Strong literacy and communication skills are essential to both the academic success of our students and also their future happiness, freedom and choice.
Without the ability to read at a high level, interpret texts and respond in writing, young people cannot thrive in the highly demanding GCSE exams, let alone be ready and prepared to make ambitious choices for their future.
Literacy is at the heart of our curriculum for all children, regardless of ability. Through the teaching of speaking, reading and writing, we ensure that all children are able to develop their literacy skills, regardless of any prior disadvantage. All students can develop their literacy skills throughout their time at the school, allowing them to achieve success here and in later life.
We believe that the approach to literacy development in secondary schools as outlined in the Education Endowment Fund guidance document ‘Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools’ offers a clear evidence-based framework upon which to build our own literacy development strategy.
Rather than making the development of literacy skills solely the responsibility of English teachers, we incorporate literacy into every subject. This increases students’ chances of success not just in each subject but more broadly too.
From Guidance to Practice
Our approach to literacy development can be distilled into five broad literacy improvement strategies.
Vocabulary Building and Spelling
Knowing words is vital to our students engaging with and making sense of their learning. The more words that students know and are able to apply correctly, the more successful they are likely to be.
We continue to recognise that accuracy in spelling is important, but the focus is on the students’ understanding of vocabulary. Subject areas identify the ‘vital vocabulary’ in their subject and explicitly teach this. We also build the range of complex vocabulary that students know through our high profile ‘Word of the Week’ and ‘Tier 2 Vocabulary Booklet’.
Our marking approach also focuses on priority spellings, supporting students to learn the correct spelling and meaning of words.
Writing in Detail and with Accuracy
Being able to express yourself clearly and accurately in writing is a vital learning and life skill.
We create a ‘scaffolding’ of learning which focuses, for example, on supporting the literacy skills of students and developing their ability to write in sentences and paragraphs with accuracy. Among our key strategies to support students to write in detail and with accuracy are the following:
- We make extensive use of writing scaffolds to help students understand how to construct effective written responses.
- Linked to the point above, we make excellent use of models that ensure students understand what effective writing looks like.
- We employ a range of ‘Thinking Tools’ such as the Thinking Hats and Thinking Maps that support students to develop the ideas to include in their writing.
Reading for Understanding and Pleasure
The following are among our strategies to support students to read for understanding and pleasure
- We use the Reciprocal Reading sequence to provide students with a systematic approach that they can apply to decode the meaning of challenging texts.
- We think carefully about the accessibility of texts and how to simplify these, where appropriate, and how to ‘scaffold’ the reading process where this is required.
- We actively promote a love of reading in a variety of ways, including through our vibrant school library that is a central part of school life.
Developing Oracy Skills
In order to support our students to develop excellent verbal skills, and the confidence to be able to contribute orally in a wide range of familiar and unfamiliar contexts, young people are given regular opportunities to speak to and in front of others.
- Some subjects regularly hold ‘debate lessons’ and all teachers look for opportunities to promote debate where appropriate.
- We prioritise the development of questioning techniques in our staff, to help all students make verbal contributions in lessons.
- We provide opportunities for students to practise their oracy skills through processes such as our ‘Thoughts for the Week’ and the way in which teachers encourage discussion around links that exist across the curriculum.
Additional Targeted Intervention
The four strategies above are approaches used in lessons to help all develop their literacy skills. Where appropriate, we will also provide additional targeted intervention as
some students will require additional intervention to make progress, particularly in reading. This intervention enables them to access the curriculum and gain the wider benefits that excellent literacy skills will give them.
- Our pathways structure places students in the appropriate group(s) where they can best achieve their full potential. Where appropriate, some students will be placed in smaller teaching groups where they can access additional literacy support.
- A range of tiered reading interventions provides students with additional opportunities and support to allow them to develop their reading skills, with a particular focus on reading comprehension. Amongst the strategies used in the school, the online Lexia package has proven to be particularly effective for many of our students.
- A range of interventions that will support the development of reading fluency and the use of the Accelerated Reader programme is central to this approach.