Literacy Leaders – What works? by @snelling321

Guest post by: Nicola Snelling

The contentious issue of literacy rages as strong as ever in the teaching community and continues to be given great precedence from the powers that be.

With that in mind, here are a few practical suggestions and ideas I have attempted to implement over recent years which may be of use to new, like me, and even perhaps more experienced literacy leaders.



It is crucial to begin any literacy development with an audit to ascertain what is existing in your school setting, what is working well and what is needed to improve. The National Literacy Trust @Literacy_Trust have a great programme to support auditing of literacy. I set up my own audit and would be happy to share this with anyone with a DM to @snelling321 if it would help. This audit then needs to be analysed and an action plan set up - again DM @snelling321 if you would like an action plan template. Once you have targets you can then establish who will help you on your journey! For me, my first target was developing a coherent literacy policy.


As I highlighted in my previous article, ‘Literacy - Finding the Balance and the Belief‘, many staff members will feel anxious about what is expected of them when it comes to literacy within their subject so show them what you want.

This could include:

  • showing staff what literacy looks like in your subject and how you plan for it or mark for literacy;
  • going into departments and offer your support - set up a reading board or offer guidance on setting literacy objectives or targets;
  • telling staff what you can see is already working really well;
  • holding staff meetings/INSET training to ensure all staff have the same clear message as to what is expected from them;
  • providing resources for staff and display materials for classrooms promoting literacy;
  • providing staff with a ‘Literacy Staff Pack’ containing key documentation, such as your Literacy Policy, Literacy Programme of Study etc., and key resources, such as text guides, glossaries, reading lists. This is something I have had in the pipeline for a while and hope to roll out soon after hearing of its success at another school.


Collaboration is key to any successful literacy development in your school setting. So, attend all the local network meetings you can as this is where I gather so many fantastic ideas from a range of wonderful colleagues across the county.

Set up a working group within your school too and get together a team of ‘literacy champions’ to help promote and develop literacy within the different subject areas. We are probably a little behind in this aspect. I attempted to set up literacy drop-ins a few years ago and attendance to these was poor. However, this year, with the backing of senior leadership, a literacy focus group will meet regularly to discuss literacy developments. This highlights another key requirement in developing literacy too - support from your senior team.


In any school as all the literature will tell you, a culture of reading for pleasure is a key aspect of literacy development. I am lucky at my school as we have a ‘Pick-up-a-Book’ scheme, which I know some schools call the DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) scheme and pupils have one hour of reading time each week on a rolling timetable and this encourages staff and pupils alike to foster and sustain a love of reading. This has enabled us to set up intervention for weaker readers and use our most able as reading mentors. Key to the success in promoting a culture of reading for pleasure is the support of your school librarian who can help drive forward and promote reading and literacy. Providing incentives here really helps too. For World Book Day, each pupil entering our quiz won a book hamper and every term the pupils nominated by form tutors for reading can be in with the chance of winning an Amazon voucher and a Kindle.


Image courtesy: Nicola Snelling
Image courtesy: Nicola Snelling

Literacy needs to be a constant presence at the forefront of everyone’s minds– this can be done through:

  • reminders in staff briefing and in bulletins about upcoming events, new ideas to try in a reading lesson or books to read. Our pupils review books they have read online and these are sometimes shared via a staff bulletin;
  • holding INSETs to raise awareness about key literacy issues and initiatives;
  • having corridor displays to promote literacy;
  • getting information about literacy and any events or competitions in the school newsletter and on the school website;
  • having posters on which staff and pupils can share what they are reading;
  • developing a reading tree with reading selfies and book reviews.


To support your promotion of literacy get involved in as many competitions as you can. There are so many great competitions and initiatives out there and here are just a few, which I have been involved in or of which I have heard tales of success:

  • hold a ‘Readathon’ @ReadathonUK;
  • get involved in ‘Read for my School’ @ReadforMySchool;
  • apply to be part of @Literacy_Trust’s Premier League Reading Stars initiative;
  • get students to write a 500 word short story for the BBC 500 Words competition;
  • create your own competition of event for World Book Day or get involved in World Book Night @WorldBookDayUK @WorldBookNight;
  • hold a ‘No Pens Wednesday’ via @Comm_nTrust.


If you’re reading this you are probably already a fully-fledged member of the Twitterati but, if not, get signed up. Along with the ones I have already mentioned in this article, here are a few select suggestions as to who to follow, I have no doubt there are many, many more!

@Grammarly; @Mrs_SpaG; @literacylender; @IveReadThat; @literacychat; @TelegraphBooks; @wellreadreviews; @goodreads; @read; @HuntingEnglish; @LearningSpy; @Booktrust; @AETloveliteracy; @JustGetReading; @SSATLiteracy; @GuardianBooks; @RealGeoffBarton.

Nicola Snelling has been teaching for six years and is currently Assistant Curriculum Leader of English with responsibility for KS4 and literacy across the curriculum at a Catholic secondary school in the North West of England.

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1 Comment

  1. From the viewpoint of an author and creator of content for the curriculum, I find this post a valuable source of reference. Pilot work at schools involving teachers, pupils, librarians, parents and carers has brought to the fore such issues that promise to hold the test of time. Thank you so much for sharing the collated information, Nicola.

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