A primary school where most of the teachers have studied children’s literature at masters-level has today been named the UK's “literacy school of the year”.
St Anthony’s Primary, in Renfrewshire, was described by the president of the United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) – which launched the prize in 2013 – as “a school where literacy thrives”.
The school, which UKLA describes as serving a deprived area, is the first in Scotland to win the award.
The majority of the school’s staff – 14 out of 17 teachers – took the University of Strathclyde’s masters-level module in children’s literature last year. All the school’s teachers attend a monthly children’s book club.
St Anthony's headteacher Jacqueline McBurnie told Tes Scotland the school had given neglected classroom libraries a makeover and scrapped the “drudgery” of the traditional book review in favour of pupils exchanging their thoughts at reading cafes over a juice and a biscuit.
Knowledge and dedication
More recently, she said, pupils had started to print off and stick QR (quick response) codes – now used for everything from cinema tickets to airport boarding passes – inside books. When these codes are scanned by the next reader who comes along, they might link to a piece of writing about the book, to a photo, or to a short video review by a pupil.
Ms McBurnie said it was her knowledgeable and dedicated staff who had turned the school’s 200 pupils into avid readers.
She added: “I am absolutely delighted for our staff and children in receiving this prestigious award. It is testimony to all their hard work and unlimited enthusiasm for learning.”
St Anthony’s Primary is one of a number of Renfrewshire schools to recently win an award for driving forward improvements in pupil literacy. Todholm Primary in the same council area won last year’s Scottish Education Awards prize for raising attainment in literacy.
In 2015, the council launched the Renfrewshire Literacy Approach, which has resulted in academics and teachers working in partnership to improve the way reading is taught in primary schools.
Last year Julie Paterson, Renfrewshire’s literacy development officer, said the approach was not about quick fixes like buying “resources that promise the world”, but upskilling teachers.
UKLA president Tracy Parvin, said: “This award recognises those schools which place literacy and literature right at the heart of children’s learning. It is more than a celebration of creative, enthusiastic and engaging teaching – it is a kitemark for excellence.
"This year’s winning school has left a lasting impression on our assessors: St Anthony’s Primary School is most definitely a school where literacy thrives.”
The news comes as Edinburgh primary headteacher, Eileen Littlewood of Forthview Primary, was named the winner of the annual Scottish Book Trust prize for inspiring children to read and write for pleasure.
She won the Learning Professional Award having “transformed” the reading culture at a school where the library had been dismantled.
See Friday's Tes Scotland magazine for more on St Anthony's efforts to transform pupils' attitudes to reading