Toolkit to improve early literacy skills across region

James with two students; David and Kyla

AN Emerging Literacy Toolkit developed as one of the Northern Alliance’s key workstreams has been designed to help improve early literacy skills across the region.  

Recently endorsed by all eight participating local authorities, the toolkit was developed by James Cook, Depute Head Teacher of Milton of Leys Primary School in Inverness. James was seconded to the regional improvement collaborative and recently returned to teaching after completing the toolkit.

James’ work has been extremely well-received by teachers, early years practitioners, councillors and senior education officials. In explaining what drives his passion for improving literacy skills, James explained: “Literacy, language and communication skills are a passport to life and work. Having worked closely with occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and educational psychologists to develop the networks of practice across the Northern Alliance, I’ve had my eyes opened to the wealth of skills that children require to succeed in reading and writing.

“It’s great that we’ve had the opportunity to create and launch the Emerging Literacy Whole School Toolkit so that early years practitioners and teachers can enhance the life chances of children and young people through developing new knowledge and skills through the professional learning.”

The project has taken James from Argyll and Bute to Aberdeen and everywhere in between working with peers in schools and early years settings across the region. Far beyond simply telling people how it’s done, James pulled together local networks where practitioners took time to share ideas and look at the latest research to facilitate significant changes in their professional practice.  

Building on these networks, and ensuring all settings are involved in multi-agency networks practice driven at a local level, is a cornerstone of the continued success of the project. 

James explained: “The toolkit is only as good as those who are willing to engage with it. It will give you screening and observation tools and learning resources, but the real strength behind all this is having opportunities for practitioners to collaborate throughout the year, from backgrounds in health as well as education. Peers will inspire, engage and empower each other to continually develop their practice and pass that enthusiasm onto the young people they are supporting.”  

As well as designing and facilitating professional learning networks, James has provided direct bespoke support for schools, facilitated strategic planning sessions for senior management, and made it possible for all of those he has worked with to shape the creation of the new toolkit.  

Laurence Findlay, Interim Lead for the Northern Alliance commented: “This piece of work has been well thought-out and delivered. Our overarching aim is to raise attainment in literacy, language and communication, and those foundations we lay in the early years have a huge impact later on in a young person’s life.  

“I’d like to commend and congratulate James and all of those he has worked with – we hope that the toolkit will be of benefit to many more practitioners and will provide a lasting legacy. I would encourage practitioners locally to explore the toolkit, create or build on existing local networks and deliver the best possible outcomes for our young people.” 

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