Literacy is a crucial life skill. It is one of the central building blocks of the curriculum, and ensuring that all children achieve competence in literacy is central to the work the literacy team and of every school and every teacher.
Key aims of the course are to develop skilled practitioners who are committed and enthusiastic, who have high expectations of themselves and their pupils and who enjoy language and literacy. Our programmes also aim to develop teachers whose knowledge, attitudes and skills contribute effectively to the raising of standards in this fundamental area.
Every student follows a four year literacy course which offers a solid foundation of key practices and engages students in reflection and analysis of current research and literature. Through lectures, interactive workshops, discussion forums and teaching placements, in a wide range of educational contexts, students develop into skilled and competent teachers of literacy and we are delighted that many of our undergraduate students return to partake in M level literacy modules. MEd modules in literacy are prized by those who attend. Dissertation supervision enables teachers to work alongside tutors to review practice, identify targets and goals, and to implement initiatives in their schools. One such piece of work was recently awarded the prestigious IPDA Symposium Research Award.
Our approach is holistic and integrates speaking, listening, reading and writing with the use of new technologies. Taking account of multimodality is regarded as crucial to the future of English teaching in our schools in a digital age. This relationship and integration of different modes, e.g. the ability to access and critically respond to the internet, is seen as part of a continuum of texts in the English curriculum.
Emphasis is placed on students’ personal and professional development, including their own literacy and language, and student teachers are encouraged to become more pragmatic, critical readers themselves. As well as this, importance is given to the development of cross-curricular skills such as, information finding, critical thinking, learning to learn, problem-solving and collaborating.
The course is regularly reviewed and updated to reflect current, best practice in the teaching and learning of literacy. Staff regularly attend conferences and training seminars and engage in literacy research in order to maintain awareness of current trends and developments both nationally and internationally, e.g. the Revised Curriculum, the Enriched Curriculum, E-Assessment, the NI Literacy Strategy, the Rose Review, Every School a Good School, the issue of identity, literacy and culture, etc.
Tutors strive to identify and initiate good practice and to make productive links with schools. Current examples of such practice include work with primary, secondary and special schools to implement literature circles as an approach to independent reading, a volunteer reading tutor programme, whereby students work with low progress readers in local primary schools, videoing lessons by quality practitioners, planning and organising literacy events to which teachers and others from the education community are invited. We also work with experts in related fields and frequently guest speakers are invited to address students. Examples of this include our ongoing work with the Pushkin Prizes Trust and a recent project with the Verbal Arts Centre, Derry.
St Mary’s literacy team is represented on the United Kingdom Language Association’s National Executive. In association with UKLA the literacy team host annual conferences. These events are welcomed and valued by the diverse range of delegates who attend. We are also represented on the NI Literacy Steering Team. This representation further ensures we are kept fully up to date with all recent and relevant developments and provides opportunity to respond and contribute to policy development at a national level.
St. Mary’s literacy team is fully committed to developing high quality, effective practitioners who recognise the importance of literacy as a crucial, life-enhancing skill and who strive to provide rich opportunities to ensure that every child becomes an active investigator, a person who thinks and communicates critically, imaginatively and empathically.
Team Leader: Mrs Donna Hazzard