What is Literacy?

Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen in a way that lets us communicate effectively and make sense of the world. Literacy and numeracy are the fundamental skills that every young person needs to be able to function and make progress at school, work and in society in general. Improved literacy leads to improved self-esteem and motivation; it enables students to learn independently and it is personally empowering.

Literacy at Westbourne

We believe that literacy should be intrinsically woven into the fabric of school life and involve all staff; particularly considering the increased rigour and challenge of the latest Key Stage Four examination courses. Literacy skills underpin student progression across all subjects and consequently, all teachers at the academy, regardless of subject specialism, are teachers of literacy and take opportunities to embed literacy practice within their lessons.

Should you have any questions or queries relating to literacy at Westbourne, or your child’s reading age, please contact Mr Cole, Assistant Principal:


Literacy across the Curriculum at Westbourne

We are fully committed to improving students’ literacy skills at every opportunity. Teachers take part in regular training on literacy, in order to best support student progress in lessons. Some of the approaches to literacy in the classroom implemented at Westbourne are detailed below.

At Westbourne, we believe that regular reading is vital to academic success. Research shows that children who read widely and often, do better in school than those who do not.

The average reading age required to fully access and comprehend Key Stage 4 exam materials is 15 years and 7 months, however, research shows that the average actual reading age is significantly behind this, at just 10 years and 7 months.

Exams are getting tougher, year after year. If by the time our students take their final exams in Year 11, they cannot confidently access the increasingly complex academic language within them, then they are far less likely to achieve their full potential.

“Reading for pleasure is the single biggest factor in success later in life, outside of an education. Study after study has shown that those students who read for pleasure are the ones who are most likely to fulfil their ambitions. If your child reads, they will succeed – it’s that simple.

– Bali Rai

Stop and Read – The aim of Stop & Read is to establish a strong culture of reading across the academy, to get our students into the habit of reading for pleasure and, as a consequence, to raise their individual reading ages. At a scheduled time of the day each week, students and staff start one lesson with a ten-minute period of reading. All students in years 7-10 are required to have a reading book with them every day as part of their necessary school equipment.

Our Library Manager can suggest excellent reading books for all ages and abilities, across a range of different genres of interest. The LRC (library) is open before school, at break and lunchtime, as well as after school.

Register and Read – Register and read has been newly introduced in tutor time. Register and Read involves the form reading extracts of a book or non fiction text and then answering quiz questions as a form. This collaborative activity involves the whole form and engages them in an activity whilst developing their reading.

SPaG Superhero – A fortnightly quiz taken by students in all year groups during VT time. The focus of the SPaG Superhero quiz is linked to subject specific keyword vocabulary, and aims to improve pupil’s knowledge and understanding of academic language, as well as their spelling. Tutors record pupil results and house points are awarded for students who maintain or improve their score each week.

Every half term during the academic year, we test all students’ reading ages to monitor their progress and, where appropriate, action reading interventions. Reading age data is communicated with parents on reports and is shared with classroom staff, enabling them to plan lessons at an appropriate and accessible level for all learners. Below is more detailed information about Reading Age scores and what they mean.

Accelerated Reader – A programme aimed to support and monitor pupils’ reading practice. All students in Years 7, 8 and 9 follow the programme which involves them reading books and completing quizzes on them. When students pass the quiz they move on to a more difficult book. A Parent’s Guide to Accelerated Reader can be found here.

Academy staff mark pupils’ work according to a consistent set of guidelines, allowing students to recognise the symbols and be able to make improvements more easily. Students respond to feedback given and make corrections and improvements to their work using purple pen.

As an academy, we aim to support all students who require extra help with their literacy skills, in terms of reading, writing and spelling. We offer a range of intervention programmes and ensure that students are placed into the appropriate intervention group, according to their specific needs. Parents are informed by letter of the literacy interventions in which their child is involved. We are currently offering the following interventions – log in pages can be found on our Student/Useful Links page:

Phonics – We are using Fresh Start Phonics with identified Year 7 students as part of the English curriculum. The Phonics programme looks at all aspects of literacy but is mainly focussed on reading skills, including comprehension and decoding skills. Students are assigned to the Phonics programme that is relevant to their needs.

Catch Up Literacy – Catch Up Literacy is a 1:1 intervention, which is run by our trained Teaching Assistants. Students are withdrawn for three fifteen minute sessions per week to work on a programme, which is bespoke to their individual needs.

Library Lessons – Students in Year 7 and 8 have fortnightly library lessons. During this time students are explicitly taught how to read. These lessons include reading group reader books, completing quizzes on books read but also importantly focusing on the elements of reading, these include; decoding, fluency and comprehension.

Herts for learning – Reading Fluency Project – The KS3 project aims to accelerate achievement in reading fluency and comprehension in a short space of time. The project lasts 8 weeks and helps students make rapid progress in their fluency and comprehension skill set.

Switch-on reading – Switch-on Reading is an intensive 10-week literacy intervention. It is delivered on a one to one basis by staff, who have been trained in the approach. The purpose of Switch-on is to achieve functional literacy for as many pupils as possible, and so to close the reading achievement gap for many of our students.

1:1 Dyslexia – This is a bespoke intervention, which is tailored at students’ individual needs within dyslexia. Students have a weekly session to work on their areas of need.

Handwriting – We can provide resources to support handwriting, including easy grip pens and pencils, pen grips and handwriting books.

 Research shows that your interest and involvement in your child’s learning and education is more important than anything else in helping your child fulfil their potential.


Regular reading is the key to students’ further developing their vocabulary and is therefore vital to academic success, particularly considering the increasingly complex academic language of examinations.

Please help us support your child improve their reading ability by listening to/encouraging them to read at home. If you can make reading an important part of your home life, you will make all the difference to your child’s development. Research shows that reading for just twenty minutes a day, exposes students to 1.8 million more words a year, enabling them to develop both their vocabulary and subject knowledge. A child who can choose books they enjoy and who can talk about books with their family, should become a reader for life. The Department for Education have published a booklet for parents, with advice on supporting your child with reading. This can be found here.

Watch this short video about why reading is good for you and the benefits it offers to your mind, your knowledge and your overall well-being.