Van Gogh Primary, Lambeth

"Van Gogh Primary opened its doors in September 2018 as an academy converter.  Based on book reviews and pupil interviews, it was clear that the children did not see themselves as writers and their writing was flat.  There appeared to be a strong grammar focus and limited opportunities for extended writing, every day. 

As a progressive and determined school, we wanted to ensure that the children had a passion for reading and writing and, having worked with Literacy Tree for many years, I knew exactly what would support the necessary improvements in the quality of teaching and learning.  We started off mapping our new curriculum with Literacy Tree's Curriculum Maps central in our minds to ensure that we had good coverage of the English curriculum and that the children were able to build, effectively, on their prior learning. 

We front-loaded the teachers with professional development and training, delivered in-house by our Literacy Tree consultant, Donny. Donny met with individual year groups during their PPA sessions to review the teaching sequences, discuss the focus for the learning and provide the teachers with ideas and suggestions to improve pupil engagement.  The planning sequences are excellent and therefore the teachers felt incredibly well-supported expanding the sequences to meet the needs of their classes.  Virtually overnight, the production of writing from the children was transformed.  The children wanted to write!  We used some whole-school INSET sessions to discuss and explore the importance of embedding the teaching of grammar, how to create a class full of ‘writers’ – enabling teachers to move away from a genre based, ‘tick-box writing’ approach to one where the children were able to develop their individual style, in response to the text.  The children could not wait to share their writing, particularly when it came to publishing.

We continued to utilise Donny’s expertise to work alongside each year group, every half term.  Together, Donny and the teachers reviewed the quality of writing, interviewed the children, and shared ideas and suggestions for improvements with the senior team.  As a result, in the space of one term, we were able to dramatically improve the quality of writing across the school. 

Due to the impact of the planning sequences on writing, some of the team began to explore the Literacy Tree's other resources and discovered the Literary Leaves - it was only a matter of weeks before I had a purchase order request for sets of books to support the whole class approach to guided reading.  As before, Donny provided the team with training and support on how to implement this approach to guided reading including how to assess the pupils.  By January, we adopted Literacy Tree's RATE (Report and Assessment tool) for both Reading and Writing.   This summer, we succumbed to the newly-developed Spelling Seeds – ditching our previous spelling approach as this felt so coherent and in total alignment with the Literary Leaves and planning sequences. 

We have still got lots of work to do, but I am completely delighted with what we have achieved this year and when Lynn came to visit us in June, we were so proud to show her what the children have been able to achieve.  The children love the texts that the Literary Curriculum team have selected so skilfully and it is thrilling to see the children proud to share their writing and their reading"

Paul Robinson

Consultant Headteacher

(Some of the pictures are of our book-based displays and some are of the 'engaging starting points' that we use to 'hook with the books'!)

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