Leading Literacy in primary schools

Being a subject leader within a primary school is often the expectation. To be an expert within that subject, to be inventive, to lead others and to continuously drive the subject forward can take time. It can also be a challenge especially when there is little or no training available.

For Literacy or English leads, the need to be competent in leading others and managing the largest of all primary curriculum areas across the school is something that requires dedication, organisation and a love for the subject. Due to the demands of being a full time class teacher, having other subjects to coordinate and day to day commitments within the school, having the time to do this can often be limited. This blog will provide you with a basic guide to assist with being an effective Literacy Leader within the primary classroom.


The most important part in being an effective literacy leader is your own subject knowledge. Knowing what is new in this curriculum, knowing the difference between your passive and active verb sentences, knowing the spelling rules for plurals, knowing how many phonemes in a word – the knowledge needed as a Literacy Lead is vast – but with regular reading and your own CPD it is achievable.

Staying up to date

Staying up to date and current with the latest government initiatives, assessment and also with creative, innovative ideas for the classroom are best found on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and even LinkedIn. By following just a couple of education experts lwill help you in starting to create new contacts, develop knowledge and allow you to stay up to date in an easy, affordable and ever growing way.

My top 4 to follow on Twitter( aside from myself @Jo_c_gray) are: 

@MichaelT1979 a deputy head who explains new DfE information in clear, precise and often humorous ways

@PrimaryRocks1 ran by a collaboration of educators on Twitter who host great educational discussions around different questions once a week. Mondays at 8pm for an hour.

@tes stay up to date with educational news

@redgirob The Literacy Shed owner


Completing a full audit on Literacy within your school is one of the best ways to know what is happening in Literacy. Taking time to complete a book scrutiny, lesson observations, conducting pupil interviews and looking at planning will all help aid in the audit. As would looking at the environment, including whole school and class resources.

Although time consuming, this is fundamental in having a good understanding of where Literacy currently is within your school and where you would like it to be. When audits occur it can be typical for staff to become defensive unless you explain why you are doing this right at the start. For progressional development (and for your own sanity) having the help from others is even better!

Whole school curriculum 

Do you know which year group introduce children to the terminology ‘noun’ and which year group teaches capital letter names? Do you know the terminology used across the school in phonics lessons? Do you know which class uses ‘Charlie and the Chocolate factory’ for their writing inspiration or how long classes spend on reading for pleasure each week? Which classes are teaching spelling discretely and what is happening for guided reading? Chances are that you know lots of it and if you don’t know you could guess, right? It is that guessing and miscommunication that can lead to gaps in children’s education. If you don’t have a clear idea then neither will the teachers – this is when information gets missed off the curriculum.
Spending time on your whole school curriculum and carefully looking at what each year group is currently taught will help identify gaps and inform you much more than the National Curriculum could, which will only tell you what should be taught. (Which, from experience, are often two very different things!) Nouns may be taught in Year Two but exposure to the term could start in reception. Fronted Adverbials may not be explicitly taught until Year Four but using this terminology when the opportunity arises from Year Two is an opportunity not to be missed. 
Once you have a basic plan then involve the staff during a staff meeting. Although staff should be clear about what you are doing and be given the opportunity to speak to you on an individual basis, don’t involve the staff as a whole until you have an idea of what is being taught when. This is in order to minimise the disruption/disagreements. Finalise the information by putting it in a policy.

What else?

The list is endless – I have purposely avoided assessment and data in this blog as that in itself is a huge developmental area for all leaders this year. There is also areas such as DfE initiatives, involvement of governors, parental involvement, leader folders, ensuring all children are engaged and inspired (Events such as World Book Day are essential in doing this). These are key in continuing to keep Literacy exciting, fresh and motivating for staff and children alike.

Where can I get more support?

On 17th March, One Education are hosting an English Leaders Network meeting. This 1/2 day course in Manchester will provide you with up to date information from the DfE, in particular assessment. The course will also provide you with resources to help you with your school audits, policy writing, curriculum coverage and planning. For more information or to book on to the course visit http://www.oneeducation.co.uk or send me a message! 



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