This week, I’m sharing the first of 5 proven targeted intervention strategies which have been shared
with me by a Head Teacher who successfully took his school from an Ofsted rating of Inadequate to
Outstanding. It is a low-budget, yet extremely effective and proven strategy that I’m sure would
deliver real benefits to any secondary school.
Writing creatively is such an important skill. Not only in English, but right across the curriculum as it
helps students express themselves and demonstrate their understanding of a subject. Pupils who are
underperforming in writing – either because they are reluctant or lack confidence – are much more
likely to be underperforming in other areas, often not as a result of lack of subject knowledge but
from an inability to express that knowledge effectively.
But why am I telling you all this? I’m sure you know this better than anyone. The question is what to
do about it. And what I really like about this targeted intervention strategy is that it created a real air
of excitement for the students involved, while also encouraging them to think about their aspirations
and developing a sense of camaraderie within the group.Here’s what happened…
The school had identified a group of 12 students who were underperforming in writing. These
students stayed behind after school on a Friday with an initial three members of staff. The students
changed out of their uniforms, and the teachers organised some sports activities and followed that
with some food. By 6pm, all other staff had left the school and the students felt a real sense of
excitement about having the building to themselves.
Next, the students built a campfire in the school field and the forest schools-trained member of staff
lit this. The students were then led in an activity, writing their dreams for the future and being
encouraged not to impose limits on these dreams.
What a perfect setting for encouraging students to think about their dreams for the future! How
many Hollywood movies over the years have featured characters opening up about their lives
around the campfire – there’s just something about that setting that inspires us to reflect honestly
about our hopes and dreams.
The students could then scrunch up their dreams and throw them into the fire, never to be seen
again. They then used wooden sticks to make their own ‘charcoal’ in order to write words which
described the fire on the playground floor. Back inside, the pupils used these words to start building
their inspiring words ‘word bank’ for the weekend.
The students slept over in classrooms and the following day, following some initial input, embarked
on an educational visit, joined by some additional members of staff to ease the pressure on those
who had slept over! – The first time to London Zoo, the second time to the Olympic Park and then
for a tour of the Olympic Stadium and the opportunity to see a West Ham football game (In the
interests of impartiality I should probably just point out that any football team would work just fine
Throughout the educational visit, there were many opportunities to stop and write – describing the
animals, the habitats, and the atmosphere. The students were in role as sports reporters and
Upon the return from the visit, the pupils, back in the classrooms shared their ideas and helped each
other develop and improve their writing. With some excellent outcomes, the students’ work was
put together as a booklet and then presented to the parents when they came to collect their
I’m told that all staff noted a marked change in these students’ attitudes not just to writing, but to
school in general when they returned to school on the Monday morning. This strategy alongside
other quality approaches running concurrently lead to student progress in this key area.
What a fantastic, innovative strategy for your Catch-up Literacy intervention! I hope it inspires you to
think about something similar at your school. In the meantime, I’ll be back in the coming weeks with
another targeted intervention strategy that has been proven to be effective in an outstanding
(Ofsted rated) school.
Until then, you can find out more about the work we do here at SAM Learning on our website, and
even watch a video produced by ITN in association with FASNA, featuring Natasha Kaplinsky about
our targeted intervention work in schools.