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Literacy at Burntwood School

"But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew, upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions think."

Lord Byron, Don Juan

At Burntwood School we are sharply aware that one of the greatest determiners of the future success of our students is their level of literacy. Fluent readers and writers stand a far greater chance of achieving highly in their GCSE and A Level exams and beyond. In order for students to flourish in their exams, they need to have accumulated a word hoard of around 50,000 words; therefore, literacy is at the core of everything we do.

It is our belief that every teacher is a teacher of literacy and thus it is a priority for every subject within the school to ensure that our students can express themselves fluently, articulately and confidently.

In order to support our students in developing their literacy skills as they progress through the school, time is dedicated during tutor periods to enhance their literacy skills. This includes allocated reading time, a focus on spellings and investing time in learning 'tier two vocabulary' (academic vocabulary that is very likely to appear in texts and assessments across the school). In Years 7 and 8, students will take part in the Burntwood Spelling Bee and two Spelling Champions will be announced in each of these year groups.

Outside of our core academic curriculum, we offer a range of opportunities to inspire and support our students in developing their literacy: whether students take part in our annual Shakespeare Schools Festival, hone their writing skills in our Creative Writing Club, stand on their soapbox for the annual Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge or learn the ropes of journalism as part of the Young Reporters scheme, every student is encouraged to prioritise their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.

Zoe Mensah of Burntwood School was crowned the winner at the 2018-19 “Speak Out” Challenge! Wandsworth Regional Final with a speech entitled ‘Redefining Hate’:

All of our students in Year 7 receive a free Language Journal; this literacy tool encourages our students to be conscious of the vocabulary they are developing through their time at Burntwood and to take some ownership and control of their literacy. Through the use of this booklet, students are encouraged to add new vocabulary to their word log and to revise key vocabulary from across their subjects. Furthermore, selected Year 7 students will have the opportunity to develop their reading skills with the support of our dedicated team of Sixth Form Literacy Buddies, who will invest their time to support our younger students in reading aloud, working on refining their intonation and emphasis to develop their confidence when reading.

Of course, some of our students will find developing their literacy a challenge. Therefore, we offer a rigorous literacy programme for students in Years 7 and 8 who require additional support in gaining the required level of literacy to access the curriculum within the school and the world beyond it. Using the literacy programme, Literacy Planet, students are given a high level of support to enable them to thrive across their subjects. An additional literacy programme, led by experienced members of our English department, and spearheaded by our Literacy Coordinator, aims to develop students' confidence in this area to ensure they can flourish across the breadth of subjects studied within the school. 

Browse our Pupil Premium document which outlines the impact of our Literacy programme:

Burntwood School Pupil Premium Policy 2023-2024

Through the implementation of our whole school marking policy, all teachers mark literacy errors when they provide detailed marking. We also encourage students to take ownership of their own literacy and check for errors in their own work before submitting it to their teachers.

An integral part of our mission to support students in developing their literacy is our state-of-the-art library which provides our students with an open and extensively-resourced space to delve into works of literature and non-fiction. Our library is fully staffed and provides a haven for students who love reading, whilst encouraging our more reluctant readers to begin their reading journey with aplomb. All of our students in Year 7 receive library skills training to ensure they make the most of the opportunities that are provided for them. Furthermore, the library regularly hosts professional authors, book fairs, competitions and much more in order to inspire, motivate and support our students.

Library Suggested Reading

Our aim at Burntwood School is to ensure that every student is able to find their voice, to fluently express themselves and develop a level of literacy that equips them to succeed in the world.