Lantern Community Primary School is based in Ely, Cambridgeshire, and part of CMAT. The school has 420 pupils and a nursery attached. The pupil population is predominantly White British, with most families being double income. Deputy Principal Benita Sherrington tells us about the steps the school took to effectively embed a DfE funded vocabulary project in their school.
Lantern Primary School is positioned in the opportunity area of East Cambs and Fenland, and recently took part in a local project with DfE funding to close the vocabulary gap. The project was based around the explicit teaching of vocabulary, ring-fenced time for the teacher to read aloud a tier 2 rich book to the class, and developing oracy skills using strategies from Voice 21.
Initially the project had a KS2 focus, but the school very quickly took the decision to roll it out to the whole school.
What were the school’s objectives in engaging with the ‘Powerful Words’ project?
“We wanted to close the vocabulary gap for our most disadvantaged pupils and to empower all of our pupils with a voice”.
What did the school do?
“The success was a steady slow approach, which empowered all staff.”
Attended local training: A senior member of staff took part in 15 CPD sessions over 5 terms, which were provided through the opportunity area. Back in school, the lead then cascaded these learnings back to the staff.
Focused on implementation: The school feels that by focusing on effective implementation they set the foundations for success and ensured they got staff buy-in.
“In the first instance we spent a lot of time looking at the reasons for the project, the research behind the evidence and setting up a staff reading community. The implementation was key to the success of the project and the reason why it continues to be so successful now.”
Provided high-quality resources: The second phase of the project was to provide each KS2 teacher and classes with all the resources and training they required to explicitly teach 15 minutes a day of ring-fenced vocabulary. They also invested in high quality tier 2 rich texts. This investment in carefully chosen resources gave staff high-quality, consistent tools to use in the project.
Supported staff to engage with the project: “We started slowly by ensuring all staff had the support needed to deliver the teaching. At this stage we also made this part of everyone’s performance management including TAs”.
The school ring-fenced 15 minutes a day for reading aloud to the class and sent the vocabulary home to parents so they were involved and supportive too.
Active leadership to keep momentum up: I sent weekly updates and emails to the whole school staff to keep the project alive. We planned a whole 5 terms of staff CPD, where staff could try things out between meetings and report back in the next session.
Ongoing, mini assessments: As part of the project the school had 3 mini assessments to gather data to look at impact (in reading, writing and word recognition and understanding).
Adapting during Covid: The third phase of the project was the explicit teaching of oracy skills. This is still ongoing due to Covid understandably slowing things down! However, in lockdown the school created a Powerful words YouTube channel. Teaching staff made videos which were uploaded on the channel and shared with pupils to keep the words alive!
Working in partnership with experts: “We worked with Alex Quigley and Kelly Ashley and have a quote in Kelly Ashley’s book. Since the project I have worked with our local secondary feeder school to help them embed the project.”
…And working with their local secondary school by doing a CPD session “explaining the Powerful Words project at the Lantern and discussing, with their KS3 English lead, ways that they could embedded their own version of the Powerful words project. The aim was to build on the Powerful Words learnt in KS2 and take this into KS3”.
What impact has the project had so far?
- The school saw a closing of the vocabulary gap in the data.
- More importantly all pupils made significant progress in retaining and using the words correctly in both their written work and speech.
- The impact in the classroom and beyond was noted by staff and parents.
- The school also created staff surveys to measure implementation and impact.
What would the schools’ top tips and learnings be for others looking to effectively embed a similar project?
- Ring-fencing explicit teaching of vocabulary (etymology and morphology) and ring-fenced reading aloud to classes for 15 minutes every day worked really well.
- Building links with parents so they could support the project with use of the words at home was a success.
- Intentionally finding ways to get and maintain staff buy-in and enthusiasm was crucial.
- Whole school involvement and scaling what worked was a big positive.
Where would the school like to take the work next?
The school has rolled the KS2 project out to KS1 and reception by creating their own Powerful words. They plan to spend more time focused on oracy with Voice 21, due to the lost time on this during Covid.