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Oxfordshire schools make literacy a top priority

31 Aug 2016

Survey shows 100% of teachers in Oxfordshire Gaining Momentum schools take responsibility for literacy

Schools across Oxfordshire are celebrating the success of the Oxfordshire Gaining Momentum programme, which aims to improve the teaching and learning of literacy in every subject.

A collaboration between the National Literacy Trust and Oxfordshire County Council, the programme ran from 2014 to 2016. Ten secondary schools from across the county participated in the first year and were joined by a further seven schools in the second year.

An evaluation of Oxfordshire Gaining Momentum found that specialist literacy training for teachers of all subjects, including continuing professional development (CPD) sessions and individual consultancy, improved their literacy teaching and increased their confidence and knowledge.

The key findings from the evaluation are:

  • After the two years of the programme, all teachers (100%) agree it is their responsibility to teach literacy, compared with 94.7% of all teachers at the start of the programme and 93.4% of teachers who do not teach English
  • There was a 20% increase in the number of teachers who feel confident in developing the literacy skills of pupils eligible for free school meals over the two years of the programme, rising from 66.6% at the beginning of the programme to 79.9% at the end
  • After the programme, significantly more teachers say they are very or quite familiar with evidence-based approaches to teaching literacy (50.7%  versus 28.0%); that they have strategies for teaching literacy which they feel work well (51.7% versus 34.0%) and that developing literacy skills is embedded in their regular classroom practice (84.0% versus 77.1%)

Oxfordshire Gaining Momentum offered pupils in Years 7 and 8 opportunities to take part in literacy activities and encouraged them to read more for enjoyment. They also received more detailed marking of the literacy aspect of their assignments in a range of subjects from their teachers.  

As part of Oxfordshire Gaining Momentum, pupils compiled book lists, enjoyed author visits and 678 students entered the Ox Tales competition, which encouraged them to write about a place in the county. Run in partnership with the Oxford Mail, all the shortlisted entries were published in a special supplement.

Oxfordshire Gaining Momentum culminated with a literacy festival held at Oxford Brookes University, where pupils developed their reading, writing and speaking skills in a series of workshops with leading writers and dramatists.

Our evaluation found that after participating in the programme:

  • More pupils from Years 7 and 8 read something daily outside class which is not for school (48.0% compared to 41.1%).
  • More pupils agreed that being a good reader means they will get a better job when they grow up (61.4% compared to 52.0%) and more felt the same way about writing (65.6% compared to 54.7%).

The National Literacy Trust’s Strategic Lead for School Improvement, Susan Aykin said:

“Literacy is the key to improving pupils’ attainment across the curriculum and closing the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers. Oxfordshire Gaining Momentum has engaged and empowered teachers of a variety of subjects to play their part in developing their pupils’ reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. Our evaluation shows Oxfordshire Gaining Momentum has already increased teachers’ confidence and knowledge of teaching literacy and more benefits of this innovative approach are likely to emerge in the long term.”

Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Families Melinda Tilley said:

“Clearly the scheme has had a hugely positive impact at the schools taking part, with a real shift in attitudes towards reading and literacy among Year 7 and 8 pupils – including, crucially, the belief that mastering communication skills will help them succeed in later life.

“Good literacy skills can be the key to unlocking academic success in any area of the curriculum. With GCSEs just around the corner, the first years of secondary school are a crucial time, especially for those children needing some extra help to catch up with their peers. I’m sure we’ll see the children who have benefitted from the scheme really gaining momentum in the coming years.”

The continued professional development is now available to schools outside Oxfordshire through the National Literacy Trust’s Language and Literacy Within the Curriculum training. This includes a year’s membership of the National Literacy Trust Network, which supports schools’ literacy provision with invaluable tools, resources and inspiration.

Tags: Evaluations

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The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944.
Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL.