We’re thrilled to be launching our new Driving Inclusion system: two intensive and comprehensive six-week programmes for key members of the school’s workforce. Hosted on our new online learning hub, the programmes will improve SEND provision, inclusion and literacy strategy across your school. In this blog, DYT consultant teacher, Kelly Challis, introduces our new programme for literacy leaders: Creating Champions for Literacy Difficulties

Tell us about the ‘Creating Champions for Literacy Difficulties’ programme.

I designed the programme to give school staff an overview of literacy development and literacy difficulties. But it’s so much more than that. It will give participants the tools of reflection and action research they need to become champions for literacy difficulties. By the end of the programme, whenever there is a new initiative or a change in curriculum, their first thought will be “what does this mean for learners that find literacy difficult and what can I do about it?” 

I hope that it will leave a lasting impression on the teachers and leaders who take part, and that they will leave with a community of like-minded peers to stay in touch with.

What inspired you to create the programme?

Having worked on DYT’s old Drive for Literacy programme, providing schools with training opportunities and suggestions for interventions, I felt there was a piece of the puzzle missing. That puzzle piece is the behaviour change which is necessary to embed any suggestions. This prompted me to think about values and individual starting points as practitioners, and how these can have real impact on teaching practice. My understanding of literacy difficulties will be different from yours and if we don’t discuss it, we won’t be able to identify those differences to agree on the best approach to address them.

The programme is meant to challenge participants’ views of literacy difficulties, SEND and disadvantage. Why do you think this is necessary?

Without really understanding your own assumptions about these topics you may not see the value in recommendations made by someone else. High quality teaching is the gold-standard, but it’s an abstract concept which can be interpreted differently by individuals and settings. This programme will encourage the participants to take a step back from the ‘do this and get this result’ mentality and consider the long-term effects of their actions.  I wanted to provide a wide range of reading materials so that participants can self-identify what works for them. By the end of the programme they will identify, and plan a solution for, an area of need in their school. 

What challenges does the programme aim to tackle? Why is it important to do this?

The Creating Champions for Literacy Difficulties programme covers a huge amount of ground over six weeks. It looks at related issues of disadvantage, literacy acquisition, literacy difficulties and the implications of labels. A thread throughout the programme is perspectives – beginning with their personal perspectives before considering the perspectives of everybody involved in the education of a learner. It challenges the language used around literacy difficulties and SEND, and how it is received by the learners these labels are applied to. Finally, it practically deals with an area of need in their schools, providing a huge theory base they can then refine to address their school’s learner profile. 

In your own words, what are the outcomes of the programme?

Primarily, the outcomes of this programme are a good grounding in what literacy is. What literacy difficulties look like and how they manifest. What SEND and literacy difficulties looks like in different settings. It also touches on systems thinking, an organisation approach for tackling situations which have no definable end or beginning. Participants will have been supported in developing the necessary skills to work through an action research process and create a product to meet the literacy needs of their setting.  

Who is the ‘Creating Champions for Literacy Difficulties’ programme for? Why should schools enrol their staff?

This programme is for any educator who is curious about literacy and how to champion literacy difficulties in their school. It will have a significant impact on those members of staff that have responsibility for literacy. 

The teaching on this programme is intended to permeate the walls of the participant’s classroom and benefit the whole school. 

I want teachers to feel they have the capacity and energy to develop themselves as practitioner. I’d like to see teachers to be a bit selfish because, fundamentally, this investment in themselves will shine through their practice in the classroom and make the educational experience of learners with literacy difficulties better. Every school to have at least one champion for literacy difficulties. I know what a difference an advocate makes for those learners.

Kelly Challis

Consultant Teacher, DYT

Inspired by working at a special school, Kelly completed a specialist qualification in teaching learners with literacy difficulties. Since then, she has worked in Primary and Secondary mainstream as a teaching assistant, Further Education as a manager, and Higher Education as a specialist one-to-one teacher. She has been a SENDCo in two preparatory schools.