St Leonards is a four-hundred pupil primary school in an area of high deprivation in Hastings, East Sussex. When we first started working with them, it had been in and out of special measures for nearly a decade. In 2016, their new Principal, Marie Burgess, heard about our Drive for Literacy (DfL) programme, and decided to transform her school’s approach to literacy and inclusion.
Burgess first discovered DfL when our CEO Chris Rossiter presented at a local heads’ meeting, and decided that it was just what the school needed; “I was looking for something different, and couldn’t find the support in our local authority. All the things Chris said about what DYT could offer sounded perfect”.
“It ticked all the boxes. It utilised a variety of approaches and enabled us to build a relationship with the training provider, which was important.”
Year on year, we’ve worked with over 20 teachers and 20 support staff at St Leonards, training them to use classroom strategies to support learners with literacy difficulties and SEND. Burgess noted that a key element to the Drive for Literacy programme was that it was collaborative with the school. Her staff weren’t made to feel like the programme was being forced upon them, as they were included in the decision-making process and consulted throughout DYT’s audit of the school.
Our Consultant Teacher, Kenny Wheeler, worked directly with every level of staff, from whole-staff training sessions and lesson observations, to one-to-one sessions with their SENDCo Sarah MacKinnon. MacKinnon had never been a SENDCo before joining St Leonard’s, and found the support from DYT invaluable. “She comes out of [the sessions] buzzing,” said Burgess. “The impact those sessions have had for the provision for our SEN children and our vulnerable children has been unbelievable”.
“The CPD we were offered by our local authority was not particularly high quality, so you would see staff not engaging with it.”
St Leonards is now starting it’s fourth year of DfL, after seeing tangible and consistent benefits from the programme since their first year. Between the summer of 2016 and 2018, the school saw a striking improvement in their Year Six SATs grades – an increase from 21% to 68% of their pupils passed all three of their reading, writing and maths exams! Burgess has also noticed how her teachers appear invigorated and inspired following the CPD sessions run by our Consultants; “because they’re delivering things we don’t know, the staff get excited… You notice that the staff have reacted straight away”.
So, what would Burgess say to schools considering Drive for Literacy? “There’s value in it, whatever situation you’re in… When budgets are so tight and all of our services are being cut, to still have that really high quality at such a ridiculous price – I can’t thank Driver Youth Trust enough really!”