A Cluster Project Case Study

Supporting Literacy Improvement - Abergavenny Cluster

Improving accuracy of writing at KS2 and KS4

Cluster profile

Abergavenny Cluster is made up of 10 schools serving the town of Abergavenny and the surrounding rural areas. All of the schools involved in the cluster project are English Medium schools. King Henry VIII Comprehensive School has approximately 15% eFSM pupils and approximately 13% pupils with ALN, both below the national averages for each cohort. The primary schools that feed King Henry include Cantref Primary School, Deri View Primary School, Gilwern C.P. School, Goytre Fawr Primary School, Llanfihangel Crucorney C.P. School, Llanfoist Fawr Primary School, Llantilio Pertholey C.V. School and Our Lady & St Michael's School. All of the primary schools have a similar proportion of ALN and eFSM pupils apart from Deri View, which as approximately 42% eFSM and 46% ALN.


What were we asked to support?

The cluster wanted to look at improving pupils' written accuracy, particularly their control of sentence structure and their use of punctuation. Traditionally cross phase projects often involve the Year 6 & 7 teachers as those being closest to the transition process, but Abergavenny Cluster decided that they wanted to develop their project with teachers from Year 4 and Year 11. This was decided in order to really maximise the longevity of the project through engagement with Year 4 and ensure pupils in Year 11 were able to use the strategies to make a significant impact on their GCSEs outcomes. When we met the cluster they had a clear idea of what they wanted the project to involve. Their remit to us included:

  • Collaborative working between Year 4 and Year 11 teachers including joint training, lesson planning and possibly team teaching and/or lesson observation.
  • Creation of 6 discrete lessons for Year 4 and 4 lessons at Year 11 to form the basis for further development of written accuracy in all schools.
  • Improved understanding of the pedagogy underpinning improvement in written accuracy as well as the most relevant educational and cognitive science research

What did we do?

Using the information from our initial meeting with senior leaders and the cluster bid documentation we created a robust schedule of support. The aim of this support was to create a project that would have far reaching impact, one that would empower staff to engage with research and explore their own pedagogical practice as well as have a lasting impact longer term on pupil learning.


Our support was to cover the entire course of the project, with the majority of the support happening before teachers had direct contact with pupils:


Day 1 - Project planning support

Setting a baseline for skill development through focussed cross phase book scrutiny. Setting clear success criteria for pupil outcomes, staff professional learning and whole school development.

Day 2 - INSET Literacy training

Providing training for staff to explore what specific skill acquisition looks like across phases. Exploring relevant research on effective learning strategies and teaching approaches. Using research-informed teaching strategies in authentic contexts.

Day 3 & 4 - Collaborative planning support

Using key research-informed strategies to collaboratively plan lessons at KS2 and KS4

Day 5 - Project progress support

A day of evaluation, sharing & trouble-shooting designed to give staff an opportunity to share and adapt to the challenges encountered during the course of the project.

Day 6 - Project evaluation support As part of the project development teachers were asked to provide detailed feedback on the success of learning strategies, teaching approaches and their own professional development. During this final day a set of key individual and strategic actions were created in order to capitalise on successes and mitigate challenges. This culminated in an Evaluation Report written by Impact Ltd and used by the cluster as their evidence of impact & strategic action plan for future projects.

In addition to the support staff received during the support days, staff were provided with a digital platform pre-populated with a wide range of evidence-informed resources to use during the project and beyond. Also included on the digital platform were assessments for all year groups that had been verified by staff and served as exemplar materials at agreed standards for each skill.


Collaborative Professionalism

During the course of the project teachers from all schools were released to observe or support the jointly created lessons in other project schools, with a clear focus on how effective pupil learning was as a result of the new strategies and approaches. Feedback from these sessions was used to inform collective adaptations to the resources, the final evaluative report and ultimately future actions for the cluster.

What Impact has the support had?

Expected Impact

Pupils in both year groups took part in pre and post tests in the form of 'cold-write' opportunities in line with expectations at GCSE. The initial results from this process were very encouraging with 50% of pupils showing an improvement of 1 year in just 1 term.

Of significant impact was effect on teacher's professional expertise. All teachers felt that they were far more confident to explicitly teach grammar and punctuation to their own phase.

Next steps for the school

All the schools who took part in this project now have a clear understanding of the continuum of progression of accurate writing from KS2 right through to GCSE. They also have a shared, consistent resource of KS2 & KS4 learning packages which can be expanded and adapted to address the individual and on-going needs of pupils.

How can we support your cluster?

If you would like to discuss how we can support a similar project within your cluster or school partnership, just drop us a line and we will be happy to set up a free initial consultation to talk things through

Email: enquiries@impact.wales Tel: 029 2167 9140

A Little More About Us

Who are we? - We are Finola & Jane, Literacy & Numeracy specialists, with 35+ years of teaching, training & leadership experience between us.

Can you trust us? - We have both worked for Welsh Government supporting schools & senior leaders across Wales. We have held senior leadership posts, delivered support to strategic education advisers, and published curriculum support guidance with Oxford University Publishing...but if you need to know more visit our website for testimonials from schools we've worked with.

Why should you buy our support? - Put simply, because we believe in impact. We do exactly what our name suggests. Our school support is always bespoke, high quality and designed specifically for each school we work with. Our focus is on delivering measurable impact for pupils.