Aim: To forge strong links with the school’s (ten main) primary feeder schools in order to improve literacy provision.
Background: Pupils join Stewards Academy with lower than nationally expected standards of literacy and over two thirds of pupils are on the Statement of Educational Needs and Disabilities register. Deficits in basic literacy were hindering pupils’ access to the KS3 curriculum and making the expected progress to achieve externally set targets challenging and at times unrealistic.
- Developing subject expertise by sharing best practice
- Enhancing academic transition by the better understanding of where pupils had come from educationally and, for primary colleagues, where these pupils would be heading beyond KS2
Meetings with primary schools showed that Year 6 teaching focused on composition and effect of writing, with spelling a lesser concern. By KS4, a clear correlation was found between pupils who did not see themselves as ‘good spellers’ who also believed they were not ‘good writers’. They wrote much less than their peers and with a reduced vocabulary. These were the pupils who attained D grades for English GCSE. This was an epiphany moment for all concerned and subsequently a programme of shared training on spelling was set up. Primary colleagues buddied up with Stewards’ staff to research, plan and deliver.
Among other activities, a series of joint cross-phase observations ensued, from Reception to Year 9. This was followed up through rigorous discussion. A Reading Manager was employed to monitor and track pupils’ reading. By the third year, there was a core of six primary teachers who regularly joined the department for CPD, and primary headteachers and literacy coordinators also opted in to standardising meetings.
Evidence: Pupil surveys.
Impact: The department now has a thorough understanding of how and what pupils learn before they join the school and how best to enhance and develop this. Professional relationships have been forged through mutual trust, respect and a shared vision for raising the aspirations of pupils for their lives beyond school.
Pupil results have continued to improve for all year groups. In particular, the rates of pupil progress have now risen to levels above national averages. Pupils gained resilience and confidence in both reading and writing and were very proud of the progress they made in English. This was clearly evident in the pupil survey, whereby the percentage of pupils strongly agreeing they knew how to improve in the subject rose in every year group.
Reflections: Embracing the concept: ‘developmental not judgemental’ to promote professional relationships was a key success, which enabled us to establish our cross-phase network. We did set up an online system for sharing materials, although this was not as successful as we had hoped. It seems the real value and impact has been found through face to face collaboration.
Contact: Joe Greenway, Subject Leader for English