I HAVE just surfaced from organising a two-week summer literacy school at John Bentley school in Calne.
In more than 30 years of teaching, I have never felt so elated and excited about an educational project and I consider that it has been a privilege to be involved so closely with 35 pupils, who have grown and developed in both literacy skills and self esteem in such a short time.
Although the scheme has been tiring for all the staff, the results are so rewarding.
We targeted pupils who were level 3 and borderline 4 in the national tests, who particularly needed help with writing. In small groups of nine with a teacher and assistant per group, we have spent two weeks exploring four genres of writing; narrative, explanatory, reportrecount and persuasive, as well as trying to write our own poetry. Each group has produced a book of written work which has exceeded our expectations in quality, quantity and presentation.
The balance between the literacy and practical activities has been crucial to the success of this summer school, and the children have arrived early and keen to work every day. Using a basic theme of the "Sea", we have given the children the opportunity to learn, while having great fun, and to have the advantage of meeting new friends and school staff before the term starts.
To those cynics who say that two weeks cannot make a difference to test scores, we have evidence that it can. We tested the children before and after the scheme and practically every one has made considerable gains, but more importantly they have experienced success and are looking forward to the next five years at our school.
During next year, I shall teach the pupils as a group each week and they will be closely monitored to ensure that the work we have done is not allowed to subside.
There should be more summer schools, so that we could give more children the unique opportunity of bridging the gap between primary and secondary school. They do make a difference and they do work.
At last the Government got it right in providing money for these schemes, and targeting the pupils who are borderline level 4. These are the students who will make the difference to John Bentley's aim to raise standards, and to the Government's aim of attaining 80 per cent of students at level 4 in English by 2002.
Summer literacy co-ordinator
John Bentley school