Leeds West Academy


Literacy for All


‘We know that poor literacy blights life chances.  We know being able to read, write and speak with confidence and accuracy opens doors otherwise barred and bolted… In the vast majority of lessons, pupils are asked to read stuff and then write it down.  Even in those where printed material and pens are seldom seen, there is almost always a requirement that pupils listen, if not speak.  This means that every single lesson is a golden and unmissable opportunity to take responsibility for pupil literacy.  Without this, the gap between the haves and have-nots will only get wider.’  David Didau, The Secret of Literacy    

One of the key ways we will improve the literacy skills of our students is by increasing the opportunities they have to produce extended writing. By creating opportunities for extended writing we are helping foster students’ abilities to: make predictions; build connections; raise questions; discover new ideas and promote higher-level thinking. To achieve the best outcomes, we must set writing within a rich and varied teaching and learning experience with active approaches and appropriate scaffolding, where students are supported but also stretched, challenged and encouraged to grapple with challenging concepts. It is also wise for us to keep in mind that in the vast majority of our subjects, students will ultimately be assessed by the quality of their written work.  

Section 1: Academy Commitment  

This policy applies to all staff with a teaching responsibility, including Teaching Assistants, SCITT and volunteers working in, or on behalf of, the Academy.  

Everyone working in or for our Academy shares an objective to ensure a consistent approach is embedded across the school to underpin our students’ mastery of literacy. This is achieved through:  

  • Ensuring a range of opportunities are provided for students to practise and develop extended writing skills  
  • Developing the technical accuracy of students’ written communication  
  • Providing a range of opportunities for students to become competent readers who are able to access all areas of the curriculum  
  • Planning for effective spoken communication  
  • Delivery and planning of ‘Total Recall’ and explicit vocabulary instruction  


Section 2: Extended Writing

2.1 A shared understanding of extended writing  

At LWA, our definition of extended writing is that students write a minimum of three paragraphs. As a guideline, for subjects where writing is an integral element, extended writing should happen at least every four lessons to enable our students to process, organise, formulate and extend their thinking about what they have been learning.  

2.2 Scaffolds  

Students can be supported to build up the length and detail in written responses through carefully chosen scaffolds. Scaffolds are anything that gives a structure or outline in order to help students organise their ideas and can easily be differentiated. Teachers need to be mindful that the scaffold still requires the students to do the cognitive work – any scaffold that does the thinking for the student is not going to be effective in developing their skills. Scaffolds should be created in a way that means they are able to be gradually withdrawn with the student achieving the same or better standard with increasing independence.   

Section 3: Technical Accuracy  

3.1 SPaG codes  

The SPaG code sheet lists the fourteen key elements of technical accuracy students need to secure for effective written communication. The SPaG code sheet is in the Literacy folder on staff only and printed in student planners and the Teacher Guide. The SPaG codes should be used in all curriculum areas where there is a written outcome.  

3.2 SPaG marking  

Staff should use their professional judgement on how to apply the SPaG marking codes for individual students.  

Different ways the codes can be used include:  

  • The teacher identifies and corrects SPaG errors. The student rewrites the sections accurately.  
  • The teacher identifies SPaG errors. The student independently corrects.  
  • The teacher identifies the line(s) where there are errors. The student independently identifies and corrects.  
  • The teacher writes the SPaG code(s) at the end of the piece. The student independently identifies and corrects.  

Orange highlighter can be used to identify SPaG errors as the teacher deems appropriate. Corrected spellings should always be validated by the student using their dictionary. Peer support can also be a helpful way for students to improve their SPaG areas where the teacher feels this is appropriate.  

Section 4: Reading  

4.1 Accelerated Reader  

All students in Year 7-8 follow the Accelerated Reader programme. Students are provided with a one hour (per week) dedicated Accelerated Reader lesson. Reading levels and frequency are monitored by Catherine Sykes and Accelerated Reader class teachers alongside various leaders in the academy. Full details of responsibilities and how the data is used for targeted intervention can be found in the Accelerated Reader Strategic Plan.  

4.2 Well-read Academy  

Monthly high-profile reading events, including the ‘Wonder’ transition project, author visits, #getcaughtreading and World Book Day, form the LWA Year of Reading initiative, designed to engage, inspire and enthuse students, increasing reading for pleasure and boosting the results of the Accelerated Reader programme.  

4.3 Reading within the curriculum  

In curriculum areas where reading is part of the assessment process, students should be provided with regular reading opportunities. Texts should be sufficiently challenging and stretching, with techniques such as skimming, scanning, information retrieval, explicitly planned for to ensure accessibility for all students.   

4.4 Command words  

An understanding of command words is an essential element for students to perform optimally in exams. Teachers should draw attention to these in lessons. Command word poster packs personalised for each subject area should be displayed and referenced regularly.     

Section 5: Spoken Communication    

Myhill and Fisher tell us that spoken language “forms a constraint, a ceiling not only on the ability to comprehend but also on the ability to write, beyond which literacy cannot progress.” Talk is one of the most powerful levers for cognitive change; if we want to improve pupils’ ability to write, we need to improve their ability to think.   

5.1 Verbal scaffolding  

Use of verbal scaffolds can support students in articulating a developed response, maximising the quality of written outcomes. Suggestions for effective verbal scaffolding approaches, including ‘stretch it’ and ‘step it up’, are published in the Teacher Guide.  

5.2 Vocabulary acquisition and use  

  • Tier 1 – high frequency in spoken language (table, slowly, write, horrible)  
  • Tier 2 – high frequency in written texts (gregarious, beneficial, required, maintain)  
  • Tier 3 – subject specific, academic language (osmosis, trigonometry, onomatopoeia)    

A full explanation of Tier 1, 2 and 3 words is contained in the Teacher Guide. Teachers should deliberately expose students to Tier 2 vocabulary and explicitly teach Tier 3 vocabulary. The ‘Total Recall’ homework policy is LWA’s strategic approach to learning, revising, recalling and recapping stretching vocabulary.  

5.3 Questioning  

Teacher questions should be planned for to promote higher level thinking. Tools to support high quality questioning and thinking are published in the Teacher Guide.  

Section 6: CPD  

There is a continuous programme of CPD on literacy for all at LWA – it covers the fundamentals for all staff and is evaluated regularly to ensure that it reflects the latest evidence-based research. All materials, session outlines and resources will be posted on the VLE and in the network Common Area. New staff to the school will be trained in the LWA literacy approach as per the Strategy for Sustained Improvement.  Literacy CPD will continue to take place through staff briefing, Monday night training, department sessions and 15 Minute Forums. Effective literacy teaching will be monitored through Learning Observations, drop-ins and work scrutinies.