School trips to the zoo, local caves and castles have helped children struggling with writing to dramatically improve their written work, a report suggests.
Pupils who went on memorable day trips followed by sessions writing about their experiences made nine months more progress than would be expected over a year, according to results published by the Education Endowment Foundation today.
The project, called Improving Writing Quality, seemed to have an even larger effect for pupils eligible for free school meals, but as the sample was small this difference may have been down to chance.
The exciting trips and experiences were followed by structured writing lessons where pupils were encouraged to plan, evaluate and monitor their own work with a teacher. The were also encouraged to talk about how they could improve their writing.
Rachel Adams, director of literacy and numeracy at Halifax High School in West Yorkshire, whose pupils went to White Scar Caves and Skipton Castle for the project, said: “We were so impressed that we have rolled it out across key stage 3 and into key stage 4 for those pupils who are predicted to get a GCSE grade C or below.
“It has just been brilliant. The mark scheme is very clear to them – they get three marks if they do this or two marks if they do that – it really appeals to boys especially, it makes it into a competition – not against each other, but against themselves."
More than 260 pupils who were thought unlikely to score a Level 4 in their Sats tests took part in the trial run by the universities of York and Durham. It was carried out in 23 primaries and three secondaries in Calderdale, West Yorkshire between May and December last year.
Ken Inwood, director of the Calderdale Excellence Partnership which ran the project, said the scheme combined a learning approach called Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) with memorable experiences.
He said: “We had a trainer come over from the states to develop training for the teachers here. There were some parts we anglicised, instead of SRSD we called it Top Banana Writing, which for the children makes more sense."
In 2013, 85,000 11-year-olds left primary without reaching the expected level in writing.
Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, which funds research into breaking the link between deprivation and achievement, said: “It’s rare to find schemes that demonstrate such a large impact when they are rigorously tested. That’s why we are excited about the potential this project could have in helping struggling students to significantly improve their skills.”