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Applying expert advice and experience leads to improvements in whole-school literacy

Applying expert advice and experience leads to improvements in whole-school literacy


Reading time: 3 minutes. SSAT’s literacy partner: Lexonik


Lyndsey Morgan, lead practitioner for literacy, Drapers’ Academy, describes their successful approach, which involves colleagues and students as well as outsider expertise in decision making and implementation.

The late UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, ‘‘Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society.’’ As recent reports by the National Literacy Trust, the EEF and UCL demonstrate, never before has the importance of literacy and its direct impact on the health, wealth and life chances of young people been so well documented. Despite this increased awareness and the government’s focus on systematic phonics teaching, many pupils arrive at secondary school deficient in literacy. The task of equipping pupils with their passport to success is considerable.

Equipped with a mountain of research and a stack of books that would be the envy of any CPD library, I set to work with a new literacy team. We developed a strategy based on embedding research into everyday practice. Following staff and student consultation, we reviewed our current literacy initiatives. Taking into account work by Alex Quigley, we noted the vocabulary gap between our ‘word poor’ and ‘word rich’ students, and reformed the academy’s ‘word of the week’ programme. In consultation with David Didau, we then devised a list of tier two words to replace subject-specific tier three words. I filmed a sequence of lessons in which I taught tier two vocabulary using the Frayer model and shared the footage with staff. These adjustments reinvigorated ‘word of the week’ in line with the increased demands of an academic curriculum.

A second successful component of the literacy strategy was tackling the accuracy of SPaG within students’ extended writing. We surveyed staff and students on their experiences of literacy marking. As a result, we decided to review the way in which SPaG errors were marked in students’ work. In consultation with staff a set of ten marking codes were devised. The marking codes are used by staff across all faculties and have helped to ensure consistency and promote the value of accurate written communication. I also created a bespoke literacy green pen which contained a pull-out banner containing the marking codes and advice for students when proofreading work. The pens were trialled and purchased for every student. The literacy pens are used by students to respond to the marking codes and complete DIRT tasks. Along with the pens, I devised literacy passports and stickers for students which encourage and reward good literacy behaviour. These tools have helped to raise the profile of literacy and the expectations and consistency in marking across the curriculum.

To ensure the prolonged success of the literacy strategy, there had to be a shift in the culture of literacy pedagogy. With this in mind, a student survey enabled me to identify the key ‘influencers’ within each year group. Once the surveys were completed and results analysed, I met with these students and discussed their status within their year groups. Engaging these influencers led to more effective dissemination of literacy ideas, activities and competitions. By surrendering some aspects of the strategy to these students, our new ‘literacy ambassadors’, the academy is on a clear path to proficiency in literacy.

Surrendering some aspects of the literacy strategy to our new student ‘literacy ambassadors’ put the academy on a clear path to proficiency in literacy


If you need support with literacy levels, vocabulary and comprehension in your school, contact SSAT’s Leading Literacy Partner – Lexonik – who offer a 10% discount on the price per pupil to SSAT members.


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