Literacy Octopus! Activities and support to improve Key Stage 2 literacy

What are the purposes and aims of the project?

The Literacy Octopus aims to help teachers to improve pupils’ Key Stage 2 literacy through evidence-based support and materials.

Who is sponsoring this work?

Funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), the Department for Education and the London Schools Excellence Fund, this initiative involves a number of organisations helping teachers and school leaders to improve literacy in Key Stage 2. The project is evaluating how best to offer this support, and the effect on pupils’ attainment. The NFER is carrying out the evaluation.

What activities and resources are on offer?

Schools that joined the trial in Autumn 2014 were randomly allocated to receive support or materials via one of several different approaches. The approaches range from booklets outlining effective literacy strategies and interactive websites about teaching techniques, to more active support through CPD and conferences.

Some schools have been allocated to the control group. Schools in this group do not receive support or materials, but are monitored in the same way as all other schools involved in the project.

What does taking part involve?

School staff completed a baseline survey in Autumn 2014. In the Spring and Summer 2015, schools will receive different types of evidence-based literacy support and/or materials. NFER will invite school staff to complete a follow-up survey in Spring 2016. NFER will also access school Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 data – schools do not need to do anything further towards this.

Note, some sessions are taking place on week days, some at weekends, and some as twilights. In some cases, schools will need to organise and pay for supply cover for staff to attend training or events which will be taking place in London and Leeds. For some events a refundable booking fee will apply. Other activities involve taking part in interactive web discussions, or developing your school’s use of online resources. The amount of time involved and how you get involved will vary according to the activities you are invited to take part in.

How will schools benefit from taking part?

This is an opportunity for schools to receive support from education organisations, to benefit school improvement. We are trying to find out the very best ways of helping schools to improve literacy through evidence-based resources. So whichever activity you are involved with will be a highly valuable part of the project, and will enable your school to receive improvement support. If your school is part of the control group, this is also extremely valuable to the trial, and you can have access to many of the materials and resources after the trial has ended.

Schools will receive feedback on the results of the surveys after the final survey has been completed.

What will schools receive for participating in the project?

We will offer each teacher who takes part in the final survey in Spring 2016 a £5 ‘thank you’ in the form of an e-Amazon voucher or a donation to charity. Each school in the control group will be sent a £30 book token for their school, in anticipation of their commitment to participate in the final survey. All schools will receive feedback on the results of the surveys after the final survey has been completed.

Do schools have to take part?

No, this is voluntary but primary schools (and those middle schools with Year 5/6 classes) in the North and South of England have been invited to take part.

Which other organisations are involved?

Six partner organisations will deliver the support to schools: the Institute for Effective Education (at the University of York); Campaign for Learning in partnership with Train Visual; the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (part of Durham University); and NatCen with ResearchEd.

How will NFER use and protect the data collected?

All questionnaire responses will be treated with the strictest confidence and will be used for the purposes of this evaluation only. The study also involves NFER analysing end of Key Stage 2 national curriculum assessments in conjunction with baseline Key Stage 1 results, to see if there are any links between research engagement and pupils’ performance in literacy. With schools’ permission, NFER will access data using Pupil Matching Reference numbers from the National Pupil Dataset for this purpose only.

The data collected from the surveys and National Pupil Dataset will be passed onto EEF and the Fischer Family Trust (who manage EEF’s data archive), and stored on the EEF data archive and UK Data Archive for research purposes. Whilst the data archives will contain NPD matched data, no individual school, teacher or pupil will be identified in any report arising from this evaluation.

What are the outcomes of this research?

Taking part in the trial will help NFER and its research partners establish the best means of helping schools to raise literacy attainment through research-based resources and approaches. The overall findings will be included in a publicly available report used to influence practice nationally.

Who can be contacted for more information?

David Hereward: 01753 637352,

Read the full privacy notice for this project here.

Read the report Read the article