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Reading at Windmill Hill

Students at Windmill Hill have a wide range of learning needs, including profound, severe and complex learning difficulties. The vast majority of students also have speech language and communication difficulties and so reading supports the development of communication skills, especially for our students who require alternative and augmentative communication support such as Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS) or voice output communication aids (VOCAs).


Reading at Windmill Hill encompasses 2 main areas:

  • Reading for pleasure

At Windmill Hill we feel it is important to develop a love of reading, from sharing stories (including sensory and print books for those who cannot access reading independently) and providing opportunities for social interaction, through to being able to choose reading material of a particular interest.

  • Reading for meaning

The curriculum at Windmill Hill provides a developmental approach to teaching the knowledge required and developing the skills to gain meaning from objects, photos, symbols and print. At Windmill Hill, reading for meaning is a fundamental aspect of communication, supporting access to social interactions and greater independence in learning. For some individuals, reading for meaning will provide support to further their learning, for example, researching areas of interest.


Reading Approaches

At Windmill Hill, teachers use a skills-based assessment scheme, alongside reading ages, to identify starting points and next steps in learning.  We use the following approaches to reading development for all students:-


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See & Learn - See and Learn offers carefully structured, evidence-based activities and guidance to help children to speak more clearly, to communicate more effectively. The programme supports learning for children with Down syndrome and children with similar learning needs, taking account of auditory processing difficulties, verbal short term memory deficits, hearing loss, and relative difficulties with expressive language compared to receptive language skills.


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Read, Write Inc. – Read, Write Inc. is the UK’s leading synthetic phonics programme which offers a structured and targeted programme to support the development of reading, teaching students to locate and sound out the individual sounds in a word and blend (or synthesise) them together to say the word.


Reading for Meaning & Purpose – Once students have mastered the building blocks of reading, lessons focus on developing fluency and reading for comprehension.  These lessons provide functional reading skills which support Preparation for Adulthood.


Reading Baselines

We use W Levels to assess baselines and starting points for our students. Currently, Windmill Hill students are broadly accessing reading at the following levels:-

W Level

Development Stage






Fluent - Engages with a range of fiction and non-fiction texts. Uses non-fiction text to research topics and gains inference from text.




Early Fluent - Starting to engage with a range of fiction and non-fiction texts. Developing social sight vocabulary, able to follow written instructions and respond to simple questions about text




Emergent - Reading a book at their own level, recognising familiar words. Following instructions set out with some words and symbols and responding to questions




Early Emergent - Recognising and repeating familiar stories. Recognising symbols and sequences of symbols, follow instructions presented symbolically




Symbolic - Responding to, and engaging with, sensory stories. Responding to, and engaging with; objects, signs, symbols, touch cues etc



Up to 2

Pre-Symbolic - Experiencing stories through multi-sensory approaches. Experiencing objects of reference, touch cues etc