Department Literacy Reps – creating your very own Literacy Army!

(Tea and biscuits certainly help with the recruitment process!)

So I’ve recently come to the enlightening realisation that I can’t possibly create my literacy vision on my own (even though I’ve tried!) and I need to delegate/recruit comrades! I also came to the conclusion that I have no idea what the literacy requirements are in each subject – does the Art GCSE exam paper have a SPAG mark? Are students confident with exam command words in Maths?

Where to start? The idea of creating Literacy Reps for each department seemed like the obvious idea to get the answers to all my questions, but how to get them? I mean, we all know that there’s a traditional feeling amongst many a teacher that Literacy is an “English thing” – why does a Maths teacher need to bother with spelling? When do PE need to teach etymology in their football lessons? So in that sense, recruitment was the biggest battle. I initially emailed Heads of Department asking them to nominate someone under the premise that it would be very little workload and of course, there would be refreshments! I got a majority of nominated reps straight away, however some departments it’s been like drawing blood from a stone….

So how do we overcome the barrier of colleagues not valuing or realising the importance of literacy in the subject? With hard core research and data of course! (Numbers are always very persuasive…) Luckily enough, GL Assessment produced exactly what I needed last year, in their ‘Why Reading is Key to GCSE’ report. It’s as if they wrote it specifically to help me convince my colleagues that in fact, literacy isn’t just for English Teachers (Thanks, GL!) I’ve attached it to this post for handy reference.

What is so great about this report is that it clearly shows the direct link between reading age and GCSE outcomes – something which even Maths teachers can’t ignore!

Step 2 – once you’ve got your recruits it’s time to arrange the first meeting (don’t forget to book those all important refreshments!) My first Reps meeting was deliberately short – I simply summarised the importance of literacy in all subjects, explained the link to GCSE outcomes and school priorities. I then left them with Subject Literacy Audits to complete for our next meeting, so not too painful really.

Then comes along Covid, lockdown and school closures…… (the less said, the better).

And now here we are in Summer Term of what has been a pretty crazy academic year. I think we now need Department Literacy Reps more than ever as the impact on reading ages due to school closures has been detrimental. My priorities now are to get all students tested on their reading ages (we use NGRT – another great tool from GL)

I met with my Literacy Army (they don’t know I call them this!) just a few weeks ago, and I shared the EEF seven key recommendations for improving literacy in secondary schools, which also comes in a handy poster format for quick reference. I then used this as a basis for a survey I created on Forms, asking them to write reflective comments on how their department/subject currently meets each target and what support they might need. Here’s the Forms if you want to use it: click here (let me know how you get on!)

So that’s where I’m at currently – I suppose next steps are regular meetings with the comrades to keep Literacy front and centre, and to really get prepped for launching my ‘Reading Rich’ curriculum next year. Other things on my radar is incorporating subject reading homework, and spellzone, a website that has pre-created vocabulary lists that can be personalised for each subject.

This is an ongoing mission for me, so I will keep you all updated! Please let me know if you do something similar in your own school and if you’ve been successful.

Over and out, comrades!

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