Aim: ‘Shakespeare on Love’ aimed to help pupils gain confidence and interest in literature, and to help teachers to fully exploit their creativity and resourcefulness, indulge in collaborative planning and team teaching, and for all involved to feel invigorated and enthused.

Background: Historically, approximately a quarter of pupils join the school with literacy levels below national expectation for reading, writing or both, and many achieving the national standard by one or two marks. Three times the national average of pupils have significant learning difficulties and approximately 25% are eligible for free school meals.

Method: The project began as a 6 week unit of work to be delivered to all of Year 9. The unit was created by the department and gave pupils the opportunity to explore a range of Shakespearean texts and the world in which Shakespeare lived, providing them with a comprehensive understanding of context, themes and language. National Curriculum levels and rates of progress recorded through school systems (Internal Progress Report - IPR) were used to set a benchmark as was a pupil perception survey. These were checked post unit of work and progress measured. Teachers were also asked for feedback. In the second year cross curricular links were established with Drama, Music, Art, History and Maths.

Evidence: Lesson observations, pupil perception survey, staff feedback, projected KS4 grades.

Impact: Teachers were stretched by the aspirational content (six plays in six weeks!) and were often asked to step outside of their own comfort zones in terms of teaching styles.They completely rose to the challenge and enjoyed an alternate form of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), similar to that of lesson study.Pupils enjoyed studying the breadth of texts and noticing similarities. The enriching nature of the work broadened the frame of reference pupils had within literature and art, and this was evident in IPRs and in end of KS4 projected grades.The A*-C target for the first cohort through the project was significantly the school’s best.

A significant goal for the third year was to look at how the increased passion and intrinsic sense of achievement associated with deep learning could be replicated in other subjects. CPD through cross departmental teaching and learning communities facilitated sharing the good practice of deep learning approaches.

The percentage of pupils strongly agreeing they enjoyed English rose in every year group. Pupil results continued to improve for all year groups and have risen to levels above national averages.Teacher confidence has grown and teaching practice is recognised as consistently good or better across the department. The KS3 English curriculum has been completely revised and a thematic focus is prominent.

Reflections: Raising aspirations of staff and pupils and providing enriching opportunities to develop subject knowledge have been the key successes.A more collaborative approach has allowed room for risk taking, and pupils and staff have enjoyed the challenges presented. By placing strict limits on the project from the outset – a six week unit of work for Year 9 – participants were able to spend focused time and energy on perfecting the scheme.

Contact: Clare O’Sullivan, Assistant Headteacher