English Subject Leaders: A Teacher’s View

Published on: 
Tuesday, 12 November 2019 - 4:20pm
By: 
Sadie Phillips, KS2 English Teacher at Blackheath Preparatory

 

Being given the role of Literacy Lead can be a daunting prospect, especially if you are in your first few years of teaching… it’s difficult to know where to start! As English encompasses so much – and weaves its way through the entire curriculum – I found it quite overwhelming and struggled to identify what to focus on first. Then, in September 2018, I enrolled on the CLPE’s English Subject Leaders Course, which acted as a guiding light, helping me to navigate my way through an academic year as Literacy Lead.

I had been on a few of the CLPE’s fantastic one day courses previously, but I absolutely loved the idea that their English Subject Leaders’ course with training days spread across a whole academic year. It allowed me to build relationships with everyone on the course and gave me an instant support network of other subject leaders and professionals from day one. Hosting one session per half term also allowed me time to reflect and implement changes in school before attending the next session. The course structure and specific ‘gap tasks’ meant I always left the CLPE with renewed enthusiasm, energy and focus.

At the beginning of the academic year, after Day 1 of the course, we held a staff meeting to discuss our current English provision across the school. Straight away, we were able to use the CLPE’s tools to evaluate our current provision. Completing a self-evaluation is always a good place to start and the introductory session had armed us with the perfect mechanism for this. We used the CLPE’s staff voice and pupil voice questionnaires, as well as their fantastic Reading and Writing Scales, to help us evaluate progression throughout the school, as well as recognise our strengths and key areas to work on. We considered planning, quality texts, teaching and learning, whilst also looking more closely at the school’s English policy and how effectively our ‘vision’ was communicated to staff.

Like many school policies, we found that it was quite lengthy and somewhat convoluted, so we worked on streamlining it to include only what was essential. As a staff, we discussed what we wanted English to look like in our school and collectively decided that we wanted children to:

  • be inspired and excited to read and write
  • understand who (audience) and what (purpose) they are writing for
  • have an in-depth understanding of language, the writing process and how authors’ choices can impact the reader
  • develop a love of literacy that extends beyond school

From this, we then developed a short, succinct ‘mission statement’ that we felt encapsulated what we all wanted to achieve. By involving staff from the get-go, we already had buy in to our new vision for English and summing up what we wanted to achieve in a single sentence allowed us to clearly communicate our vision for literacy across the school.

“To instil a lifelong love of reading and writing through a creative curriculum that is exciting, engaging, inspiring and purposeful.”

Across the duration of the English Subject Leaders’ course, we continued to develop English to include an extensive range of meaningful, engaging opportunities for children, which helped to raise standards of reading and writing across the whole school. Many new quality texts and teaching sequences were introduced into the curriculum (supported by the CLPE’s excellent bank of online resources), as well as exciting trips, experiences and author visits across the entire school. In turn, this had a huge impact on improved student attitudes towards literacy by the year’s end.

There are so many reasons why the course has had such a huge influential impact on my teaching and leadership. For one, the incredibly knowledgeable staff at the CLPE have introduced me to a range of exciting (and effective!) teaching techniques and strategies that I was able to take straight back to the classroom. My eyes have also been opened to a range of new and exciting quality texts and how to utilise these in the classroom to engage and inspire even my most reluctant readers and writers, helping them to reach their full potential. I’ve personally enjoyed exploring the stunning CLPE Literacy Library during each session to expand my own reading repertoire.

My experience on the CLPE English Subject Leaders course transformed our approach to teaching English and unified us, as a whole staff, with a renewed commitment and dedication to raising standards across our primary schools. The fresh ideas and teaching strategies breathed new life into our lessons and helped our teachers (and children) to fall in love with literacy again! The support from the passionate, inspiring CLPE staff and other teachers on the course has been a lifeline as I’ve navigated my way through another year of curriculum leadership. I would highly recommend this course to any teacher or English Leader – I only wish I had started it sooner!

Download our Free Reading and Writing Scales to help you identify and plan for progress in learners aged 3-16 year olds.