UKLA Literacy Schools of the Year on the Award

UKLA Literacy Schools of the Year: “It has allowed us to believe more in ourselves and in what we are doing”


Flair and creativity in the literacy curriculum. Enthusiastic staff who are committed readers and writers. A determination to make a difference to their pupils and community. These are all the qualities the UKLA looks for when making its annual award of Literacy School of the Year.

The UKLA judges the entries based on criteria grounded in international research and experience of best practice in literacy. But what do teachers themselves think are the key qualities needed for engaging children in literacy? We spoke to some of the previous years’ award winners to find out.

Kim is the headteacher of High View Primary School in Plymouth. She says that having teachers and staff who are passionate about literacy teaching and learning is essential. “If they are enthusiastic and have the drive to ensure children engage with literacy learning then they will naturally deliver engaging lessons,” she says, adding how it is also very helpful for teachers to have an excellent understanding of the children’s prior experiences and knowledge.

Up in Aberdeen, Elaine Page and the teachers at Woodside and Danestone Schools like to focus on encouraging and developing a “whole school culture where learners, staff and parents actively lead initiatives and where a love of reading is fostered”. Elaine says that they capture learners’ interests through a variety of text including film, music videos, adverts, novels, non-fiction text, newspapers and many others. “This use of a wide range of texts, has excited and enthused our pupils and allowed us to motive, even the most reluctant reader,” she explains.

The headteacher of Horfield Primary School in Bristol, Jenny Taylor, believes that teacher autonomy in choosing their own texts is essential to enabling teachers’ passion, enthusiasm and creativity. “A teacher’s own choice of a high quality text for classroom study is key to promoting meaningful, memorable learning for all pupils,” she says. “We use high quality children’s literature as a jumping-off point into immersive learning so that a world of words is opened up for the children we teach.”

For Jacqueline McBurnie at St. Anthony’s Primary School in Renfrewshire, the biggest game changer for their literacy education came when staff started reading more children’s literature themselves. “This increased knowledge then allowed us to recommend books to children, knowing there would be a connection,” she says.

For all four schools, winning the Literacy School of the Year award, was a very beneficial experience that contributed to increased enthusiasm among both pupils and staff. As Jacqueline McBurnie says: “It has allowed us to believe more in ourselves and in what we are doing. The award has given us the determination to keep working hard knowing that we can make a difference to the children that we are privileged to serve.” Jenny Taylor believes that, “Working alongside and learning from UKLA researchers and expert practitioners has helped us to reflect on our methodology and has kept us at the forefront of new literature and cutting edge pedagogy. It is exciting and energising to share ideas with like-minded people.”

If you’d like to learn more about new and exciting ways to approach literacy teaching, why not come along to our national conference on Saturday 16 March. With a programme designed to showcase and celebrate the work of the winning schools, participants will also get to hear from Fleur Hitchcock, the children’s author, Tracy Parvin, UKLA President and Marilyn Brocklehurst of the Norfolk Children’s Book Centre.

UKLA National Conference 2019: Sharing Inspirational PracticeCelebrating the work of the UKLA Literacy Schools of the YearSaturday March 16th, 2019
10:00am – 3:00pm Horfield C of E Primary School, Bishop Manor Rd, Bristol BS10 5BD

Book your ticket here

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