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Literacy Improvement

Explore the resources available to improve literacy, including reading, writing, phonics, spelling and spoken language.

Most popular resource

Improving Pupil Literacy Pack

Looking to improve literacy across your setting? This comprehensive pack includes full guidance underpinned by EEF research, the DfE's The Reading Framework, and key Ofsted commentary, which will support any school leader to understand how literacy improvement can be achieved across different literacy disciplines. It also contains 13 editable templates so you can audit your provision and find your strengths and weaknesses, allowing for long-term improvement for the benefit of every pupil.

Your key literacy questions answered

Why is it important to improve literacy?

We feel this quote sums up the essentiality of literacy and why it is vital we strive to improve literacy teaching and opportunities for our pupils:

“Without literacy, it’s hard to live the life you want.” National Literacy Trust

We recognise and understand the importance of teaching our children to read and write well, to support them now and well into the future. The foundations for this start right from the very beginning for a child, with the interactions taking place between themselves and adults playing a pivotal role in nurturing their communication and language skills from an early age. To enable our children to develop good literacy skills and establish the fundamentals to build upon, we need to ensure each child gains a good literacy grounding before they even start school.

From the ages of five to seven, young learners transition from being meticulous decoders, breaking down words into individual sounds, to emerging readers who can recognise words effortlessly and comprehend them simultaneously. Observing pupils at this stage, as they begin to embrace the joy of independent reading and writing, stands out as one of the most exhilarating milestones in childhood development.

However, Key Stage 2 emerges as a pivotal phase in literacy development for all pupils. While the early years and Key Stage 1 lay the foundational aspects of literacy, Key Stage 2 becomes the crucial period where pupils must build upon these foundations. This building process is essential for transforming our children into adept readers and writers, arming them with the skills required to navigate the complexities of secondary school learning.

In secondary schools, the challenge of improving literacy is fundamental. Historically, secondary school teachers have not considered themselves as literacy experts. The task of teaching children to read has typically been associated with primary schools or, at most, delegated to English department teachers. However, when educators address the literacy requirements within their subjects, they enhance their students' likelihood of success in those subjects. Rather than questioning what they can contribute to literacy, secondary school teachers should explore the benefits literacy can bring to their teaching practices, and remember that reading, writing, speaking and listening are at the heart of knowing and doing in every subject in secondary school.

In summary, the message from the research is clear: To excel in literacy, pupils need high quality teaching and extensive opportunities to practise reading, writing and communication.

What does the research say about staff expertise and professional development in literacy?

Research and analysis from Ofsted highlighted that staff are not always trained to teach pupils who are in the early stages of learning to read and that teachers do not always know how to help struggling readers in class. The EEF shares that “adults have a vital role to play in modelling effective language and communication” with high-quality adult-child interactions, where adults talk with children, being key. However, this is not always easy.

The EEF also recommends ensuring all staff have the necessary pedagogical skills and content knowledge to effectively implement a systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) programme in Key Stage 1; however, this is equally important for staff in Key Stage 2 and beyond to support those in the early stages of reading.

The Reading Framework reiterates the importance of all staff knowing how to effectively teach SSP as well as building their understanding of the concepts and theory behind how pupils learn to read. Furthermore, section 12 of the framework focuses on the leadership and management of reading and the important roles that the headteacher, SLT and literacy lead play in ‘building a team of expert teachers.’

As well as CPD focused on literacy itself, upskilling staff on understanding The Gradual Release of Responsibility model as a way to scaffold learning and gradually transition the responsibility from the teacher to the pupils can be helpful to guide planning and lesson structure. There is a handy poster of this model including in the Improving Literacy Pack.

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