A serial with their cereal

11th May 2007 at 01:00
Gwen Clifford, the headteacher of Chineham Park primary in Basingstoke, Hampshire, gives pupils a chance to mark her work at a weekly writers' club.

"They are allowed to criticise my writing," she said. "And they do. They say, perhaps you could say it this way, or that."

The after-school writers' workshop is one way the school encourages pupils to believe "every child is an author". Each week a different genre is chosen - from epitaphs to short stories - and the writers, including Mrs Clifford, do short tasks and share ideas.

Mrs Clifford said: "I think the best preparation for Sats is for the pupils to have a real love of language, to feel confident about writing and to try to wow whoever is going to read it."

The club is one of several initiatives introduced to help raise the school's English results, which have already made a massive leap from a low point of 19 per cent of 11-year-olds reaching level 4 in 2005 to 71 per cent in 2006.

The 106-pupil school is under a notice to improve. In October 2006 inspectors said there had already been a significant upturn in English.

Mrs Clifford believes pupils will do better this year and that at least 65 per cent will reach level 4 in maths.

As well as the writers' club, a breakfast club, which gets pupils to read alongside their cornflakes, was set up 18 months ago. When the staff who ran it moved on, two parents stepped into the breach.

The school is one of two taking part in a campaign run by Food for the Brain, an organisation of teachers, doctors and scientists, which aims to find out whether eating habits affect performance.

Mrs Clifford has also introduced Thrass, an established synthetic phonics programme, which uses rap to teach the connection between sounds and letters. The scheme started in September and is not only good for the youngest pupils, but also helps the older ones improve their spelling and writing.

Mrs Clifford said: "I was initially quite sceptical about the idea of a rap, but the children loved it and we are already seeing a marked improvement. For the most able, it is not as challenging, but it has been helpful to improve their understanding of phonics and how literacy works.

It is good for skills such as word-building and handwriting."

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