Aim: To focus explicitly on literacy skills in KS3 lessons and schemes of work to improve KS3 results, increase uptake at GCSE and improve literacy, particularly amongst boys.
Background: History was a popular non-core option at GCSE, and this project stemmed from a belief that if the historical and literacy skills are in place by Year 9, this sets a solid foundation for those opting for the subject at GCSE.
Staff understanding of the literacy skills taught in History was increased through the Literacy and Numeracy Framework in Wales. In all Year 7 schemes of learning, the strand of literacy being addressed in each lesson was identified, making it explicit to staff and students which literacy skills were being developed. This enabled staff to see their roles as teachers of wider essential skills. A selection of students were surveyed, showing that they found the literacy focus both in lessons and classrooms displays useful, and their enjoyment of the subject remained high. One commented: “I like the literacy displays because when I am stuck they give me ideas about getting started again”.
Year 2 :
Year 8 schemes of work were the focus for improving both literacy and historical skills. Literacy ‘rich tasks’ allowed progress to be measured on explanation and descriptive writing pieces. Pupil voice questionnaires were completed by students in Years 7 and 8, showing that they valued the literacy support in lessons and were now used to improving their own work and had gained confidence in correcting/editing their work in response to literacy marking codes.
The focus moved to Year 9 and each lesson was given a literacy focus. Students were issued with hint sheets showing them what to include and how to write in the style needed for each assessment. New resources and techniques were used to develop literacy and confidence, such as peer marking and SMART marking, with pupil-friendly versions of success criteria. Gifted and talented pupils worked on a detailed research project to produce plaques to accompany a WWI exhibit at Llangollen Museum.
Evidence: Book scrutiny by SLT, lesson observations, subject take-up, assessment results.
Impact: The love of History at Ysgol Rhiwabon has not been as strong in the past five years as it is now, and this is evident in the feedback given by students at the end of each lesson and the uptake at GCSE. By measuring the success of the Year 9 group who have been affected by all these changes, we can see that the focus on literacy skills has had a significant impact. They achieved a record high of 97% Level 5+ in History, and History has become the most popular non-core GCSE, with 57% of the year group opting for the subject. Teachers have maintained a passion for the subject and a love of teaching, which is reflected in the positive feedback from students.
Reflections: Our department is constantly looking at ways to improve literacy skills. Teachers are now competent in teaching extended writing, and our next focus is to strengthen our teaching of oracy to ensure students are adept at discussing a topic with peers.
Contact: Vanessa Wright-Davies, firstname.lastname@example.org