Welcome to Literacy

Supporting the literacy strategy of Falkirk Children's Services

April 3, 2020
by Y. McBlain

Literacy Support for Falkirk Practitioner Professional Learning During COVID 19

This post collates sources of professional learning for Literacy and English and was compiled by Yvonne McBlain, curriculum support officer with support from central team colleagues from Falkirk Children’s services. We hope these offer valuable support in these challenging times, but please email yvonne.mcblain@falkirk.gov.uk with comments or additional ideas.

This blog is our main Falkirk source of information about literacy and English in our establishments – you can browse examples of Falkirk practice as well as local and national updates. Our Falkirk Literacy and English Glow group  (login required) also stores hundreds of documents and ideas which we can’t share on this public platform.

Click on the text/images below to browse each site.

Education Scotland colleagues have collated a  links to online sources of materials for literacy in their Professional Learning Wakelet

These include sources such as BBC Bitesize, Scottish Booktrust, Education Scotland sites, etc.

This is a quick link to the early years Wakelet

This one takes you to the primary Wakelet

Secondary 1-S3 BGE is here and Senior Phase is available by clicking this link.

Our Forth Valley & West Lothian Regional Collaborative Literacy group have also created a blog which is full of sources and materials to extend professional knowledge and support the adaptations to practice currently required of us. These materials were designed to support all practitioners – whether teaching from home, or working in our hubs.

Yvonne Manning, principal librarian, Falkirk Children’s Services and her wonderful team have moved our Library Resource Service to its new home at our Bothkennar Hub. Click here to visit the Learning Resource Service blog and stay updated on developments including Borrowbox, reading for enjoyment and developing a reading culture.

Louise Amos and Jude Davies, Support Teachers for Specific Learning Differences can be contacted louise.amos@falkirk.gov.uk & judith.davies@falkirk.gov.uk  and have provided the following documents, materials and links to support your professional learning around specific literacy or language difficulties.

CLPL incorporating the Scottish context –

  • Click here to explore online course materials – An Introduction to Inclusive Education
  • Click here to explore Three Dyslexia online learning modules
  • Click here to explore Education Scotland professional learning

Other useful information, links and resources can be found in the Addressing Dyslexia website here. can be found by clicking image.



March 23, 2020
by Y. McBlain

Using Picture Books to Promote Primary 1 Progress in Reading at Bowhouse PS

Earlier this session, Yvonne McBlain, curriculum support teacher, Falkirk Children’s Services, met with Charlotte McManus, Acting Depute Head teacher at Bowhouse Primary School to discuss literacy. Charlotte shared literacy teaching and learning which was going well in Bowhouse, including their focus at early level on rhyme, repetition and being playful with words through songs and actions. Charlotte kindly shared some of the picture books which Bowhouse colleagues use with primary 1 learners to support their progression of reading skills. We hope this list (see below) is useful to you – but please note other texts which are helping your learners by commenting upon this post? Together we can build an engaging plethora (love that word) of suggestions! These skills are highlighted by the extract from our Falkirk Literacy & English Progression Pathway pictured above.

Early in Term 1 – Environmental sound book suggestions

1.        Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

2.        We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

3.        Farmyard Hullabaloo by Giles Andreae

4.        Peace At Last by Jill Murphy

5.       Quiet by Kate Alizadeh

6.       Rabbits Nap (Julia Donaldson)

7.       Lullaby Hullaballoo

Later in Term 1 – Authors who use rhyme

1.       Julia Donaldson

2.       Nick Sharrat ( Fairytales if focus is Fairyland)

3.       Kes Gray (oi Frog!)

4.       Jez Alborough

5.       Giles Andreae

6.       Quintin Blake

7.       Lynley Dodd

Term 2 – Books with repeated phrases

1.       Jack and the Flum Flum Tree

2.       Hairy McLary

3.       The very Hungry Caterpillar

4.       The Tiger who Came to Tea

5.       The Gruffalo

6.       Owl Babies

7.       Handa’s Surprise

8.       Mrs Mopple’s Washing Line

9.       The Day Louis Got Eaten

10.   Solomen Crocodile

11.   Brown Bear Brown Bear what do you see?

12.   Farmer Duck

13.   Don’t Talk to the Bus Driver

The Scottish Book Trust website also has resources which develop  similar literacy skills using Scots language and rhymes here – these may be useful for parents reading to their children at home too. Education Scotland National Improvement Hub resources point to this Words for Life section of the National Literacy Trust website. It offers guidance for parents on literacy activities and milestones in talking and reading which may also be helpful for family learning.

August 26, 2019
by Y. McBlain

Improving literacy across learning in Argyll and Bute

At the National Literacy Network meeting in June 2019, Claire Bryden, Principal Teacher for literacy from Argyll and Bute Council shared literacy developments ongoing with primary and secondary colleagues. The slide above captures the ultimate aim of the strategies being developed – to ensure that:

  1. All practitioners understand the importance of literacy to learning across the curriculum
  2. All practitioners understand the level of challenge required when designing literacy tasks
  3. Literacy is embedded within planning across the school
  4. Literacy learning is made visible to learners
  5. Pupils have an overview of their own literacy across the school
  6. Staff provide feedback on literacy
  7. All staff involved in the assessment of literacy

Click here to view Claire’s full presentation and learn how she is working with others to explore and combine a number of ideas, research sources and tools such as:

  • Supporting emerging literacy inspired by a variety of sources including David Fulton
  • Exploring ideas from research by Sue Ellis on the three domains of literacy
  • The development of pupil vocabulary using the Storyline approach
  • Developing interdisciplinary contexts which integrate STEM/science within relevant historical contexts
  • Defining how these contexts could progress the degree of challenge to pupils’ literacy skills and development across the curriculum in primary and secondary settings (see below)

  • Focus on the development of pupil skills – supporting these by creating simple, effective tools for pupils and staff to use during teaching (see below)

  • Linking all of these developments to aim for a shared, firm understanding of standards and appropriate pace and challenge for literacy across learning
  • Applying Improvement Science methodology to track and evidence impact

August 26, 2019
by Y. McBlain

Key Messages about Digital Literacy from the National Literacy Network Meeting – June 2019

James Miller, our FV & WL regional collaborative seconded development officer for Digital Skills presented key information and support at the June 2019 National Literacy Network meeting. The slide above captures facts which show the relevance of digital literacy for our young people as they grow. Key points are bulleted below along with useful links:

  • Experiences and Outcomes specific to Digital Literacy and Computing Science have been present in our Technologies curriculum area from the emergence of Curriculum for Excellence. Internet Safety and Cyber Resilience are sub-organisers/elements within Digital Literacy.
  • Since 2017 developments to Technologies  include a review and re-fresh of E & Os & creation of the Technologies Benchmarks
  • Key Digital Literacy documents include: HGIOS 4, Digital Strategy for Scotland refresh, Cyber Resilience Strategy for Scotland, STEM Strategy and…

  • Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through the Use of Digital Technology 2016 supports effective & appropriate use of technology across the curriculum for practitioners in all settings. It has four objectives/areas of focus: Educator Skills, Curriculum and Assessment, Access to Technology and Leadership. The document defines 40 national actions for these and sets out expectations for schools and local authorities.

James highlighted the variety of texts which are digital: emails, films, games, TV programmes, instructions, text messages, blogs, etc. He explored how literacy and digital literacy skills could be bundled or grouped in relevant ways within the broad general education (BGE),  suggesting that pupils could/should be inspired and encouraged to use digital technology in new ways to develop their literacy AND digital literacy skills i.e. naturally occurring interdisciplinary learning opportunities – see slide below with the success criteria.

Click here to view the extracts from his presentation which offer further advice about linking/progressing literacy across learning with digital literacy, including resource suggestions such as Immersive Reader – a Microsoft OneNote tool – click here – which can support development of reading comprehension, fluency and confidence in readers with English as a first or additional language.


August 26, 2019
by Y. McBlain

News from the National Literacy Network Meeting June 2019

Colleagues from the Education Scotland literacy team shared a range of news and updates at the June 2019 National Literacy Network meeting. These are summarised below with links where further information is available. The whole presentation for this section of the meeting can be accessed by clicking here.

  • As part of “Our Corporate Plan”, Education Scotland colleagues will work in regional teams with practitioners and policy makers to “support the changing system within Scotland”. FV&WL regional collaborative senior advisor will be Jackie Halawi, and our senior education officer for literacy is Helen Fairlie. We will also have access to a named SCEL Lead Specialist from the core Professional Learning and Leadership team.
  • Knightsbridge PS, West Lothian won the Scottish Education Raising Attainment in Literacy Award 2019, Blackwood PS, South Lanarkshire and Greengables Nusery & Family Centre, City of Edinburgh were runners up.
  • Seminars specifically linked to raising attainment in literacy can be seen in the slide below for those attending the Scottish Learning Festival in September 2019.

  • The Scottish International Storytelling Festival Community programme runs between 2.9.19 & 2.12.19 . Wednesday 27th November is our nation-wide Story Exchange – schools are asked to dedicate the afternoon to sharing oral tales. What local legends and tales might we share across our authority area? Use this link  to find out more about subsidies to fund visits from storytellers, request free resources, and this link to keep the Scottish Storytelling Form informed of what you are up to as part of the festival or Book Week Scotland.
  • SQA revised English Advanced Higher Course Specification – valid from 2019-20 – is available here and Course Support Notes will be added soon.
  • The recommendations of the Scottish Parliament Education and Skills Committee report on SNSA in primary 1 can be found here (Practitioner Forum recommendations) and here (Scottish Government Review 2019).
  • The National Literacy Professional Learning Community is under construction in Glow. Consultation groups have informed revisions ready for the imminent launch of this valuable new site. Hopefully we will soon be able to access the professional learning, research, resource, support and policy documents it will bring together.
  • The National School Libraries Professional Learning Community is also due for launch very soon and will support school librarians and colleagues undertaking library development with their school – from ELC to secondary schools.

June 4, 2019
by Y. McBlain

Developing the Thinking Reader Approach at Larbert Village Primary School

As part of their Larbert cluster focus on reading skills, Laura Robinson and Claire Morrison have been developing the Thinking Reader approach with colleagues at Larbert Village PS over the last 3 school sessions. Laura and Claire had both used this approach themselves previously and recognised its value for developing children’s reading skills, engagement in and enjoyment of reading. Both volunteered to jointly lead the literacy working group who were focusing on reading in their school.

Year 1 was about raising staff awareness and offering training opportunities to build staff confidence in using the Thinking Reader approach. One of the most valuable activities was the creation of a Thinking Reader resource booklet which staff made together. This booklet has proven to be a very useful tool which helps everyone plan their Thinking Reader units of work. Staff were so enthusiastic about using the approach that they took advantage of opportunities to observe and shadow Laura and Claire during Thinking Reader lessons.

Teachers noticed that the approach was having a whole range of impacts on children’s reading:

  • Increased understanding of the text
  • Greater engagement with the text
  • Raised the profile of reading across the school
  • Obvious enjoyment of the text and a real sense of how valued each text was (Book Bug books were used as Thinking Readers and became very precious to the children – they could not wait to share their book with family members – parents and relatives still comment on how often the children want to read these books at home)

This first year went so well that a  showcase event was held at the end of National Book Week to celebrate reading and share the Thinking Reader approach with parents. The Thinking Reader questions developed by staff have been turned into a poster with questions which parents can use at home when reading with their children. Laura and Claire see this as a valuable tool which they can share with parents when they ask for specific ways to support their child’s reading

Using feedback from colleagues, Laura and Claire set about increasing the range of texts available for use with this approach. Through working group research and collaboration texts were identified, then gathered to create Thinking Reader resource libraries (Book Fair and PEF funding also supported these purchases). 2018-19 focused on acquiring age-appropriate picture book texts for use with primary 4-7 pupils. Teachers felt that these texts would be accessible so that all pupils could develop their reading skills in addition to enjoying and being engaged with the texts.

Different teachers have chosen to capture/collect the learning resulting from their Thinking Readers in variety of ways. Floor books, folders, jotters and wall displays all proved useful ways to share in school plus effective use of Twitter for parents and a wider education audience. Claire’s primary 2 class were particularly inspired by a fictional book about a pink penguin – their Thinking Reader developed into a whole series of pink penguin toy adventures and the creation of a penguin rucksack which went home with the penguin each weekend.

This literacy development of the Thinking Reader approach has been successful for a host of reasons: effective peer support and collaboration; use of display and other methods of sharing; making sure that the approach is used consistently across the school; ensuring skills progression within and across stages. Laura and Claire feel that it has been a very positive journey for the whole staff, and that they can see a real increase in pupil engagement and enjoyment of reading using this approach. The Thinking Reader approach makes comprehension creative and fun so that the children enjoy taking part in the activities and progressing their literacy skills.

May 23, 2019
by Y. McBlain

Increasing engagement in reading with Primary 2 at Beancross Primary School

In March 2018 Rebecca Morrison, class teacher of primary 2 at Beancross PS began looking at ways to help her pupils make more progress in their reading. After attending a CPD session which explored enjoyment and choice in reading, Rebecca decided to make links with the local library and to involve parents who wanted to help progress their children’s reading.

With the support of her head teacher, Rebecca initially checked that Grangemouth Public Library could accommodate class visits by her pupils. The next step was to set dates which suited the library and her children’s parents. Parents were invited to join in with monthly visits to the library to read with their children, help them select books and generally promote reading and the use of the library.

So far the visits have been well attended by parents and pupils have been very enthusiastic about this shared reading experience. Some parents have become members of the library as a result of this initiative. Pupils borrow a book from the library each time they visit, returning it the following time – they really enjoy having access to the huge range of books available in the public library.

Yvonne McBlain, curriculum support teacher with Falkirk Children’s Services joined the class visit on the morning of 29th May 2019, and spoke to the children, parents, carers and grandparents attending. She asked the children how they felt about the library visits:

Kayden said “Happy. I like going to the library, I’ve been every month since I started primary 2. I read more and I enjoy getting new books.”

Hannah likes the visits because “there’s lots of books close together and I can choose anything I want.”

Siobhan said “I feel good going to the library and I enjoy that you get new books every month. It helps with my reading and sounding out words. I like getting them (right) and if I’m not sure I can ask.”

One of the mums said “It’s really good for them to be able to come down to pick a book they can read in school – the visits help them become more independent.” Mr Finlayson joined his grandson to read, commenting that “He reads all the time and has been coming to the library since he was 18 months old – it definitely has paid dividends for his reading.” Mums Jennifer and Emma feel that the visits are a very valuable experience for the children who hadn’t been to the library before. They suggested that the visits really encourage reading as well as offering a valuable opportunity to walk from school, getting fresh air, exercise and learning safe routes around their town. This was dad James’ first time being part of the library visit, and he explained that his child “seems to be enjoying it – it’s nice to see them coming to the library.”

Rebecca has been liaising with Grant, the librarian to arrange the visits and as soon as he and his colleagues had completed the mammoth task of checking out the books, Yvonne also gathered his thoughts: “We love having the kids in the library – they are the future and it’s great that they are getting into reading and literature. We have our Summer Challenge coming up (click here for more information) and it’s great that we have such good relationships with the primary schools in Grangemouth.

The enjoyment of the children was obvious during their visit, with final selection and stamping of books being particularly exciting – as can be seen from the photos.

Rebecca has observed that combining her teaching of reading in the classroom with monthly visits to the public library with parents has helped her pupils’ reading in the following ways:

  • pupils willingly choose to read for pleasure during opportunities for free choice in class
  • they are eager to look at and read each others’ books (they have read more books!)
  • the number of pupils who read at home has increased
  • parents are reading with their children more frequently than before
  • pupils who previously struggled with fluency and comprehension have improved these skills – some of them have made very significant progress

Rebecca will continue to develop this work next session through an approach called practitioner inquiry where research and more formal data measures will help her evaluate just how much difference this reading intervention makes.

May 16, 2019
by Y. McBlain

Denny Early Learning and Childcare Centre – Exploring Foundational Literacy through Play

In session 2018-19, staff at Denny Early Learning and Childcare Centre took part in valuable professional learning provided by Eveline Chan, trainee Education Psychologist with Falkirk Children’s Services Educational Psychology team.  As head of centre, Gill Torrance instigated this liaison for colleagues to support their development of foundational literacy through play with their 3-5 year old children.

Eveline worked with staff on one in-service day and 4 workshops at the end of the working day. These workshops gave staff an opportunity to develop their knowledge of theory around the various aspects of literacy and included a range of activities which helped them reflect deeply on their existing practice. The early years officers captured existing literacy practice which was working well, and also identified areas for development. They recognised how this new work also helped them build in the principles of 5 to Thrive and elements of nurture training. They then decided to create a Practice Guideline booklet to capture their learning, and this has become a highly practical tool which helps staff reflect in and on their practice.

Julie Milne is one of the early years officers who took advantage of this professional learning, and feels it has impacted powerfully on her understanding about foundational literacy:








Click on the image of Julie’s reflections to listen to the Vox Pop created by Gill, Julie & Fiona Gorrie, trainee Education Psychologist.

The Practice Guide has been issued to all staff working in the 3-5 room, to help them use the theories and knowledge they have acquired within their everyday practice. Staff worked together to create a list of ways in which they routinely develop phonological awareness, concept of print, fine motor skills and oral language through play. Click here to see the Practice Guidelines with its lists of ways in which staff feel this happens.

Gill observed that: “It was evident that staff confidence was raised after the workshops. Eveline captured everyone’s imagination, and had the data which inspired staff to develop their understanding and capacity.”

Here are a selection of quotes from staff members involved:

“If anything I would say we feel more confident as you have more knowledge”

” I think it gave you more of an insight into what the children were learning.”

Staff shared their development work at an open event for other early years practitioners, and Gill also presented to colleagues in the ELCC Manager’s Forum. The photos below show a slide which captures the workshop content and feedback from colleagues attending the open event.

Gill, Julie and colleagues are currently exploring ways to gather data about the impact of this work on children. They have created new observation and tracking tools and are in the early stages of gathering evidence of progress in each area of literacy. Initial observations of oral story telling demonstrate high levels of engagement by children and Julie noted that “Today a group of boys were transfixed by a scary story – for ten minutes. It was a spur of the moment opportunity to establish how much their active listening and engagement had progressed”. Julie has just begun to explore the tracking of phonological awareness – watch this space to see how this develops.


April 17, 2019
by Y. McBlain

News from the latest National Literacy Network Meeting

Yvonne McBlain & Yvonne Manning, Falkirk Children’s Services literacy development team members attended the latest Education Scotland National Literacy Network meeting on 15th March 2019 (note aims in slide below & click here to view the full presentation for the network meeting day). Representatives from each Regional Collaborative were seated together for the first time, meaning that “the Yvonnes” were able to work with colleagues from our neighbouring authorities as well as those from the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

Notes from agenda items:

Education Scotland Update on literacy teamJane Renton assistant director Education Scotland introduced the new national literacy team: Paul Morgan & Helen Fairlie, Senior Education Officers, Literacy and English, Kirsten Hume, Lesley Lennon and Julie Jamieson, Education Scotland Literacy and English Development Officers.

The team provided a guided tour of the new “One stop shop” Literacy for All hub in Glow –  “the Yvonnes” will send all establishments the link to this hub once it is officially launched in August-September 2019.

The Vibrant Libraries, Thriving Schools 5 year national strategy was shared – see slide above for strategy.  A Glow one-stop shop Librarian Hub – is also under construction.

Applications for the Scottish Education Awards 2019 have come from all sectors and will be judged in April/May and celebrated at the awards ceremony in June. The best applications embedded literacy well throughout the curriculum, and shared established practice which evidenced impact on learners.

There have been 18 applications to run seminars in raising attainment in literacy at the Scottish Learning Festival in September 2019. The focus this year is on achieving excellence and equity through:

  • Creating a culture of empowerment that enables everyone involved in the system to contribute to the agenda of improvement
  • The importance of wellbeing in developing a healthy, successful learning community.

The latest ACER National Report for 2017/18 – including SNSA summary overview is available by clicking here

The QAMSO literacy programme continues to develop and evolve – the  second round of moderation events will take place in May/June and will look at achievement of a level in reading/writing/listening and talking from early to fourth levels.

Click on the following links to view new literacy Resources which were highlighted :

Jennifer Harwood School Communities Officer,  Scottish Book Trust described the new Bookbug app and shared First Minister’s Reading Challenge resources (Submissions due by 1st May 2019 – new submission advice is available via “Your Reading Journey through Film” animation) – a new app is also being developed with pupils for secondary schools), a HGIOS 4 resource, and author live videos are available through scottishbooktrust.com

Professor Sue Ellis, University of Strathclyde then asked us to consider What should we think about for equitable literacy teaching? What kinds of teacher knowledge, skills, actions and guidance are required to create a truly inclusive literacy curriculum, one that challenges everyone whilst narrowing the gap between rich and poor.  Click here to read more.

Each RIC group had time to explore how they support planning and progression of literacy – “the Yvonnes” shared our Falkirk Literacy and English Progression Pathways.

In the afternoon, we heard from Mary Ann Hagan, HMI – click here to read her update on Literacy within the Scottish Attainment Challenge. Then David Swinney, Subject Implementation Manager, Scottish Qualifications Agency, provided an update and spoke about SQA English NQ resources & SQA update subscription sign up

April 17, 2019
by Y. McBlain

Key Messages from Sue Ellis about Attainment & Equity in Literacy and English

Professor Sue Ellis, University of Strathclyde, addressed the Education Scotland National Literacy Network audience with a seminar entitled “What should we think about for equitable literacy teaching? Click here to find out more about Sue & her research, and here to see her presentation. Yvonne McBlain has summarised her key points below:


Why is Literacy teaching so hard to get right? Two problematic areas – each with implications:
• Literacy is a social practice and reading is a habit of mind and language, not just autonomous knowledge and skills
• In progressing learning, teachers work to a broad horizon, not a linear track so pathways to progression vary – children will get there in different ways.

Literacy as a social practice:

  • Literacy and numeracy – all learning – is shaped by families and communities
  • What we learn depends on what we think something is for – is it about pleasure & relaxation, work, or just irrelevant?
  • How we engage depends on how familiar or unfamiliar something appears
  • How quickly we ‘learn’ depends on how we engage & on how well the differences between the familiar and unfamiliar are bridged – this is intellectual, social & emotional
  • Schools make assumptions and often need stronger and more careful bridge-building
  • For many children from low literacy backgrounds school is their main literacy experience: they learn what we teach.
  • So what do we teach? Is reading about pleasure & relaxation? About ‘having a go and being
    adventurous?’ About making different meanings & thinking new thoughts? About connecting reading to life? Or is it about worksheets & getting it right? Reading texts only if you know all the words and the sounds? Does the way we teach reading define & grade, or does it create friendships & laughter?
  • Schools can make assumptions and can also skew the focus (Ellis 2018)

Language as a habit of mind/ the pedagogy of poverty

Sue suggested that some phonetic approaches might present literacy/reading as a right/wrong or isolated and disconnected activity which lacks relevance and seems confusing to children. She encouraged consideration of teaching approaches which help children “think across the text”.  Sue described how important being read to was, and advocated the use of good picture books (particularly with early readers), listening and talking about texts and reading beyond the current capability of the child.

Sue quoted Martin Haberman:

“Before we can make workers, we must first make people, but people are not made – they are conserved and grown” 

This quote fits well with Sue/Strathclyde University development of the “3 domain model” – to help educators recognise the interdependence of each domain, and to demonstrate that focusing on any one alone in our teaching of literacy is not enough.

“The pedagogy of poverty does not work. Youngsters achieve neither a minimum level of life skills nor what they are capable of learning. The classroom atmosphere created by constant teacher direction and student compliance seethes with passive resentment that sometimes bubbles up into overt resistance. Teachers burn out because of the emotional and physical energy that they must expend to maintain their authority every hour of everyday.”

What intrinsic messages does our current curriculum send about literacy – might we have overlooked negative messages for pupils which do not fit their cultural context? Have we considered how to bridge the intellectual, social and emotional domains for pupils? Are we using the flexibility of Curriculum for Excellence to reflect upon and choose the best literacy approaches for our pupils?



Sue powerfully promoted reading to secondary pupils daily also – particularly so that they become familiar with the different types and conventions of each subject’s texts and social practices.

Would adopting a less generic literacy approach across secondary departments strengthen pupil understanding of literacy as a social practice which is essential to all aspects of their lives now and in the future regardless of the discipline they opt to follow?

“There is no “one” literacy but many disciplinary literacies.” (Ellis 2018)

How to effectively bridge between life and school?

  1. Values around books & reading – beliefs about why we read; ideas of what’s reading about.
  2. Show don’t tell: spaces to learn that books are relaxing, social, good fun.
  3. Use what children know about the world- the kinds of knowledge they have to bring, and ensure the bookstock embraces it, attend to how it makes them feel
  4. Knowledge/skills and experiences for reading: the ‘reading scheme’ is not enough!

Sue challenged current practice by exploring the ethics of differentiation, including the use of broad banding or setting pupils for literacy. If the pathway to impact is best coming from (or being bridged by) the cultural and personal domains, then we should not talk/think about able/less able readers – but about experienced and inexperienced readers. She agreed that data is needed to inform the most valuable interventions, but proposed careful consideration and “problematization” of what sort might be best – proposing that SNSA data is valuable when combined with teacher judgement and other evidence to inform the best next steps for learners.

Sue then asked us to question how we use this data – to what extent does it actually predict future achievements? She emphasised that pupil progress is not linear & shared research which suggests that teachers tend to teach to predictions – thereby imposing a ceiling on pupils’ learning. The slide above shows the percentage of pupils (England) whose test scores accurately reflected actual future achievements! Across all levels, 91% of pupils under or over-shot their predicted attainment score. (Becky Allen: Datalab) Sue expressed doubts about the predictive capacity of testing, suggesting that longer term studies are required but in the meantime, we should strive to do no further harm – but take time to consider current policy and practice regarding setting, streaming, grouping and whether traditional differentiation actually limits and constrains rather than supports and helps learners grow.

Returning to the 3 domains, Sue concluded with the bullet list in the slide below.

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