We spoke to the Jess Terry, Key Stage 3 English Lead, Bluecoat Aspley Academy, Nottingham about her experiences of English Mastery.
Bluecoat Aspley Academy is situated in one of the poorest areas of the country. The school has a comprehensive intake, with students of higher prior attainment and many with poor levels of literacy. Introducing English Mastery has helped teachers to support lower ability students to develop their reading and writing skills and challenge and stretch the more capable. Students are enjoying English and building more contextual understanding.
‘It saves us a lot of time’
The school works hard to drive student aspirations, and they are proud that their students achieve above national average results at GCSE. However, Jess Terry and her colleagues knew that they could do more with their Key Stage 3 curriculum to support students at GCSE. ‘Students lacked a contextual understanding in literature and language, so we wanted something that was going to build their confidence in working with texts and appreciating the knowledge behind them.’
The department has a very experienced and established teaching team, but Jess explained that they chose English Mastery because ‘it offered a fully resourced curriculum with a strong pedagogy behind it that saves us a lot of time.’ Jess’s colleague commented that ‘The resources were very welcome for not adding to our workload, especially as we’re under extra pressure with Covid catch-up.’
‘Grammar rules are really embedded’
After joining the programme, Jess began to see just how much English Mastery had to offer her students and her team. One of the first things she noted was the power of the cumulative curriculum: ‘The way that everything builds very sequentially, considering what knowledge students need to have, but then also taking things back to basics with topic sentences and handling quotations.’
The assessment frameworks have also given Jess and her team clearer insights into what students should know and remember at any point in the curriculum and gives them the confidence to identify – and close – any gaps in knowledge as they occur: ‘We really like the regular formative feedback quizzes.’ This is especially highlighted in the Writing Mastery curriculum, where students have developed their meta-cognitive skills. Jess said, ‘Our students are able to identify and articulate what’s wrong in terms of their writing. Those grammar rules are really embedded, and they have developed a culture of self-assessment.’
The recent Education Endowment Foundation report into English Mastery commented that the programme helps teachers to develop students’ oracy in the classroom, and Jess found this to be true at Bluecoat. ‘Those activities motivate students to formulate their answers before putting pen to paper, they help scaffold the lesson. That talk for writing approach is now a real feature of our teaching, and English Mastery has supported that.’
'Students now enjoy English'
Jess says that students now enjoy English: ‘They’re enthused by Literary Heritage, we get comments like "I didn't used to like English but now I do." They appreciate having the whole term to study a text.’ One of the benefits of this higher level of engagement is that students are able to grapple with more complex ideas like child labour in ‘Oliver Twist’. Jess adds that there’s been ‘a massive impact on vocabulary: their ability to articulate themselves is really strong. Our year 9 students are producing non-fiction writing that would be enviable of year 11.’
Then contact our friendly partnerships team who will be happy to talk you through the programmes and help you decide on the right approach for your school.