St Joseph’s Catholic Primary cluster, Swansea – Grammar, Punctuation and Reading Comprehension skills

School profile

This primary cluster is made up of four Catholic primary schools across Swansea. St Illtyd’s Primary in Bonymaen, St David’s RC Primary School in West Cross, St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School in Greenhill and St Joseph’s RC Primary School in Clydach. The four primary schools are from very different contexts, ranging from 25% FSM at St Illtyd’s to 3.3% FSM at St David’s. In addition to this St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary was recently amalgamated from an Infant and Junior school and has had three head teachers in the last three years.

All four primary schools are in a yellow category for support and challenge.

What were we asked to support?

Initially we were asked to deliver training to the cluster’s teaching assistants on developing Reading Comprehension skills. On discussion with the two St Joseph’s this then grew to delivering the same training for teaching staff in Clydach, and grammar and punctuation training for all staff over three days in Greenhill. All of the training was focussed on interactive tasks that could be completed with pupils linked closely with yearly expectation statements from the Literacy Framework.

What did we do?

The training was broken into three distinct elements:

  1. TA Reading Comprehension Training – This support mirrored that delivered to the teaching staff but had a clear focus on supporting teaching assistants to identify the learning outcome of each activity they support. We felt that support staff training was often a watered down version of training delivered to teaching staff, yet teaching assistants have a very different role in school. As a result the training provided support staff with a list of questions to help them identify and support the learning objective of that task with the child rather than completion of the task alone.
  2. Teaching Staff Reading Comprehension Training – The focus
    for this training was the link between “Recall & Retell”,
    “Reading for Meaning” and “Inference and Deduction”. These
    three key reading comprehension skills support each other,
    and without proficiency in one, it is impossible to excel in the
    others. In a departure from expected practice we based our
    training on flash fiction texts, which are super short stories that
    are still entire texts and perfect for Higher Order Reading skills.
    The texts challenged staff’s own reading and inference skills, so
    they understood more fully the challenges that pupils face. The
    practical strategies employed during the training to develop
    these skills also highlighted the need for reading
    comprehension activities to be explicit about the process of reading for meaning.
  3. Grammar & Punctuation Training – St Joseph’s broke the training into three sessions, Yr. 5 & Yr. 6, Yr. 3 & Yr. 4 and FP. Each training session covered all of the grammar and punctuation skills but looked more closely at those identified by staff as being relevant for their pupils. In most cases this was 2-3 years below the age appropriate skills. The training was packed with interactive, kinaesthetic activities for pupils, online resources, exemplification materials and games. We looked at what skills pupils needed in order to access the start of the Literacy Framework skills, and what actions staff could complete across the school including in Nursery to make grammar and punctuation learning fun, accurate and effective.

All of the above training included our diagnostic activities resources which allow staff to accurately and consistently identify pupils’ current ability and their next steps for skill development.

Expected Impact

  • All staff now know how to use the continuum of progression within the revised programme of study for English and the Literacy Framework to accurately diagnose pupils’ current ability, what the child “can do” rather than the NC Level best fit approach, which has limited use in informing planning.
  • St Joseph’s Cathedral School with our support have identified common activities and strategies for use from Nursery to Year 6 to develop pupils’ metalanguage and ability to deconstruct and manipulate language. These strategies include colour coding parts of speech, and an agreement as to consistent whole school definitions for those parts of speech.
  • All schools now have a clear understanding of how the skills supported in training from the Literacy Framework link with each other, and which skills need to be fully acquired in order to support the development of higher order skills.
  • St Joseph’s Cathedral School has also identified a list of parental engagement activities including Language Investigations that the school will be promoting in order to raise the profile and understanding of the study of language.

Next steps for the school

All four schools will continue to work together on sharing best practice for Reading Comprehension, Grammar and Punctuation. They are also planning to utilise the national reading test diagnostic to evaluate pupil progress in light of the curriculum changes and pedagogy changes they will be making over the coming months. St Joseph’s Cathedral School noted in particular the advantage of having bespoke training across the whole school in order to develop a consistent whole school approach that made a measurable difference.

For details of evaluations from these training events please see the link below: