At its simplest, literacy is the way we interact with the world around us, how we shape and are shaped by it. It is our ability to communicate with others via reading and writing but also by speaking, listening and creating. It is how we articulate our experience in the world. At Holmfirth High, we believe high standards of literacy form the basis of success not only in school, but also in life beyond the classroom. It allows pupils to make their mark on the world. It is their way of saying ‘we are here.’
Research has shown that 1 in 6 people in the UK struggle with literacy. The UK is ranked 17th most literate nation in the world and England is the only country where 16-24 year olds have lower literacy skills than 55-65 year olds. Adults with lower levels of literacy are more likely to experience poor health and to believe they have little impact on political processes. The median hourly wage of workers with the highest levels of literacy is 94% higher than for workers with the lowest levels of literacy. Higher levels of literacy also lead to improved self-esteem, better mental health and more successful career paths.
This is why at Holmfirth High School we make improving literacy skills a priority.
Reading for pleasure plays a key role in developing literacy skills in young people, playing an important role in children’s cognitive development and is a powerful factor in life achievement.
Encouraging pupils to read for pleasure is a key area of focus in our drive to improve literacy standards. The school year consists of 3 Reading Weeks where pupils are read a short story, key reading skills such as summary and prediction are built on and both pupils and staff take the opportunity to share reading experiences.
The Key Stage 3 curriculum includes a fortnightly reading lesson, which, through the vehicle of an engaging age appropriate novel, pupils develop their ability to access texts, improve their reading skills and articulate their views and ideas using talk frames and high-level academic language.
The ability to communicate effectively is a key focus within the classroom. Improving Oracy skills has shown to increase confidence, foster well-being, improve pupils’ ability to resolve conflict. It equips them with the skills to thrive in life beyond school. 60% of employers look for the ability to communicate effectively as their top skill while 50% of employers think that school leavers don’t have these vital skills.
At Holmfirth, using the Oracy Framework, we encourage a dialogic classroom. We incorporate classroom talk in to our everyday teaching and learning and, through the use of discussion guidelines and by valuing every voice, we aim to create effective listeners and confident communicators.
When pupils leave Holmfirth our aim is that pupils have high levels of literacy. We hope that pupils are able to write like scientists and historians and talk like geographers and musicians using high-level academic vocabulary. In school, vocabulary is often a barrier for children in their comprehension of texts, their ability to articulate themselves and develop their writing. Across the curriculum we explore words, aiming to provide pupils with a greater understanding of their own language, building word depth as opposed to word breadth, which enables pupils to become more word conscious and accelerates the growth of their vocabulary. This allows pupils to access texts more effectively and the knowledge of more academic words then transfers to their written and verbal communication skills.