Developing precision teaching of oracy and phonics through an understanding of early language acquisition, using robust assessment tools.

Gloucestershire LA

1. Overview

This project aimed to develop Early Years and Foundation Stage (EYFS) and Year 1 teachers' understanding of early language acquisition and the skills of communication, thereby accelerating the process of learning against the EYFS Communication, Personal Social and Emotional Development and Literacy goals. It aimed to improve children’s ability to learn phonics and thereby increase the numbers of children achieving at least the expected standard in KS1 and KS2 reading and writing.

The main actions planned were a series of professional development sessions, specialist coaching, developing networks to provide support and share good practice and providing quality resources. Throughout the project, participating schools were supported to develop accurate assessment processes and to analyse pupils’ progress, providing robust evidence of impact.

Participating schools served the most deprived areas of Gloucester, Cheltenham and the Forest of Dean the mean index of multiple deprivation (IMD) for these schools ranges from between 27.86 and 42 and rank in the bottom 10% within Gloucestershire Primary Schools.

Pupils in the targeted schools achieve a lower GLD at the end of EYFS (between 37% and 68% when compared with the Gloucestershire average of 68.2) and are below in the Communication and Literacy strands of listening, understanding, speaking, reading and writing.

2. Good practice to share with others interested in running school improvement projects to ensure projects deliver the intended outcome.

The project lead makes the following recommendations based on elements of successful practice that featured in this project:

  1. Using the EEF Implementation Guidance – Explore, Prepare, Deliver, Sustain- as the basis of the project. We shared this with all the schools so it formed a common language and a clear approach to the implementation of the project.
  2. Working with schools to ensure that the project aligned with their school priorities and was not seen as an ‘add-on’.
  3. Keeping to the programme! – the EEF active ingredients idea. Some non-negotiable elements are needed to ensure the project’s success.
  4. ALL staff received training from the Speech and Language expert, to avoid the risk of dilution or reprioritisation of key messages.
  5. Bespoke follow up support at each school beyond the training- this helped us address any problems as they arose and respond to requests from schools, ensuring that it wasn't a 'one size fits all' approach.
  6. Midpoint meetings with teachers and support staff to share successes and unpick any barriers – feedback showed that staff valued getting together to share ideas and that it helped everyone realise that they all faced similar challenges- especially for schools that were more geographically isolated / weren't part of a MAT 

3. Lessons learned - What the project may do differently in the future

If running the project again; the project lead recommends the following:

  1. Consider when you will start the project, and how long it will run for- feedback from staff on our project indicated that training works best just before the start of a new term, ideally an academic year. The project needs long enough to get underway and have a few cycles of whatever is being implemented, so that you can see which schools have capacity to begin embedding it as good practice and which schools need further support.
  2. Make sure that the leaders of each school are completely on board and that all staff understand the purpose of the training and how it fits in with their school priorities. There was a marked difference between the attitudes of staff who had a full understanding of why there were there compared with staff who had been sent on training without any discussion with SLT of the intended outcomes.
  3. Check that the person leading the project at each school has the ability, capacity and authority to lead it effectively- or that support with this is in place if needed.
  4. Check that schools have the necessary systems in place to implement something new, understand how to measure its success and are able to monitor this effectively– don’t make assumptions!

4. Sustainability measures taken by the project to ensure improvement are sustained beyond the funding period

The project has put in place the following sustainability measures:

  1. Training for project leads- project leads attended a meeting where we used the EEF implementation guidelines to focus on how to continue the success of the project, with a focus on different ways of measuring and monitoring impact. This was followed up by a visit to each school to set up a bespoke action plan detailing the next steps for the school.
  2. Support networks- we have set up links between schools on the project based on existing links, similar needs and staff expertise.
  3. Future training - participating TSAs have agreed to host future training dates for new staff from schools across the project. Five of the lead teachers have expressed an interest in supporting other schools in setting up similar project.
  4. Working with schools to show how their existing monitoring systems can be used to assess the impact of the project - you can see from the evidence submitted in this report that where appropriate, schools have started to use their own ways of collecting and measuring impact.
  5. Feedback to LEA advisors - we have met with our LEA link advisor to feedback on the stage that each school has achieved with the project. We have passed on key information about the project for the advisors to use when they visit the schools.
  6. Gloucestershire Heads Conference - we were asked to present our key findings and successes at a seminar at the Heads Conference in March, and have been asked to participate at the upcoming Closing the Gap conference.
  7. Collaboration with the English Hub - in March, we hosted a showcase for the English Hub at one of the pilot schools. 26 participants attended from schools across Gloucestershire and we have been asked to host another showcase as other schools have indicated that they would like to attend. We are working with the English Hub to carry out development days in the schools that expressed an interest in having similar Oracy support, and will be supporting them in implementing their action plans.
  8. Oracy conference- we have worked with the English Hub to organise an OUP Conference for Gloucestershire schools, with a high profile keynote speaker.