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Pontlliw Primary School

Title of innovation provision: “Can retrieval practice strategies support the learning and recall of high frequency spelling words, and in turn develop confidence in spelling?”

Date of innovation provision: Innovation Pathway December 2021

Spelling has long been an integral part of education, from early years mark making right up to KS3 and beyond. In our own setting we used a selection of spelling practice activities which have come from sources such as educational consultants and long used strategies. Our research question had been identified as an area for development for our school because although spelling scores had stayed relatively secure, we felt that certain words were not always recalled and used in independent writing. Our aim was to see if by using retrieval practice strategies, we could embed these spellings more deeply, with the aim of supporting spelling development throughout the whole school.

We created an intervention scheme to improve ‘High Frequency’ word recall and analysed our activity through test score data and confidence questionnaires related to spelling. These findings where then used to develop our teaching of spelling beyond high frequency words.

Through this action research, we found that the majority of children showed an improvement in both their spelling scores and also in their confidence in using spellings in their own writing. We have also found that since rolling out the provision to the wider school community that staff have observed similar results and noted that pupils are making progress and are more engaged in their spelling sessions.

Through this project we made several key leadership discoveries:

  • Adaptation is important.
  • Working between the Foundation Phase and KS2 is more complex than simply changing a few activities.
  • Timetabling and structure plays a big part in research.
  • And other things can get in the way!

Additionally, we learnt several lessons beyond our main focus of improving spelling. Alongside making changes to our delivery and assessment of spelling across the whole school, we also began to develop a culture of continued professional enquiry. This includes supporting staff in developing the confidence to undertake their own enquiries and research as well as producing an agreed documentation format for staff to report their findings.

We heard about the Innovation Pathway funding through our weekly county education newsletter. We were already in the process of undertaking some action research and felt that this additional support would benefit our project. The application was incredibly simple to do as it was set out clearly with required information, and allowed us enough scope to provide ample detail regarding our project. The grant from the National Academy for Educational Leadership enabled us to work collaboratively with outside agencies and with other colleagues within our setting by providing time to undertake research, assessments and implement intervention strategies.

Communication with the National Academy for Educational Leadership was excellent, and they fully supported our application. The Innovation Pathway Funding was invaluable in allowing us to undertake professional enquiry. The ease of application and availability of funding should be an attractive proposition for anyone who is looking to develop enquiry within their own setting. Having had such a positive experience working with the National Academy for Educational Leadership, future collaboration would be welcomed and we support and encourage all our staff to engage with opportunities provided by the organisation.

Pontlliw Primary School Research Poster

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