of focused subject teaching and well-planned opportunities to use, apply and develop knowledge and skills across the whole curriculum.

See related key actions

The programme of learning is made up of:

Curriculum aims

This area of learning contributes to the achievement of the curriculum aims for all young people to become:

  • successful learners who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve
  • confident individuals who are able to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives
  • responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society.

Why this area of learning is important

English, communication and languages lie at the heart of our capacity to imagine, think and create and make a crucial contribution to children's development as successful learners. Their developing use of language underpins children's achievement across the curriculum and lays the foundations for active involvement in cultural life, society, work and lifelong learning.

English is a major world language and its secure and confident use opens up many possibilities. Learning and using languages enables children to engage with different cultures and societies and further develops their understanding of how languages work.

Literature in English is rich, varied and influential. It helps children to develop their imagination, see the world through the eyes of others and read and write for pleasure.

Children learn to communicate effectively in a range of media. They become increasingly fluent and accurate in expressing their thoughts and emotions, orally and in writing. They become more skilled in generating ideas, solving problems and thinking critically and creatively.

Creating and responding to all kinds of texts, including those which combine words, images and sounds, offers access to the world of knowledge and imagination and generates lasting enthusiasm and enjoyment.

1. Essential knowledge

Children should build secure knowledge of the following: 

  1. how language is used to express, explore and share information, ideas, thoughts and feelings
  2. the power of language and communication to engage people and influence their ideas and actions
  3. how creativity and imagination are essential to making new meanings, exploring and experimenting with language and creating effects
  4. how languages work, their structures and conventions, variations in use and changes over time
  5. how languages, literature and the media enable different ways of thinking and give access to ideas and experiences from different cultures and times.

2. Key skills

These are the skills that children need to learn to make progress: 

  1. listen, read and view in order to understand and respond
  2. discuss, debate and draft in order to develop and explore ideas, themes and viewpoints
  3. speak, write and broadcast in order to present ideas and opinions
  4. evaluate, analyse and critique in order to review, refine and comment
  5. interact and collaborate in order to share understanding of what is said, read and communicated.

3. Cross-curricular studies

This area of learning should provide opportunities for: 

  1. children to develop and apply their literacy, numeracy and ICT skills
  2. personal, emotional and social development
  3. enhancing children's understanding of English, communication and languages through making links to other areas of learning and to wider issues of interest and importance.

4. Breadth of learning

a. In speaking and listening children should: 

  1. develop and apply speaking and listening skills (i) to suit a variety of audiences and for different purposes
  2. tell and listen to stories and explore ideas and opinions in both formal and informal contexts
  3. express themselves creatively in improvisation, role play and other drama activities
  4. use digital and visual media to support communication both face-to-face and remotely.

b. In reading children should: 

  1. read widely for pleasure
  2. develop and apply their reading skills in order to become critical readers
  3. engage with an extensive range of texts (i), including literature (i) from different times and cultures, information and reference texts, literary non-fiction (i), media texts (i) and online social and collaborative communications
  4. work with writers, playwrights and poets in and beyond the classroom.

c. In writing children should: 

  1. learn to write for a variety of purposes (i), for a range of audiences (i) and in a range of forms (i)
  2. develop their understanding of how writing is essential to thinking and learning and is enjoyable, creative and rewarding
  3. explore writing using different media including web pages and multimodal (i) formats in English and in other languages.

d. By engaging with other languages (i), including, where appropriate, those used in their communities, children should: 

  1. look at the patterns, structures and origins of languages (i) in order to understand how language works
  2. listen to and join in with conversation in other languages and communicate about simple, everyday matters
  3. understand how learning other languages can help them appreciate and understand other cultures as well as their own.

Explanatory text

Speaking and listening skills: This includes appropriate alternatives for children who communicate in other ways, for example sign language
Texts: These should include stories, poetry and drama as well as film, media and multimodal texts that combine words, images and sounds
Literature: Literature should include picture books, poems, plays and stories, including traditional and cultural tales, books by established authors and a wide range of classic and modern poetry
Literary non-fiction: Literary non-fiction includes diaries, biography and autobiography
Media texts: Media texts include websites, film, newspapers, magazines, leaflets and advertisements
Purposes: Including to imagine, to explore experiences, to organise and explain information, to comment on what has been seen, read or heard, to argue, remember, persuade others and develop ideas
Audiences: Including other children, adults, the wider community and imagined readers
Range of forms: Including stories, poems, play scripts, storyboards, lists, captions, messages, reports, reviews and commentaries
Multimodal: Multimodal texts combine two or more modes of communication (for example written, aural and visual) to create meaning. Examples include the combination of words and images in a magazine or newspaper, the combination of words, images, video clips and sound on a website or the combination of images, speech and sound in moving-image texts
Other languages: The study of languages other than English is not statutory for children before year 3 but schools are free to offer this if they wish. Languages may include major European or world languages such as Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish and Urdu. Schools may choose which languages they teach. Teachers will continue to find the key stage 2 Framework for Languages a support for planning teaching in this area of learning
Languages: Including different forms of communication, including sign languages

5. Curriculum progression

The overall breadth of learning section should be used when planning curriculum progression. Children should be taught:

English and communication - speaking and listening


E1. to organise what they say, giving relevant details and using appropriate vocabulary to make main points clear to the listener

E2. to remember what they have heard and ask questions

E3. to reflect on how talk varies in different circumstances and for different listeners

E4. to recognise when to use formal language, including some features of spoken standard English

E5. to recognise how talk is enhanced by non-verbal communication, including gesture, eye-contact and by intonation and emphasis

E6. to speak clearly, take turns, make relevant contributions, give opinions and listen to different views

E7. to explore the imaginative use of language and the conventions of talk through role play

Explanatory text




M1. to organise and shape what they say, selecting relevant ideas and using appropriate vocabulary to interest their listeners

M2. to organise and adjust what they say according to listeners' needs, including the use of spoken standard English when appropriate

M3. to identify the main points of what has been said and ask questions to clarify meaning

M4. to reflect on their own and others' speech and investigate how it varies

M5. to take different roles and make relevant contributions in group discussion and role play

M6. to explain their opinions and ideas, modifying them in the light of what they have heard

M7. to use dialogue and discussion to build up and refine ideas collaboratively in groups

M8. to convey action, themes and emotions through role play and drama

Explanatory text



L1. to convey complex ideas, using different techniques for clarity and effect

L2. to select relevant ideas and use appropriate vocabulary to engage and maintain the interest of listeners

L3. to organise and adjust what they say, including the use of spoken standard English, according to the formality of the context, the needs of their listeners and any communication technology (i) being used

L4. to evaluate their own and others' speech and identify how it varies

L5. to sustain different roles, deal with disagreement and vary contributions in group discussion

L6. to extend and justify their opinions and ideas, building on what they have heard

L7. to use dialogue and discussion to build up and refine ideas, move groups on and reach agreement collaboratively

L8. to identify differences between spoken and written language, both on paper and on screen, taking account of context, purpose and audience

Explanatory text

Communication technology: Including webcams, podcasts and video

English and communication - reading


E8. to hear, identify, segment and blend phonemes in the order in which they occur in words to decode text

E9. to link sounds and letter patterns using their knowledge of the alphabet and identify syllables in high-frequency and familiar words

E10. simple grammar, including how word order affects meaning

E11. to make connections between different parts of texts (i) and the meaning as a whole

E12. to use screen-based and book conventions to find information efficiently (i) and safely

E13. to recognise how writers and poets select words and use patterns of rhythm, rhyme and sound to create effects

E14. to identify characters and retell and enact narratives

E15.  to identify the characteristic features of texts with different purposes

Explanatory text

Texts: Texts are defined widely and cover paper-based formats but also film, digital media and websites in English and other languages
Find information efficiently: Including using hyperlinks and simple menus on web pages


M9. to focus on the meaning of the text as a whole, identifying features of text and understanding their use

M10. to use inference and deduction to find meaning beyond the literal

M11. to make connections between different parts of a text and with other texts they have read

M12. to skim, scan and use key word searches (i) and other features of texts to locate and select information

M13. to verify the accuracy and reliability of information, distinguishing between fact and opinion

M14. to recognise and describe how writers and poets select words and use a variety of language forms and structures to create effects

M15. to recognise how authors of moving-image and multimodal texts use different combinations of words, images and sounds to create effects and make meaning

M16. to identify different structural and organisational features and different presentational devices (i), layouts and combinations of formats and how they affect meaning

M17. to respond critically to arguments and recognise how they are constructed

M18. to explore and reflect on characters, ideas and themes in narratives

Explanatory text

Key word searches: This includes the use of key words in search engines to locate and select information on the internet
Presentational devices: These textual devices should cover those used in literary and non-literary written texts, film and multimodal formats


L9. to use inference and deduction to understand layers of meaning

L10. to make connections and comparisons between different parts of a text and with other texts they have read

L11. to verify the accuracy and reliability of information, including from online sources, detect bias and distinguish evidence from opinion

L12. to search for information using ICT (i) and other methods and make choices about the appropriateness of the information

L13. to evaluate techniques used by writers and poets, commenting on how effective they are

L14. to recognise and use some conventions for conveying meaning in moving-image and multimodal texts

L15. to evaluate structural and organisational features, including the use of different presentational devices (i), layouts and combinations of formats, and their effects

L16. to evaluate ideas and themes that broaden perspectives and extend thinking

L17. to express and justify preferences by referring to the texts

L18. to identify the use of specialist vocabulary and structures and techniques associated with different forms and purposes of writing

L19. to critique views, opinions and arguments

L20. to reflect on viewpoints in narratives and to distinguish between those of the characters and those of the author

Explanatory text

Search for information using ICT: This includes using more advanced search features, such as searching for a phrase using quotation marks, to locate information
Presentational devices: These textual devices should cover those used in literary and non-literary written texts, film and multimodal formats

English and communication - writing


E16. to plan, discuss and review their work in order to improve it, including using ICT where appropriate

E17. to combine written text with illustration, moving image and sound

E18. to communicate with known audiences using ICT where appropriate (i)

E19. to recognise and use different sentence constructions, exploring how ideas are linked within and between sentences and how nouns, verbs and adjectives are used

E20. how paragraphs, bullets, screen layout and headings are used to organise and link ideas, and to use these in their own work

E21. how punctuation (i) affects meaning, clarifies structure and represents pace and emphasis

E22. to segment phonemes, identify morphemes in words and recognise and apply common spelling patterns and conventions

E23. to form letters correctly and type accurately

E24. to create and shape their writing for different readers, choosing appropriate vocabulary

Explanatory text

Using ICT where appropriate: Including through the school website and email to parents or carers
Punctuation: Including full stops, commas and exclamation marks


M19. to create and shape their writing, using different techniques to interest the reader

M20. to select form, content and vocabulary to suit particular purposes

M21. to create effects by combining written text with illustration, moving image and sound

M22. to share ideas and collaborate with others remotely using ICT (i)

M23. to plan, develop and review their work in order to improve it, understanding how language varies in different formats

M24. to use features of layout, presentation and organisation in print and on screen

M25. how paragraphs, bullets, hyperlinks, screen layout and headings are used to organise and link ideas, and to use these in their own work

M26. to recognise and use different types of sentences, exploring how ideas are linked within and between sentences

M27. the function of punctuation within sentences and using it to clarify structure and represent emphasis

M28. to recognise and apply common spelling patterns, conventions and spell checking techniques, using knowledge of word families and the roots and origins of words

M29. to form and join letters fluently and correctly and type accurately

Explanatory text

ICT: Including videoconferencing and webcams


L21. to plan, create, shape and review their work, knowing when and how to improve it, including using ICT

L22. to select form, content, style and vocabulary to suit particular purposes and readers

L23. to combine written text and illustration, moving image and sound, integrating different effects to add power to the words and meanings

L24. to synthesise ideas using ICT by combining a variety of information from different sources

L25. to communicate and collaborate with others remotely and in locations beyond the school by selecting and using appropriate ICT (i)

L26. to use features of layout, presentation and organisation effectively in written and on-screen media

L27. how paragraphs, bullets, hyperlinks, screen layout and headings are used to organise and link ideas, and to use these in their own work

L28. to explore how ideas are linked within and between sentences

L29. the function of punctuation within sentences and how to use it to clarify structure and development in what they write

L30. to recognise and apply common spelling patterns for regular and irregular words, using conventions and spell checking techniques as well as their knowledge of the origins of words and how spelling has changed over time

L31. to gain fluency in handwriting and keyboard use

Explanatory text

Using appropriate ICT: Including forms and conventions for electronic media and communicating to unknown audiences

Languages - speaking and listening



M30. to identify and respond to key sounds, rhymes and rhythm in the new language

M31. to experiment with and practise making the sounds of the new language

M32. to begin to assign meaning to words and sounds that are unfamiliar

M33. to recognise and respond to familiar words, word categories and short sentences that they hear

M34. to engage in conversations and ask and answer questions

M35. to understand simple conventions of different languages (i)

Explanatory text

Conventions of different languages: This includes ways of saying hello, goodbye and thank you and showing respect in conversation


L32. to try to make sense of unfamiliar language that they hear (i)

L33. to understand the main points of what people say

L34. to engage in conversation, expressing their own opinions and responding to the opinions of others

L35. to present ideas and information to a range of audiences, selecting appropriate ways of expressing themselves

Explanatory text

Make sense of unfamiliar language that they hear: This includes using a range of techniques such as making analogies and interpreting from contextual and non-verbal clues

Languages - reading and writing



M36. to recognise and understand familiar words, phrases and simple sentences

M37. to read and interpret a range of simple texts

M38. to select and use familiar words and phrases to convey meaning in written text


L36. to understand the main points and some of the details of texts they read

L37. to read aloud with expression and accuracy

L38. to recognise and apply the links between the sounds and spelling of a language

L39. to express ideas in sentences and short texts

Languages - intercultural understanding



M39. to understand that different languages are spoken in different parts of the UK and the world

M40. to recognise that languages have words and features in common as well as differences

M41. to explore similarities and differences in everyday life, traditions and celebrations in different cultures and countries


L40. to empathise with others and imagine how others may see their own way of life and culture

L41. to explore the origins, influences and development of words in different languages

L42. to compare attitudes (i) to different languages and reflect on the importance of respect for others

Explanatory text

Compare attitudes: Looking at how different cultures are represented, and how they represent themselves, in media and popular cultural forms

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