St Ursula’s School

Literacy Across the Curriculum

At St Ursula’s we recognise the importance of developing students’ literacy.  We understand its link to GCSE outcomes and beyond that to our students’ life opportunities.  The diagram below sets out how literacy is taught across St Ursula’s curriculum.


All students sit reading age tests at the start of the academic year.  The data from this is used to support students’ literacy via the programmes shown in the diagram above.  Those students whose scaled score is significantly below that for their chronological age are assessed further using the York reading test (YARC).  These students will receive additional catch up support through early morning reading and withdrawal from literacy in form time.  Phonics support will be provided by TAs.

In the Spring Term we will be launching our Year 7 Reading for Success where students read at home every evening.  Also, in Spring Term we will start our tutor led reading programme in form time.

In addition, we develop students’ reading through their subject curriculum and in Years 7 & 8 in library lessons.

Disciplinary literacy

Our curriculum schemes of learning have a focus on subject literacy.  All subjects have disciplinary vocabulary that subject experts use to communicate within their subject community.  Each subject has conventions for writing about the bodies of work in their subject area in order to communicate knowledge with others.  To know the best thinking of experts in our subject, students need to read and comprehend the meaning of what they read.  The following are headings and questions that are in our curriculum schemes of learning showing where we set out our subject literacy:

  • Vocabulary: which tier2 and tier 3 words should students know by the end of this topic?
  • Reading: which pieces of text will students read in this learning sequence?
  • Writing: which sentence structures should students use to demonstrate their knowledge in this topic

Subjects support vocabulary by providing students with the new words that they will hear and see in the lesson.  This might be through a lesson PowerPoint slide or written on the board by the teacher.   This includes include both Tier 2 (the more complex words that are used in everyday language) and Tier 3 words (subject specific words).  Teachers rehearse the new words together with the students so that they hear what the word sounds like. 

Each subject uses sentences structures that develop academic writing in their discipline.  These are part of the curriculum schemes of learning where the many different types of sentences that will be used are set out to support independent writing by the students.

Developing teacher practice

Each week in staff briefing there is a focus on developing one aspect of teacher practice.  A training resource is provided in these briefings.  For example there has been a focus on checks for understanding, differentiation and on literacy.  In addition, as part of the three weekly teacher development programme teachers have received training in developing literacy across the curriculum both through their role as a subject teacher but also through their role as form tutor.

Literacy across the curriculum

This section is about empowering children by empowering parents.  It is about the significant role parents / carers play in developing a child’s literacy skills.  Here, we highlight the importance of reading and the invaluable investment of your time.


Research has shown us that if you read to your child from an early age and listen to her read in her early teenage years, you will have helped her acquire an extensive vocabulary, language to express herself as well as sparking an interest in the wider world.  You will also have helped to develop and discipline her attention span and concentration.  In all, you will have given essential tools to your child enabling her to confidently express herself verbally and in writing.  The most able pupils are pupils who have been read to, listened to whilst reading and encouraged to read.  As a result, by the time a child is at secondary school, being presented with a challenging text, will not seem so daunting or unachievable. 

Your child does not need to be faced with long and arduous books to read at home, reading short stories would be a great start.  Reading from cover to cover enables a child to see how a plot develops; she will be able to piece together aspects of a character as it unfolds, she will see new words in context and get a sense of what is being conveyed, new ideas might be presented to her which she might never have thought of and she will start to develop the ability to see the world and issues from different perspectives.

Please click here for information about Immersive Reader.

Questions to ask when reading
The most important part you can play in the whole experience is when a child is asked to reflect on what they have read.  Open-ended questions which do not have a ‘right’ answer give your child the confidence to respond in creative ways without being afraid of being ‘wrong’. You will make your child think critically. Even if you have time to only ask one question, for example:

  • “What do you think might happen next?”
  • Why do you think he / she acted that way?”
  • Does this remind you of anything from your life?”
  • If you were that character, how would you have persuaded him / her to turn himself/herself in?” (rather than “What was the main character’s name in the book?”)

Your child might respond with even more thought-provoking questions so continue to encourage her higher levels of thinking. By giving the opportunity for your child to reflect, you will have transformed her from a passive reader to an active reader.

Book Lists
There are so many great books to choose from, sometimes it is hard to know where to start to make your family a ‘reading family’.

For more contemporary books, there are many recommended books from various Children’s Book Awards (e.g. The Guardian’s Children’s Fiction Award, Costa Children’s Award and Blue Peter Book Award).

Reading different genres of books opens up a wider world. Reading the classics gives your child a glimpse of the past.  Your child will look into the context of a book and discover what influenced the writer.  This is all good practice for future work in KS4 English.


Through reading, your daughter will widen her vocabulary.  To accelerate this process and expose children to language that they will come across in all subjects in KS3 and KS4, we are encouraging pupils to regularly use Bedrock Learning.  Pupils will have completed an Alpha Test at the start to gauge their knowledge of vocabulary, and will then have been placed on a series of lessons (Block 7 / Block 8).  Each Block has a number of topics and each topic has 10 lessons.  Before a pupil starts a topic, she will do a pre-test.  At the end of the 10 lessons, she will do a post-test.  Pupils can view their results on their Bedrock Learning account and see their progress.  This system motivates pupils to improve their percentage points.


How can I help my child learn spelling?
Parents / guardians can ensure that their daughter can confidently spell the first 300 High frequency words at the start of secondary school.

There are various techniques to learning spelling and one of effective way is the look, cover, write and check method.


Help with Writing

When reading a child’s writing, it is immediately apparent how much a child has read.  Your child’s writing will be as good as her reading.  At school, a child will learn about different writing styles; what the purpose of the writing is and be aware of their audience.


How can I support my daughter with her speaking and listening skills?

Speaking in standard English – some common errors or ways students should avoid starting off their sentences in order to maintain a formal tone.

  • Basically
  • Right
  • Could of
  • Like
  • ‘Yeh but’
  • I want to ‘arks someone’ (Ask (aahsk) someone)
  • Could of (could have or Could’ve is correct)
  • Would of (would have or would’ve is correct)
  • Kinda
  • Ain’t it? (is it not?)


School Reports

Every teacher in St Ursula’s is a teacher of literacy. Your daughter’s teachers will report on the literacy of your daughter in their subject area. Developing, Secure and Exceptional are the three grades. Here are the descriptors to help you support your daughter in moving towards/maintaining exceptional standards of literacy across all her subjects:


  • Complex words are spelled with accuracy.  Uses a full range of consistently accurate punctuation.
  • Ambitious syntax and sophisticated range of vocabulary.
  • Wide range and varied use of connectives and detailed development of ideas.
  • Confident, mature and fluent use of Standard English. 
  • Excellent evidence of green pen and DIT.


  • Occasional errors in spelling complex words. Uses a range of punctuation.
  • Uses a range of different sentence types. Attempts ambitious vocabulary.
  • Uses key connectives and extends ideas.
  • Mostly secure use of Standard English in formal situations.
  • Good evidence of green pen and DIT.


  • Frequent errors in spelling common and technical words. Limited range of punctuation.
  • Mostly uses simple and compound sentences.
  • Needs prompting for connectives and a writing frame for longer writing pieces.
  • Insecure use of Standard English in writing and speech.
  • Little evidence of green pen and DIT.