One of the things we have been pioneering over the last couple of years is the idea of intersectionality. This is best summed up by thinking about the weakest and most vulnerable groups in your school and how these students intersect across different areas. For instance the groups that we focus on in our school are students eligible for Pupil Premium, SEND and students highlighted as having weak literacy.
Between these three groups we cover all the vulnerable students in each year group and as individuals in charge of PP, SEND and literacy we will each be working with these students in different ways. However, if we were to do this solely as individuals (as all other schools do) then the potential ‘harm’ that may be done to the student is massive. We may all involve them in different intervention strategies, give them multiple targets to work towards, each have a different dialogue with the parents etc etc.
But, in working together we are able to coordinate what needs to be done for these students in such a way that we can benefit them as much as possible. Instead of us taking them out of lessons for all the different interventions we want them to have or setting them loads of different targets that they have to try and remember we can work together to agree on the best pathway for the student.
In the diagram above you can see an example of one of our year groups and our intersectionality work. Each circle represents a one of our foci, SEND, literacy or PP. As you can see there are a number of students that come under more than one of these sections and some that intersect with all three. These are clearly students that we need to be working together with to coordinate the best pathway for them to make the most progress.
This is great evidence and tracking but also a very visual way to explain to other people the students we are working with and the numbers involved in each year group. However, from a literacy perspective this work has been invaluable not only as a literacy coordinator but also in showing staff the impact that literacy has across the school. As you can see from the VENN at the top there is a massive link between weak literacy and SEND. 95% of students that have SEND are either categorized as this and appear on the register because they have weak literacy or because their SEND need is affecting their literacy. It therefore seems criminal for these two areas to not be working closely together. There is then the strong link between PP and weak literacy. Although it is a generalisation it does hold for a large percentage of PP students. Due to their low socio-economic background they are more likely to have literacy areas of weakness.
From these VENNs I then also produce a further piece of evidence to show the furthering impact of literacy in the classroom and it’s impact in behaviour. 3 times a year we produce data for all our students and these are contained within reports for parents. This is similar to the majority of schools with small nuances I would imagine. One of the things that teachers give students is an overall grade for their Attitude to Learn. This is made up from a number of different factors including behaviour, organisation, prep etc. They are graded from 1-4, same as the ofsted criteria, again similar to a number of schools. Using this data I then highlight students that are receiving either a 3 or 4 in more than 3 subjects. This is also cross-referenced against the number of times they have been ‘on-called’ (taken out of lessons for disruptive behaviour) and a new category is created in the VENN. This then highlights the students that have the ‘worst’ behaviour. In the VENN below you can see an example of this and can especially see the potential link between weak literacy and poor behaviour. For all the VENNs I produce on the reverse of the overall figures there is a breakdown by student name so we know exactly who the students are. I know that there is a potential that a student’s poor literacy in a lesson can affect their behaviour so part of my role is to make sure that they are catered for with the skills to be able to access the lesson but also with the correct strategies within the lesson. These strategies are importantly for the teacher as well as the student.
Through the VENNs we can see the students that need the most amount of support and where their literacy is impacting on their ability to learn in the lessons and so the strategies for the teacher, alongside the knowledge about the students weakness, helps them to adapt their teaching to cater for the student. This, especially when coupled with our ‘good literacy in the classroom is just good teaching and learning’ mantra means that these students shouldn’t slip into the category of weak literacy and poor behaviour.
The other benefit is that we can also see the students in the top category (poor behaviour) when linked to on-call data, and the final piece of information we put on the sheets; whether they are on target in English or not, we can see whether there are any whose bad behaviour is starting to affect their literacy. We want to be able to help these students before it becomes too late. This means that this information is valuable beyond our use and starts being used by heads of year and other pastoral leaders as well as senior leaders on charge of behaviour.
Tracked over the course of the year we can also see how the students move between the categories and so this allows us to prove the impact of the work we are doing as we see students move (or stay) out of the negative categories due to the work we have done with them.
Obviously this is just one small part of the work and tracking we do with students. It does however show the strong link between literacy and the classroom and how a student’s literacy can affect the learning in the classroom, further intensifying the argument that literacy needs to be tackled across the curriculum and not just in patches.