Aim: To increase teachers’ knowledge of the literacy demands in their own subject and how to teach it implicitly, thus improving the literacy skills of students across the curriculum.
Background: The proportion of students from minority ethnic backgrounds and those whose first language is not English (EAL) is 96%. The proportion of students eligible for free school meals is well above the national average.
Year 1 & 2:
A literacy working party (from the English, Maths, Science, EAL, History, RE, Geography, ICT and Special Educational Needs (SEND) departments) formulated a school literacy policy which coordinated the different strands of literacy across the school. These included classroom strategies to promote reading, writing, speaking and listening, Ruth Miskin Literacy (RML whole school reading intervention), EAL, SEND and English interventions, and the use of the resource centre. Year 7 students were tested for reading and spelling very soon after they started at the school. Students who had a reading age below nine followed the RML intervention programme. Intervention consisted of five lessons per week of intensive phonics to help students develop reading skills up to a reading age of ten years.
Year 3 & 4:
The project changed to focus on supporting teachers with literacy in the classroom. A research group of teachers investigated the literacy needs of Year 7 students by conducting a book sample, following which it was decided to focus on three areas: extended writing, teaching explicit literacy skills and teacher training. The outcomes of this research were shared with all staff. Over a period of 20 weeks, a weekly literacy guide was distributed to all teachers that focused on a specific literacy skill, e.g. when to use a semi-colon. Literacy boxes were created for students and teachers to use in class. Students in Year 9 were appointed as literacy leaders for their classes and were trained in how to support reading and writing, and focus upon spelling, punctuation and grammar. One of the most successful resources was the Plashet Literacy Mat. All of these resources were available on Fronter, the school’s online Managed Learning Environment, with ideas and strategies for their use.
Evidence: Exam results, online resources.
Impact: In 2015, 83% of students gained an A*-C pass in English Language whilst in English Literature the A*-C pass was 92%. 100% of the cohort was entered for English Language and 92% of the cohort was entered for English Literature. This was a tremendous achievement given that 96% of our students were speakers of other languages. Expected progress for English Language was 84% which is considerably higher than the national Average for 2015 of 69%.
The main focus is the Ruth Miskin Literacy intervention which starts in the October of the Autumn term. By January, 25% of students have regularly increased their reading age up to 9 years and over and no longer require this intervention. By April the number has increased to 50%. By the end of the academic year 90% of students have reached a reading age that enables them to access the literacy needs across the curriculum.
Reflections: The results for GCSE are largely due to the success of our interventions at KS3. It is the detail of what happens in the classroom that ultimately leads to the success of a school and this should always be the focus as it impacts on everything else.
Contact: Kalash Thakor, Assistant Head Teacher, firstname.lastname@example.org