Early interventions enable students to make good progress in English and Maths and, ultimately, across the curriculum. The Learning Support Department provides intervention sessions and support to students before, during and after school in conjunction with the support provided by parents to enable a holistic approach where possible.
All students in year 7 complete an Access Reading Test. This will provide the school with a standardised reading score. This, in conjunction with KS2 data, is used to highlight any student who scores under 90. Research shows that many standardised assessments categorise scores of under 85 as below average, which identifies students who require intervention. At The Catholic High School, we raised this level to 90 to ensure that any student who may be on the cusp of average are provided with catch up literacy support. This may also be beneficial for students whose literacy levels have dipped following the six-week summer break and require a top-up intervention programme. Year 7 students also complete the Vernon Spelling Test. This, combined with the Access Reading Test, gives us a good idea of students who need support. Support staff then get to know these students and their needs so that targeted intervention can be given. We identify year 7 students who require a top up of literacy skills. These students receive literacy support once a week, in small groups, focusing on grammar, comprehension, creative writing and other skills that will enable students to succeed in GCSE English. One of the recommendations of the Education Endowment Foundation is that high quality literacy interventions should be provided to students who are struggling. They recommend proactive support, particularly in Year 7.
At the end of Year 9, students also complete an Access Reading Test. This allows progress to be monitored and also identifies any students who may have fallen behind with their literacy progress since the initial year 7 assessment. Following discussion with English teachers, we establish any students who may need support as they move into Year 10. In-year admissions will also complete a literacy screener to enable us to provide early intervention where necessary. Once students have been identified as needing literacy support, we use the Diagnostic Reading Assessment to establish particular areas of need for each student. These assessments inform planning.
Students in KS3 who receive literacy support do so in small groups. We revisit the basics and build on these, including grammar and vocabulary from KS2. Staff work hard to personalise learning experiences to develop students’ interest and ability level, in order to maximise pupil progress. Some students also benefit from re-visiting some phonics work from KS1. We challenge our high attainers in these groups to further develop their skills and to explore more complex grammar and vocabulary and use professional reports such as speech and language and dyslexia reports to guide our provision.
Literacy lessons are planned with a focus on COPS (Capitals, Organisation, Punctuation and Spelling) and lesson content is taken from a range of subjects across the curriculum, especially English, RE, Geography and History. This gives context to the teaching of literacy skills and allows pupils to see how they can apply literacy across their learning. It also means that there is often pre or post-teaching in literacy lessons. Students have reported enjoying going into a lesson and already having covered something similar in literacy, as this allows them to feel more confident and better able to participate in lessons.
Students are engaged with texts which are often linked to other areas of their curriculum. We encourage students to read and listen to stories. Exposing students to language in as many different formats as we can encourages vocabulary development. We encourage students to try, even if this means making mistakes, both in their reading and writing.
We also aim to develop students’ social and communication skills through small group work. Building on students’ current levels, no matter what they are, helps to build confidence and self-belief, something that is important to our whole school community.
Some students have an average, or above average, reading age but require support with spelling. This is done in larger groups during one form time a week for each year group. We currently use the Catch Up Your Code program in these sessions. This allows students to revisit phonics and think about how this knowledge helps with spelling. We also look at some strategies for spelling and practise using these.
We have subscriptions to Lexia PowerUp Literacy and IDL. Students access these in some intervention sessions and are encouraged to use them at home too. Information about these is sent to parents and they are kept updated of progress made.
The HLTA for literacy also monitors progress within lessons to analyse how students are implementing the strategies taught across the curriculum. This link between literacy intervention and the rest of the curriculum is particularly helpful for our students as they progress to GCSE courses.
We use the GL Rapid Dyslexia Screener in school. This is done following a referral from parents or staff. Following the assessment, parents and students are given feedback. The support we offer these students is the same whether they decide to pursue a formal diagnosis of Dyslexia or not. We support parents to find an assessor if this is something they want to do. Once a student has been assessed, whether this be a literacy assessment or a dyslexia screener, strategies are shared with staff who work with the student. The HLTA for Literacy also checks in with these students and their parents to establish what support is needed and to update them on progress.
To aid staff referrals for literacy support, there are Age Related Expectations for Year 7 and 9. These include expectations for each strand (reading, writing, speaking and listening, spelling). This is used in conjunction with the normal SEND referral forms in school.
Students who are new to the school at any point in the year also complete a literacy assessment. This allows us to see what, if any, support is needed. For our EAL students this enables us to see what level of English the student has and to offer appropriate, personalised support.
Students who receive literacy support are formally assessed at the beginning of the year and again at the end, this is done by using the Access Reading Test, or the Vernon Spelling Test for those students who solely receive spelling support. Throughout the year progress is measured in a variety of ways. During literacy sessions we use the same metacognition feedback that students are used to across the curriculum, enabling them to learn from their mistakes and develop their understanding of literacy techniques. Live feedback is regularly used to promote understanding and progress in addition to memory building strategies which are crucial to enabling progress in literacy. Regular reading and questioning in lessons also allows assessment of these skills and informs future planning. Discussions with staff, particularly English teachers, are also helpful in assessing progress from the start of the year to the end.