Literacy underpins success in every school subject. As author Anne Fine says, “Without English, nothing; without good English, nothing very well.” Our approach to literacy grows outwards from the St James Canon reading programme: 20 minutes spent reading aloud, three times a week. This regular reading establishes good habits for reading in every subject. At St James, students track the text, read aloud and are ready to discuss the content and ideas of what they have read.
Our Year 7 students come to us as keen readers from primary school. We ensure they maintain the reading habit through our use of Sparx Reader: a reading homework programme which keeps students reading throughout the week and checks their comprehension at regular points as they read. Sparx Reader is an adaptive programme, which selects books for students to read based on their ability. Because of this, every student reads at the right level of challenge.
Because literacy has such an impact on a young person’s success at school, students who are below age-related expectations in reading receive targeted intervention to improve their literacy levels. Depending on the needs of the child, this may be extra teaching in phonics; using a programme such as Lexia to improve skills of comprehension and inference; or additional lessons focusing on key literacy skills.
We develop students’ writing in every subject through the use of academic sentence starters and the explicit teaching of high-level vocabulary. In all subjects, students are given opportunities for extended writing and given feedback on their spelling, punctuation and grammar. In English and Literacy lessons, we explicitly teach the components of a sentence and how to use punctuation.
Beyond the curriculum, our Electives programme offers numerous opportunities for the development of literacy and oracy with options such as Creative Writing, Poetry, Mock Trial, Debating and Drama. Through our focus on literacy across the curriculum, we believe we are equipping students for success and wellbeing – in school and in their lives ahead.