Literacy - How can I help?

For help on various aspects of literacy, please click here

What is Literacy?

Literacy, in its simplest definition, is the ability to read and write.

One in six people in the UK struggle to read and write. Poor skills compromise health, confidence, happiness and employability. At Longdean School we believe that all teachers, parents and students have a role to play in supporting and developing students’ literacy skills. Our aim is to ensure students can communicate effectively in today’s society. We believe that with better literacy skills, more people will have the opportunity to contribute more to society and that literacy has a significant relationship with a person’s happiness and economic success.

Why Literacy is important.

Worldwide, nearly 800 million adults are illiterate in their native languages, yet the ability to read and write is the basis for all other education. Literacy is necessary for an individual to understand information that is out of context, whether written or verbal. Without literacy skills—the ability to read, to write, to solve problems and to access and use technology—today’s children will struggle to play a full part in the world around them. In short, literacy is a barrier to success and fulfillment.

How can I help my child?

Conversation in the home

There’s a golden rule with literacy which is quite easy to remember: if you haven’t heard it, you can’t say it and if you can’t say it, you can’t write it.  If you can’t write it, your ability to present yourself as a strong candidate in a job application is damaged. In this respect, the language a person has around them is absolutely crucial – it can, quite literally, make or break a child’s life chances.  It’s easy for teenagers to offer you a grunt in response to a question about their day, so try to insist on developed conversation, where they hear and give full and thoughtful responses.  Some families do this around a dinner table, whereas others look for different opportunities, so think about the best moments for you to have those nice, developed conversations.


The range of words that a person can access is also related to what they have read. The earlier a child is read to, the better their chances of building an effective and useful vocabulary. As a child develops, continuing to read a range of different things will support their development as they move through the education system. Sometimes, the main problem is finding something that will engage a child; reading for pleasure is what we want our children to aspire to.  Don’t worry if your child isn’t willing to access a range of classic novels – you’re hardly alone.  If lengthy books aren’t their thing, encourage them to read a range of different texts. The sports pages of the newspaper may not seem as powerful as a best-selling novel, but if a child is engaged, there is still every possibility that they will pick up some useful vocabulary. If there are magazines that reflect an area of interest, then taking out a subscription is not a bad idea. In addition, there are graphic novels, which can be very sophisticated in the way they use language to create characters’ dialogue.


Longdean now has a marking policy that focuses on key areas of literacy (further information on this is available on the relevant page).  Scanning your child’s work for annotations can prompt some very useful discussions on where they need to improve. It is also really useful to have a conversation with your child about their written work before they start a piece. Ask them how they are going to structure it and what sort of language they will use – talking writing through is one of the best ways to ensure that the end product is as good as it can be!

Throughout this area of the Learning Platform, there are a number of worksheets that tackle some of those areas that many people struggle with from time to time. Do take a look and try some of them at home.

Marking Policy

At Longdean, all staff and departments will have their own approach to marking and assessing work, which tends to vary according to the needs of the subject and the student(s).  Nevertheless, there is an expectation that staff adhere to a common policy in marking, which highlights areas that are essential to improving children’s writing.

Below are the annotations that teachers make on students’ work.  With a consistent message, students should be far more aware of the areas they need to focus on in order to improve their writing. The ‘Exp’ annotation is important, as it relates to the register of a student’s written expression – whether or not it is appropriately formal. Sometimes, students lose the idea of how to express themselves formally in writing, so if this annotation appears on their work, they know that it is something they need to work on.



Spelling error


Incorrect punctuation


New paragraph needed


Expression not appropriate


Meaning unclear


Missing capital letter


Striking writing


Last modified: Friday, 26 October 2012, 1:20 PM