Research School Network: Making it work: Implementation and literacy The second in the blog series about all things literacy!


Making it work: Implementation and literacy

The second in the blog series about all things literacy!

by Staffordshire Research School
on the

“..the true catalyst for success lay in the Professional Development programme.”

The second of this blog series examines the meaning behind this statement.

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Here at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, we place a great emphasis on professional development. This blog explains the key levers we use to bring about change across the school.

Before an examination of the process, the table below outlines the PD opportunities we have in school which are referenced in the rest of the blog.

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How St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School chose to structure their CPD offer.

Building Knowledge

After reading Kate Pretsell’s insightful blog series, our curiosity led us to Totteridge Academy, where we sought valuable insights into the transformative journey of another school. We knew training a generation of teachers in the complex world of grammar was never going to be easy and the clear message from this visit was to take our time and manage the cognitive load of staff.

Rather than rushing through topics, such as subordinating conjunctions, because, but, so’, stop and jots, and appositives, we opted for a deliberate, measured approach. Our intentional decision was to proceed slowly, allowing ample time for individuals to experiment, make mistakes, engage in discussions, and cultivate a more profound understanding of each teaching technique.

Motivating Teachers

We are lucky in having three experts in both professional development and literacy and as such have used these colleagues to present regularly to our teachers on our literacy curriculum. Having such credible sources in school certainly helped but we supplemented this by ensuring outside speakers complimented the PD offer. In October 2023, we invited Alex Quigley into school to talk about the process of improving writing from a disciplinary perspective. We ensured that the resources we used were all relevant to each faculty and so when we presented on a technique, such as Because, But, So’ from Hochman and Wexler’s Writing Revolution; the worksheets the staff had were specific to their faculty.

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Developing Teaching Techniques

Among the 14 mechanisms outlined in the EEF Professional Development Guidance Report, one key strategy is to Monitor and provide feedback.’ Offering face-to-face feedback has historically posed challenges. In response, this year, we introduced a system that involves Classroom Roaming — a team of staff members from diverse disciplines specifically trained to enter classrooms and provide constructive feedback. This approach empowered colleagues to engage in reflective discussions about their own practice.

Embedding Practice


Prompting action planning is a crucial mechanism to help embed practice across our school. Professional Inquiry involves teachers reading research, observing lessons and then writing a target using this format.

What impact does [what practice?] delivered [over how long?] have on [what outcome?] for [whom?]?

Targets like the one below are then written by all staff.

What impact does weekly deliberate practice of sentence-level writing techniques delivered over 5 months from January to May have on the quality of 8‑mark questions for the SEND students in 10X4?

Over the subsequent 5‑month period, teachers focus on implementing these best bet” strategies. At the conclusion of this period, they report on their progress using our designated Professional Inquiry form. This approach has emerged as a highly effective form of professional development, offering individualised growth opportunities while aligning with the overarching whole school improvement plans.

What are your key PD mechanisms for improving literacy in your school? 

A focus on this will help you see just what is possible over the coming years.

In the next blog, we will move on to analyse how the English faculty changed their approach to help improve the whole school writing drive.

This blog was written by Jeremy Baker, ELE for the Staffordshire Research School.

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