Phillip Chater, Head of English at Landau Forte Academy QEMS in Tamworth shares how English Mastery is making a difference in his school and how the approach has been adopted in other subjects.
When Phillip Chater became the Head of English at Landau Forte Academy QEMS in 2018, his biggest challenges were low student aspirations and retaining specialist staff. Since introducing English Mastery in 2019 he has seen improvements in students’ knowledge and attitude. Plus, he now has a strong team of experienced teachers, delivering a consistent curriculum.
‘Students are engaging with the text’
Historically, the school’s students have had low aspirations, and they currently attain below average results. The school also faces the twofold challenge of an increasing student intake and a high level of staff turnover. In 2019, Phillip decided to participate in the English Mastery research trial and has seen positive effects for teachers and students ever since.
‘Students are really engaging with the texts. For instance, the focus on gestures in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and getting students to act them out, helps bring the comedy alive.’ He noticed ‘an increase in the quantity of independent writing, students’ general understanding, and the vocabulary they’re using.’
Rather than trying to write a curriculum for his department himself – and sacrifice school holidays and weekends – Phillip has found that the fully resourced curriculum in English Mastery has led to a change in pedagogy across his English teachers. ‘We now teach fewer topics in greater depth, which helps us to unlock knowledge and ensure students understand each area and related concepts.’
Following the implementation of English Mastery and the recruitment of specialist English teachers, students are more positive about their English lessons. ‘Behaviour and lesson engagement have both improved.’ Students are also retaining more knowledge: ‘they ask more focussed questions, refer back to vocabulary they learned in year 7 and link knowledge with previous texts.’
Moving from a skills-based approach to a knowledge-based mastery curriculum in English has had a positive impact across the school. ‘We’re adopting this approach for all subjects'
‘We’re now more skilful in formative assessment’
Prior to adopting English Mastery, Phillip and his colleagues spent most of their planning time creating classroom resources and lesson schedules. ‘Now the focus is on co-planning – how the curriculum will be taught rather than what to teach.’ By running co-planning sessions with English Mastery’s implementation guidance, the department have innovated their own classroom practice and formative assessment skills. ‘We are now better able to share professional expertise, addressing our own misconceptions on how best to teach the text and the pedagogy surrounding it.’
After a few years using the programme, Phillip’s teachers have far more knowledge themselves and are quick to identify something amiss or that needs to be readdressed. ‘English Mastery has helped them to become more skilful in formative assessment.’
Formative assessment is a priority in the school, and the way it is implemented through English Mastery has been rolled out across the whole school. ‘The fortnightly quizzes are really beneficial, along with Rosenshine’s principles of instruction and coaching techniques – we’re doing these in all subjects now.’
'Noticeable difference in students’ preparedness for GCSEs'
The current year 9 is the first cohort going into GCSEs having worked with English Mastery from year 7. Although they have been affected by COVID-19, the school delivered the curriculum as planned, albeit in a different way. Phillip says that ‘a noticeable difference can be seen in their preparedness for GCSEs. It was clear there were some gaps in students’ knowledge, but we identified the gaps very quickly through the English Mastery formative assessment in class.’
The current year 7s have experienced an enormous amount of disruption due to school closures. But Phillip knows that can be overcome – ‘I am confident that, with the English Mastery curriculum, they will catch up.’
‘It supports me amazingly well with Ofsted’
In addition to the evident improvements for his teachers and students, Phillip feels better prepared for Ofsted’s new Education Inspection Framework. The English department is confident in its curriculum – teaching is consistent both in design and implementation. ‘English Mastery supports me amazingly well with Ofsted. It’s brilliant at signposting things that have been missed.
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.