Literacy Leadership Part 1: Vision and Mission

Oct 30, 2016 | Effective Practice, Teaching Struggling Readers, Whole School Literacy

What does it take to see real change in literacy outcomes?

When it comes to literacy, we all agree that it’s important. But that’s often the extent of our impact. There are multiple reasons why literacy intervention at secondary school often founders, and does so repeatedly. Here are five key reasons:

  1. Erroneous beliefs and assumptions
  2. Conflicting priorities
  3. Token allocation of time, staffing or resources
  4. Ineffective programmes
  5. Ineffective teaching

Each of these is worth a post in itself, but the common thread is that all of these issues are under the control – and the responsibility – of school leaders. We know from our work with schools that leaders who address these issues, and all the baggage that comes with them, are able to achieve striking results. Conversely, we know that where these issues aren’t addressed, funds, staffing and student time may be squandered for few if any gains. Why are the differences so glaring?

Identifying the problem, locating the solution

Essentially, it comes down to how clearly leaders see the problem and what they are prepared to do differently in order to get a different set of outcomes.

The motivation for improvement is driven by dissatisfaction with the status quo. The question, ‘Is there something more we should be doing?’ neatly encapsulates this attitude.

Senior leaders need to be practically involved in investigating new initiatives. Where senior leaders have hands-on experience in this process, it significantly affects how they and their colleagues go about implementing change.

It is essential for senior leaders to articulate a sense of mission that helps to unite all staff around the whole school’s responsibility for literacy.

Underlying all of this, successful implementation is founded on a clear view of the extent of the problem, and assessing the scale of commitment required to implement a solution. This clear-eyed understanding is essential: there are no short-cuts or magic bullets to deal with such a pervasive and longstanding problem, namely, adolescents who cannot yet read well enough to access the curriculum.

The next post in this series will focus on the leadership required to ensure a literacy intervention has impact. 

You may also be interested in:

Leveraging Literacy at Secondary School

Are all reading interventions created equal?

Spring Cleaning

7 Misconceptions About Teaching Adolescents to Read


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