Literacy at The Halley Academy

Literacy Live - Issue 1

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society . . . For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right…. Literacy is the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realise his or her full potential.”  Kofi Annan

Literacy is an essential life skill for maximising our students’ academic achievement, employability, and life experiences.  At The Halley Academy, every teacher is a teacher of Literacy. The Literacy curriculum aims to equip students with the knowledge, skills and experiences which will enable them to participate actively in the world around them. We strive to develop the whole person and broaden students’ horizons through building confidence and skill in manipulating the English language and its grammar in a variety of contexts. 

Our Strategies for Supporting Literacy

Our approach to supporting literacy development covers whole academy strategies, large scale interventions, and small scale interventions. Our goal is to ensure that students are able to develop the core literacy skills required to successfully engage with the curriculum as a whole.  

Pillars of Literacy: 

To address the literacy needs of our students, we focus on six key strategies across the curriculum. These six pillars incompass strategies that are deemed the most essential to the supporting literacy in every subject: 

  1. Know the Students – resources will be provided to staff to more easily identify their students and their literacy needs;
  2. Modelling Language – teachers modelling language in lessons, opportunities to talk with peers;
  3. Dual Coding/Visual Cues – the use of graphic organisers and images to support learning;
  4. Key Vocabulary – access to glossaries, identification of key words, word walls;
  5. Scaffolding Writing – sentence starters, substitution tables, whole text guides or proformas;
  6. Peer/Self Assessment – students need the tools to be able to find and correct errors in their own and others’ work.

Literacy Marking Codes:

All staff and students in the academy use universal marking codes when proofreading for literacy across all subjects. These codes were chosen in consultation with all faculties. 

STAR Reading Whole Academy Testing: 

All students in Year 7-11 will test their reading ages three times across a year to monitor and assess progress. 

Reading and Cultural Festivals:

Every year the academy takes part in festivals and events that celebrate the importance of literacy and cultural diversity. 

Accelerated Reader Programme:

The Accelerated Reader Programme was introduced to the academy in 2019. Accelerated Reader is an effective programme because it is designed to meet the reading needs of every individual student. Books for our library are chosen to meet individual levels and through the programme, we monitor student progress across the academic year.  

All Year 7, 8, and 9 students take part in the programme. Students are assessed at the beginning of the year to determine their ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development), which is their personalised reading range. Students usually start at the lower level and work their way up to the higher level.  Every student will be reading a book of their choice at the correct level for their ability.

Every book in the library that is in the scheme has been labelled with a book level and colour coded to assist students in their choice.

Once students have chosen a book at their level, they read it and when they have finished their book they take a short quiz.  Passing the quiz is an indication that they have understood what they have read and their results will determine whether they can move up in their reading level. To pass, students must achieve 100% on their quiz. This is then rewarded with a raffle ticket that students can exchange for a small prize at the end of the academic day. Students are also expected to borrow books from the LRC so they can read as part of their homework. To ensure the effectiveness of the programme, we recommend students read for a minimum of 15-20 minutes each day. 

Regularly throughout the year we test all students in Year 7-11 through something called the STAR test (Standardized Testing And Reading). This tests the chronological reading age of each student when they begin the year, during the school year and at the end of the school year so we can closely monitor changes to their reading ability.

Year 7, 8, and 9 Parents – Are you confused about the reading books your children are bringing home to read for Accelerated Reader?  Please click on the picture below which helps explain the STAR tests and Accelerated Reader Programme.

What parents need to know about the Renaissance Accelerated Reader

The Academy LRC (Learning Resource Centre)

Our LRC is the heart of the academy, as a centre for both developing literacy and improving research skills. Every student in Year 7-9 receives a lesson in the library once a week, and the library is open to all students during break, lunch, and after school. 

The LRC collection is over 9000 books strong, with a range of both fiction and non-fiction texts. At the academy we place a large importance on the development of students’ first language, along with English, so we have a Foreign Language section with over 70 titles.

In addition to this, research by the National Literacy Trust has stated that one third of school age children do not see themselves in the books they read. This has led to a targeted expansion of books in our collection by BAME authors, who account for only 2% of published books in this country. We are also a Stonewall School and have recently created a section devoted to LGBTQ texts. 

Additional Online Resources:

The following websites are a great starting point for additional literacy support in both reading writing, and listening skills:

MyON Digital Library:

The academy has a subscription to the MyON Digital Library which features over 8000 books, along with daily news articles in English, French, and Spanish.

Zone In:

This fantastic website was created by the National Literacy Trust for students aged 13 and over. It includes workshops for reading writing, as well as speaking and listening, even a functional skills section for people aged over 16.

Learn English Teens:

A series of fun videos to help teens improve their reading, writing, speaking, listening, grammar, and vocabulary skills.

BBC Bitesize KS2 Grammar:

While the site may say it is for KS2, anyone can use these fun interactive games and quizzes to improve their spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Top Marks:

A series of games to develop spelling and grammar, writing, reading, and poetry skills.

The Oak National Academy:

The Oak National Academy features several lessons in a range of subjects. In English KS3, there are several lessons in a section called ‘Recapping the Basics’ which focus on spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, and grammar.

Kids Read 2 Kids:

This site features videos of students reading to their peers. Often, it has abridged (shorter) versions of classic novels.


This website features the text of many classic novels and poems with accompanying audiobooks, which are free to listen to.

Project Gutenberg:

It’s a modest proposal: create an online eBook library of every out of copyright text in the world. Seems overwhelming, right? Well the folks at Project Gutenberg have set about creating just that, and have over 60,000 titles already available on their site. This also includes novels in foreign languages.

Audible Audiobooks:

This website features thousands of amazing audio books which can be narrowed down by age group or genre. Just click and start listening to a free 30 day trial.

TED Education:

TED Talks are known around the world as opportunities for experts to discuss their knowledge in an engaging talk that is then available on their website. TED Education is their website specifically for students and educators. Students can search or browse for content on any subject. It’s excellent for developing listening and comprehension skills.