What the inspector saw - good practice spotted by Ofsted - Literacy across the curriculum - Aston Manor Academy

7th September 2012 at 01:00

In brief

This academy in Birmingham impressed inspectors with the way it promoted pupils' literacy skills across the curriculum. Its approach included introducing literacy champions in every department and placing a heavy emphasis on how all teachers mark pupils' writing.

The project

Aston Manor began focusing on literacy just over eight years ago, when it created the post of literacy coordinator. It also set up a cross--curricular literacy task group to ensure that reading and writing were taken seriously outside English lessons.

Since then, it has enhanced its work on literacy across all its subjects, with a particular emphasis on the writing side after attainment data showed that was a weak area for pupils when they arrived in Year 7.

Methods it uses include:

  • assigning a teacher in every subject as a "literacy champion";
  • promoting "marking for literacy" in every subject and setting up literacy objectives for lessons in all departments;
  • explaining the school's "marking for literacy" approach on displays in every classroom; and
  • producing double-sided literacy mats for pupils, which on one side give generic reminders of punctuation and spelling, and on the other provide more subject-specific tips.
    • The literacy coordinator plays a key role by team-teaching with colleagues in different departments and helping them to plan their lessons. They, in turn, can go on to team-teach and support other teachers in their departments.

      Emma Gough, the design and technology department's literacy champion, says: "Before I developed my teaching to include aspects of literacy, my key stage 3 pupils were writing weak evaluations at the end of units of work. Instead of writing `I sewed the material', they would often just write something like `I did stuff with the material'. Or instead of `I prepared the dish', they would write `I got the food ready'.

      "I worked with the literacy coordinator to prepare a writing structure for evaluations, which included a focus on topic sentences for each paragraph, the use of connectives and choosing the most appropriate verbs."

      Senior literacy leaders at Aston Manor have also produced a booklet for pupils entitled Writing Matters, which gives subject-specific tips on terms they can use and advice on the way words such as "power" can have different meanings in different contexts, as well as general strategies to support spelling.

      Headteacher Heather Roberts says: "Our message is that individual subjects create different language demands that need tobe identified and addressed within those -subjects."

      Signs of success

      Just under half the pupils at Aston Manor speak English as an additional language. Yet last year a significantly higher proportion of pupils than -average made expected progress in English -between key stages 2 and 4. The value-added measures for humanities, languages, science and mathematics were also significantly above average.

      What the inspectors said

      "The impact of this work is evident not only in pupils' very good achievement in English throughout the school, but also in the similarly strong progress in subjects across the curriculum."

      Read the full Ofsted case study report at bit.lyPB2Uro

      The school

      Name: Aston Manor, Birmingham

      Type: Academy, 11-16

      Number of pupils: About 750

      Intake: Very high proportion of pupils who speak English as an additional language, are eligible for free school meals and live in areas of low socio-economic status


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