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Leading on Literacy During Lockdown: Archway Learning Trust, Nottingham

Article written by the National Literacy Trust


The Nottingham Emmanuel School is one of five secondary Archway Learning Trust schools, including an internal alternative provision setting.  Developing and consolidating the leadership of literacy is a key priority and Trust leaders have taken a proactive and co-ordinated approach to this. Professional development and training for literacy leaders and teachers is high on the agenda, supporting the core principles of a community of practice: “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”(Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner, 2015) –  principles which also sit at the heart of the Literacy for Learning programme, which Archway Learning Trust secondary schools are participating in.

Each school has at least one designated literacy lead, whose work is supported and co-ordinated across the Trust by Geraldine McCauley, member of the Central Education Team for Archway Trust and MAT wide Lead for English. Geraldine, who has oversight of the strategic work to develop literacy in all of the schools recognises the value of bringing the literacy leaders together on a regular basis through Literacy for Learning training events and the Archway commitment to continuing professional development for all colleagues, which designates Thursdays afternoon’s for this purpose. The approach exemplifies the core principles of building an effective community of practice; namely the time and opportunity to build relationships, to engage in shared activities that enable practitioners to learn from one another, and to develop a repertoire of strategies and resources to address shared issues. During lockdown, literacy leaders from across the Trust have continued to work together to ensure that literacy remains high on agenda. Geraldine McCauley discusses the benefits of collaborative working to drive forward literacy and ‘build the life chances of our students’.

This is the wonderful advantage of being part of the Archway Family, which provides the opportunity for likeminded colleagues, who share a passion for literacy to further develop strategies and approaches to unlocking the power of language and meaning. All inset is rooted in theory and provides a rich and fertile ground to enhance practice and in doing so build the life chances of our students.  It has been wonderful to work with so many enthusiastic and committed colleagues from a range of experiences and a range of positions within the Trust.  The Principals from each of our Trust schools endorse the work of our Literacy Coordinators and recognise literacy as a priority.  Colleagues in all our schools are never complacent and are continually reviewing their approaches to reading, writing and oracy. Form time reading and the work of our librarians have been central to the whole school initiatives to ensure that reading for pleasure is priority across the Trust. Our work as a Trust has been further enhanced by the partnership and training opportunities with National Literacy Trust and we all look forward to working together to further enrich the lives of our students within Archway Learning Trust.’

“Throughout the 2019-20 academic year we have focussed on vocabulary acquisition and development of reading skills. As we are now setting students work to complete from home, it is important that we remember the progress that we have made so far this year and that we try, where possible, to continue promoting vocabulary acquisition and the development of reading skills.”

The recent Ofsted report for The Nottingham Emmanuel School recognised the high priority that Archway Trust school leaders are placing on developing students’ disciplinary literacy skills within the curriculum Leaders have placed a high priority on developing pupils’ literacy and reading skills”, alongside a focus that the Trust schools have on reading for pleasure: “They (teachers) encourage pupils to read for pleasure. Staff and pupils read together in tutor sessions, sharing a range of challenging and engaging texts’. In lockdown, the focus on supporting students with disciplinary literacy and reading has become an even greater priority, and remains a key focus for all the Trust schools as articulated by the literacy leads at The Nottingham Emmanuel School.

Here are the some of the ways that Literacy Leaders in the Archway Learning Trust are supporting their teachers and students to keep literacy high on the agenda during lockdown:

  • A ‘literacy strategies for home’ learning pack has been produced for teachers, outlining ways that teachers can incorporate strategies to enhance vocabulary acquisition and reading skills into home learning. The document includes a number of templates that teachers can use such as a virtual word wall, a sheet which helps students to summarise what they have read and comprehended, a table to help students to re-word and fully understand exam questions, as well as ideas on how to set work to develop speaking and listening
  • A CPD folder has been created for all staff to access, with literacy-related academic articles and web links
  • Curriculum leaders are keeping their teams focused on teaching tier two vocabulary, and encouraging teachers to embed this vocabulary in their curriculum provision
  • Students have been provided with knowledge organisers that follow and support the curriculum in each subject. Each knowledge organiser includes tier three language which is key to the curriculum as well as fundamental pieces of knowledge. The knowledge organisers are available for all students to access on the school website along with a list of strategies that advise how they can best use them
  • A school Instagram account is being used to promote well-being through reading
  • ‘Lockdown Audiobook’. Staff volunteers at The Nottingham Emmanuel School have been recording themselves reading (as they would have been doing in school with their Year 7 students) adding images to enhance understanding of the story .These recordings, which will also include a famous author, will be released for students to view on the school website: “The most exciting part of this is Benjamin Zephaniah has read and filmed the last chapter of Refugee Boy especially for our students!”
  • Students are encouraged to use Accelerated Reader to quiz at home, and engagement and effort and is being rewarded
  • Students have been actively encouraged to access the Royal Shakespeare Company’s live lessons and National Theatre learning resources
  • There is a focus on the wider curriculum and enrichment. Bluecoat Wollaton School have compiled a collection of free reading resources, audiobooks, plus recommendations of TV, films and theatre productions for Key Stage 3 and 4, which can be found on   shared  google classroom  ‘Broadening Minds’ – Extra Curricular/Wider reading tabs.
  • Project booklets have been created to encourage extra- curricular activities that tie into reading and writing. The ‘Wollaton Bulletin’ has a google classroom where students can share ideas and have created their first podcast
  • Links have been established with a local care home, and students attending school have been writing to individual residents and carers “to encourage them and ensure they do not feel forgotten” and to give students “ a sense of purpose and positivity in reaching out to the vulnerable” .This also gives students the opportunity to practise functional skills and writing for a real purpose
  • The free National Literacy Trust Game Changers resource aimed at students in alternative provision, is being used as a transition unit.


The Archway Trust is part of a group of 12 schools in Nottingham participating in the National Literacy Trust Literacy for Learning Programme – a 2 year funded CPD national programme comprising 46 schools, whose aim is to develop a community of leaders and teachers of literacy on a local and national level.  From October to January, literacy leaders and subject practitioners from the 12 schools in Nottingham had been meeting regularly at Literacy for Learning training events, workshops and network meetings to develop and share best practice. The Regional Lead for Literacy for Learning, Charlotte Malik, has seen the impact that collaborative working at a local level can have and  the all-important benefits to students: Coming together at training gave time for colleagues to think, talk and share their ideas and best practice. Teachers from different schools quickly started learning together, identifying key issues and working on strategies to address them together. The opportunity to learn new strategies and translate them into classroom practice within the sessions enabled them to support their students’ learning in school the next day. When a teacher leaves a session saying that she didn’t know literacy could be so much fun, it was clear that her students would become the beneficiaries of her enthusiasm and confidence”.    

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