An ambition that all Rowan Learning Trust children are clear and confident communicators is the life blood of what the wider Trust community stands for. Literacy is not just about reading, writing and comprehension. Literacy is not something that is ‘learned’ at school and then simply forgotten. Literacy is crucial to all aspects of life. The Rowan Learning Trust views high standards of literacy as one of the main keys that can unlock potential in all students and as such is committed to raising standards in literacy to help young people as they venture out into the world beyond formal education.
In 1921, school inspector George Sampson stated that, ‘Every teacher in English is a teacher of English’. There is a collective responsibility for all teachers across the Trust to model high standards in terms of all forms of communication. Whether teachers are asking questions, providing verbal feedback, offering explanations, written feedback or indeed simply discussing a topic, it is their responsibility to demonstrate clear communication skills.
Schools in the Trust enjoy creative freedom in their approach to improving literacy however, providing students with a ‘house’ approach to writing where they concentrate on how they are thinking in terms of vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation (VCOP) is a work in progress and helps to raise standards in writing. A culture of providing students with modelled examples of answers to exam questions and other assessments, in addition to providing opportunities to discuss the same, is proving to be a success. Teachers focus on key words specific to subject and wider vocabulary which enhance both written and verbal communication.
Activities in form time are provided to encourage reflection on a range of topics, encouraging literacy for thinking. Students are provided with opportunities to express their opinions and are encouraged to do so appropriately. Use of an online current affairs magazine also provides students with a stimulus that boosts standards of literacy.
At KS3 across the Trust, reading ages are tested and recorded in order that teachers can use accessible yet challenging materials for students and an online reading program is followed by the majority of KS3 students. There is also appropriate intervention to support literacy skills development, where the need arises.
Many activities occur in schools in the Trust to encourage reading for pleasure. Inspirational and literature loving English teachers inspire many students to read although it is acknowledged that this is an ongoing challenge. Books and other reading materials are selected carefully with deep consideration to each school context and the interests of the students.
The Rowan Learning Trust website refers to the following ‘simple but powerful’ ideas: ‘valuing all children, young people and adults; providing safe and nurturing settings; creating opportunities for continual growth and development; developing exceptional professionals; delivering a culture of mutual respect and fostering a learning community’. High levels of literacy will enable our students from the wider Trust community to reach these goals and to become fully functioning, happy members of society.