At Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls, we recognise that at the heart of improving literacy skills is the opportunity to practise them. Improving literacy and learning can have an impact on students’ self-esteem, motivation, behaviour and attainment. It allows them to learn independently and is empowering. Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls’ curriculum is underpinned by developing students’ abilities to speak, listen, read and write for a wide range of purposes, including using language to learn, communicate, think, explore and organise.
Helping students to express themselves clearly, through development of vocabulary, both orally and in writing, enhances and enriches teaching and learning in all subjects and prepares the student for life after school. We believe that reading, and particularly reading for pleasure, has a direct impact on cognitive and social communicative development. Our aim is to develop each student’s potential to the point where they are reading at, or above, their chronological age. We will quantify this development through a robust program of assessment, intervention and data analysis.
Reading underpins all we do at Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls. From independent reading, to books clubs and in-class reading, we strive to achieve a whole-school reading culture. Here are a few of the ways we promote reading within our school community:
- Library – Our school library is a popular hub where students come to discuss what they are reading, ask our librarian for advice on what to read next, or research for topics they are studying in class. With hundreds of books to choose from, pupils are given the chance to discover where their own reading tastes lie, as well as learn how reading will help them succeed in their studies. Each Year 7 pupil has a class induction session in the library where they discuss how to use a library, as well as the importance of reading.
- Read Now Starters at the beginning of every lesson, students are given a short ‘read now’ piece of text. This is designed to promote independent reading whilst also engaging the pupil in critical thinking about the topic they are about to study.
- Reading homework is compulsory each evening. Pupils must read for thirty minutes a night to develop their confidence, vocabulary and, above all, a love of reading for pleasure.
- Accelerated Reader Programme – At the Poly, we use the highly successful online platform, Accelerated Reader, to help students develop their reading skills. According to recent reports from the EEF (Education Endowment Foundation) this programme can increase the reading age of pupils by three additional months in just 22 weeks. The effect on low-income pupils was even greater, with their reading age improving by five additional months in the same amount of time.
- Form time reading – Each form group has an allocated morning dedicated to independent reading. During this time, tutors are able to check reading logs as well as encourage students to engage in discussion about the books they are reading.
- Holiday pre-reading homework - Each holiday, pupils will be provided with a homework booklet filled with an array of subject specific reading. The topic of each extract will focus specifically on their topic for the next term. This use of pre-reading has been proven to encourage critical thinking and topic engagement at all levels, as well as helping to prepare students for the term to come.
Writing goes hand in hand with reading here at Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls. Students are taught how to contextualise the vocabulary they learn through each subject and apply that to their written work. Every subject equips pupils with the tools to use the written word to demonstrate what they have been studying, why it is important to be able to write clearly about all their subjects, and how the ability to write well can positively impact their lives.
We also understand the importance of writing to express yourself, and during the academic year 2020-2021, pupils had the opportunity to work with the National Literacy Trust on their ‘Young City Poet’ project, engaging with poets and writing professionals to produce poetry about the city they live in. These are the kinds of opportunities we understand are vital to give our pupils the confidence and skills to succeed.
We know that the ability to speak well and convey your thoughts verbally is just as important for success as being able to read and write. At Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls, we strongly believe in building these skills within our pupils in order to help them as they grow into young adults.
Pupils are taught how to speak, listen and engage in meaningful discussion right from Year 7, and these are skills we know will stand our students in good stead. Right across the board, our pupils learn to speak so that their voices are heard, as well as how to add, build or challenge each other’s points in a respectful, caring environment. All subjects expect that pupils engage with their curriculum in this way, leading to outstanding engagement and discussion both between staff and pupils, as well as peer on peer.
From classrooms, to discussion groups, and into extra-curricular debate clubs, the pupils at Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls understand the importance of speaking to be understood and heard.