Aim: To increase the effective use of subject-specific and analytical/evaluative language within students’ History work.

Background: The project had a literacy focus following a recommendation in feedback from Ofsted, which gave a glowing report on the school’s practice.


Year 1: The use of spelling tests allowed students in Key Stage 3 to understand the importance of spelling, punctuation and grammar marks in History. It was found that some students seem resentful or under pressure when faced with mistakes and seem embarrassed to ask for support.

Year 2: Students showed a greater depth of analysis within their written work and regularly tried to introduce complex sentence structures. Use of the PEEL formula (Project to Enhance Effective Learning) has allowed students to develop their essays, but aspects of pupils’ extended writing could be overly generic and not supported with specific examples.

Year 3: A standardised approach was taken to literacy techniques and additional marks were awarded for the use of subject-specific words in formal assessments.

Evidence: Key Stage 4 data was used to identify the levels of success and failure of the literacy strategies.

Impact: Students have a greater understanding of the impact that subject-specific words have on their overall grades, and the application of subject-specific words during lessons has improved. However, there is still some confusion about how the use and meaning of words can change within different subjects, for example the word ‘source’ within History and Geography. Similarly students find it difficult to understand that the meaning of key words may have changed over time and might use the modern definition of a word which may be topic specific.

A History Club has been established to promote the effective application of historical skills and this is mentored by Sixth Form History students. However, it has been difficult to maintain numbers because of the number of clubs running at the school. Sixth Form mentoring in Key Stage 3 lessons has improved pupils’ understanding of topics, and students are far more confident in asking the mentors to check their spellings. KS4 students were able to achieve high spelling, punctuation and grammar marks in their assessments, which is indicative of their improved literacy levels.

Reflections: Glossary games and spelling tests were effective with KS3, but KS4-5 students sometimes found these activities demeaning. KS4-5 students were far more willing to buy into quick-fire activities that reinforced key words and their application, and these have become an invaluable tool to enable students to recall a greater depth of detail about the subject.

Contact: Gilbert Antony,