Research School Network: Implementing sustained change in key stage 2 writing – a Case Study from the Fens Nick Clark

Implementing sustained change in key stage 2 writing – a Case Study from the Fens

Nick Clark


Littleport Community Primary School is a two-form entry community school located in a small market town on the edge of the Fens, in Cambridgeshire. We have roughly 400 children on roll with 25% of the pupils in receipt of Pupil Premium funding. Although Pupil Premium numbers are broadly average, pupils enter the school with below average attainment levels, especially in CLLD.

I’ve been at the school since I was an NQT and have now worked in the school for 18 years, having been Deputy Head here since 2016. One of my responsibilities is the development of the curriculum and teacher pedagogy and implantation planning has been an integral tool when enacting whole school change.

Implementation for sustained change

Here we share an implementation plan that we developed using the EEF’s Implementation Guidance Report and planning template. This process involves 4 stages: Explore, Prepare, Deliver, Sustain.

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The Explore phase is a key part of this process, defining the problem” we are trying to address with careful use of data and wider consideration of the evidence base. This blog outlines our thinking behind each area of the plan, and how and why we developed it.

Exploring and Defining Our Problem

From our exploration, we determined that our writing curriculum was an area where pronounced change was needed. Although our reading and maths scores at the end of KS2 have usually been in-line with or above the national average, our writing scores have remained stubbornly below. In fact, our data points to a declining trend over a sustained period of time, even if we also account for the impact of the pandemic on children’s literacy. Not only was this pattern evident in KS2 but also at the end of KS1, including very few children reaching the Greater Depth standard in both Key Stages. In 2023, the % of children achieving EXT in writing was 55%; 58% in KS1 – both below the national average.

Although the data pointed towards writing as an area of concern, what it couldn’t do was drill down into the actual problem itself. My Writing Lead, Yvonne Hatchell, and I spent a considerable amount of time exploring the issue – carrying out a lengthy whole-school audit – which was essential in helping us define the crux of our issue. We identified two areas: sentence construction and narrative writing. Sentence construction formed the focus of our first implementation plan whilst constructing narrative formed the basis of the plan we share here.

The Problem (the Why?)

We considered the problem in terms of three areas: our pupils, our staff, and resources. First pupils: we reviewed our work around constructing narrative and looked carefully at the data for KS2 and KS1. When thinking about this from the point of view of staff, we used the evidence from our explore’ phase, and found that confidence around strategies to teach narrative writing in terms of structure and cohesion
was an issue, so we focused in on this. This lack of confidence meant that some staff fell back into ways of planning that we had previously tried to eliminate. This then fed into our resourcing, resulting in a lack of a coherent text map to support teachers in their planning.

Final Outcomes (And so?)

When developing an implementation plan, we think about where we’re heading from the outset (the final outcomes) before we start to outline the nuts and bolts” of the plan. We made a deliberate decision to measure impact using purely summative data, to avoid any ambiguity or subjective statements.

We’ve been taking part in comparative judgements with No More Marking since the autumn of 2022, which gives broad attainment and progress data, as well as drilling down into groups such as disadvantaged and gender. We also factored in our end-of-KS2 data, because writing is a long game, and we wanted this progress by the end of Key Stage to be the ultimate judge of whether we had been successful.

These outcomes were laid out over time, with specific deadlines in the short, medium and long term. This meant we could be accountable to stakeholders with whom this plan was shared.

Intervention Descriptions (the active ingredients)

The active ingredients are the key behaviours and features that run through a plan, and we decided upon three active ingredients for this plan.

Firstly, we wanted staff to be choosing high quality texts that have clear narrative structures and then to deliberately break down that narrative structure with children. Secondly, we wanted teachers to use our sentence level progression document to model how to turn those specific narrative plot points into coherent paragraphs of writing. This could be just a paragraph; it could be more than one paragraph or a whole narrative sequence, but modelling high quality writing was essential. Our 3rd active ingredient was that children should write coherent paragraphs based on the same plot point modelled by the class teacher. We wanted that done in a very specific way: starting with a shared write between two pupils and then an independent write – still based around the same plot point.

Implementation Activities (How)

We focused heavily on staff training here, starting with 3 sessions of staff CPD in the 2nd half of the summer term 2023 to introduce staff to the active ingredients. We wanted to ensure clarity of message, with everyone understanding our intent. We thought carefully about where the points of contention might be beforehand, so we could ensure that staff CPD was built around those areas. We also asked two members of staff to pilot the approach in the summer term (so called early adopters’). They were essential for supporting existing and new staff in understanding our approach. We also held Open house’ sessions to discuss planning with staff, which were essential, especially in those early stages.

Implementation Outcomes (How well?)

I have worked with Yvonne, our writing lead, to monitor how well are we doing in implementing our active ingredients using this section. This work was built around our existing monitoring systems in school, and worked to specific deadlines. We used this plan to adapt expectations in response to how things were going – if we were successful in implementing our plan then our expectations in our monitoring would increase.

This aspect of the plan is all about the process itself, and how successful it was, rather than the raw outcomes. This is another reason why our final outcomes were purely about summative data: to avoid confusion between the implementation outcomes and the final outcomes.

How are we doing?

We have seen all three of our active ingredients in action, and kept to our schedule of staff CPD. By being transparent with staff about our intent, there has been a real engagement from them. The monitoring of our implementation plan has been key – pupil voice, learning walks, book looks, informal chats with staff have all been crucial in seeing how far we’ve come and what more we need to do.

For example, after our short term monitoring, we then went back to the implementation activities and considered our CPD offer – what else did we need to put in place? How can we ensure long term engagement and sustainability?

Our comparative data for year 3 and year 4 shows an acceleration of progress in all groups. We feel this points to both the success of a previous implementation plan, which focused heavily on the teaching of sentence level, but also with the reforms we made in teaching narrative.

Our year 5 data is less supportive, so we have discussed why there has been less impact upon this year group, and whether we need to alter our approach with them. However, we’re really pleased with the green shoots’ of change that we can see in our narrative writing and are excited to move into the medium term phase of our plan in the summer term.

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