Ground-breaking literacy intervention that enables struggling Year 7 pupils to succeed at secondary school
The LIT Programme was developed by Hackney Learning Trust in 2009 in response to the challenges faced by local secondary schools of lower attaining year 7 students not being able to keep up with the literacy demands of the secondary curriculum. Since then, the programme has been rolled out in over 200 schools across the country, often having a dramatic impact on a school’s approach to literacy and programmes of support for struggling students.
One such school is Cardinal Pole Catholic School in Hackney, an 11-19 community comprehensive school, rated as a ‘Good school with outstanding features’ by Ofsted in 2013. The LIT Programme was introduced in 2009 as part of the initial pilot. It was delivered in place of English lessons for over a whole year to 18 students whose literacy level was below 4c and / or who had a YARC test score of below 90.
Out of that initial cohort of students, 77% made two sub-levels of progress within a year and three children improved by a whole level or more. In particular, Jamal*, a shy boy who was at level 3b improved to a 5c by the end of the year in both literacy and language. 4 years later, he went on to get a C at GCSE. Since then, 5 more cohorts at Cardinal Pole have received the intervention. LIT Programme students who come in at below level 4C can expect to get a C or above at GCSE against an expected D or less without any additional support.
Ade* a LIT Programme graduate now in Year 10, says of his experience “Learning the skills of summarising, predicting, clarifying and questioning when reading really helped me in Year 7. I hardly read then. I no longer judge a book by its cover as I use predicting skills to try to understand what a book might be about. I was in a bottom set in Year 7. The LIT programme helped me raise my level and I was able to get to 6A in Year 9, now I am in a top set for English and I am want to get an A*.”
Katie Hayward, one of the first teachers to deliver the LIT Programme at Cardinal Pole explains the reasons behind this and on-going success of the initiative. She says that as students work in small groups and use Reciprocal Teaching techniques, the biggest impact is on student’s confidence and spoken language ability. Groups are led by one of the pupils as ‘Discussion Director’ and work together to develop techniques for interpreting a piece of text. They focus on the key skills of Clarifying, Summarising, Questioning and Predicting. This enables them to develop their own strategies for meeting the more complex demands of secondary school subjects and most importantly, they can monitor their own comprehension and recognise when they do not understand in order to ask for clarification. The programme supports these students by equipping them with strategies for learning and understanding, as opposed to just decoding, a piece of text.
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The LIT Programme was cited as a particular piece of best practice in Ofsted’s single subject visit report on Cardinal Pole. They commented “The school provides a variety of appropriate interventions, such as the local authority’s very effective ‘LIT Programme’ which develops the reading skills of low attaining students in Year 7”. Jane Heffernan, Head Teacher reflects on the impact the programme has had – “Improvements in Literacy have been a key focus in raising achievement at the school. The impact of the LIT Programme has been sustained and significant. Such initiatives have contributed to the work of the outstanding English department (Ofsted Subject Visit 2012)”.
The LIT Programme has been so effective at Cardinal Pole, that it has helped re-shape the whole school’s approach to teaching and wider literacy skills. Core LIT Programme skills of Clarifying, Summarising, Questioning and Predicting are shown on the wall in every classroom and students are regularly asked to use these techniques to engage with their work. Wherever possible, small group work is encouraged with students taking ownership and direction of their own learning. A deep awareness of the literacy challenges faced by some pupils has developed and teachers do not assume that students have always understood what is being taught. Subsequently, there is a continued focus on checking and clarifying of learning to ensure that lower attaining students are not left behind.
Going forward, Literacy Champions, led by the Lead Practitioner Anneka Hartley are rolling out Reciprocal Teaching techniques in every subject and further work is being done to engage parents in the techniques deployed in the LIT Programme for use at home.
For more information on the LIT Programme please visit
*names have been changed to protect identity
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