Raising standards in literacy and numeracy

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Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr, Swansea, is committed to raising standards in literacy and numeracy as well as improving the level of achievement of more able and talented pupils. Teachers formed working groups to observe pupils and fed back in training sessions. Strategies were then developed to help pupils develop their skills. As a result, not only have staff skills been strengthened but pupils results have improved.


Number of children: 818
Age range: 11-18
Date of Estyn inspection: December 2014

Context and background to sector-leading practice

The school has committed to raising standards in literacy and numeracy and improving the achievement of more able and talented pupils (MAT) as its main strategic priorities for two years. In order to achieve effective work in these areas, professional working parties have been established to lead developments in terms of pedagogy in the classroom based on data evidence and empirical research which has had a direct influence on the achievement of pupils who were identified as more able and talented.

Description of nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

The school’s staff has been divided to be members of one of the working parties on literacy, numeracy and improving the achievement of MAT pupils.  The nature of the strategy was that representatives of every department across the three areas would contribute to research work in the classroom that would lead to developing teaching strategies.  In implementing the strategies, teachers would report back to the working party on pupils’ achievement in the class and then share good practice that was developed in training sessions.  Core to the work of the three working parties was the work of the peer observation trios who observed each other’s lessons beyond their specialist subject with the aim of sharing good practice in the three areas in question across the curriculum.  In doing so, teachers’ ability to observe innovative strategies in other departments was promoted.

The focus of the literacy working party was researching standards in writing in Welsh and identifying the main weaknesses. Pupils’ written work was scrutinised across the curriculum to identify the main weaknesses in language. Three sub-groups were formed and each one was responsible for one aspect, and to produce a strategy for raising standards. Then, the strategy was shared with the working party to in order to implement in the classroom before evaluating it and sharing it with the whole staff.  The fruit of the sub-group’s work was to create a  punctuation ladder, concise verb mats and a video on the rules of mutation by pupils at the school.

The focus of the numeracy working party was to produce strategies to promote improvement in pupils’ numeracy skills on the basis of data evidence, and also to develop teachers’ confidence in dealing with numeracy across the curriculum.  Plans were produced to encompass all the implications of implementing the Numeracy Framework.  Weekly numeracy empowerment sessions were established to supplement the school staff’s numeracy skills.  Termly MAThematics problem-solving sessions were held for Year 6 primary MAT groups.  Peers’ lessons were observed within the community and good practice was shared by leading whole-school training sessions for staff.  Strategies were considered to hone pupils’ skills of solving numeracy reasoning problems. Appropriate reasoning tasks were distributed to all departments to be trialled with different groups of pupils and the effectiveness of strategies was discussed, and good practice was refined according to feedback.

The focus of the more able and talented (MAT) working party was to consider ways of promoting the outcomes of the school’s more able pupils on the basis of the school’s data evidence. As a working party, research was carried out into effective strategies for challenging MAT pupils.  This included a series of lesson observations to discover successful techniques within various subjects. The main findings were shared within the working party. Then, a handbook was produced for the use of the school’s teachers to outline effective differentiated learning methods that are able to extend the able pupils within mixed ability classes.  In addition, a consequence of the activity of the MAT working party is competing for the NACE Challenge Award.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

By linking the activity of the working party with the school’s main priorities, these areas were kept high on the whole-school development agenda over time. Research was conducted into effective learning and teaching strategies to raise standards in literacy and numeracy across the curriculum and also in differentiating for MAT pupils. The work of the three working parties has had a positive effect on our outcomes, not only through training and strengthening staff skills but also through improving our literacy and numeracy provision and improving the school’s GCSE and A level results.

How have you shared this good practice?

Good practice has been shared within our Primary Cluster by arranging a joint INSET day. Visits for teachers have also been arranged within our primary cluster. There were structured opportunities for primary MAT pupils to benefit from Numeracy and Literacy enrichment sessions as part of the transition arrangements. Good practice has also been shared in Literacy, Numeracy and MAT County Networks.