2016 marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day. Fifty years ago, UNESCO officially proclaimed 8 September International Literacy Day to actively mobilize the international community and promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.
At Prospects we see the effects of poor literacy first hand, particularly in our work with offenders. Prospects delivers the education curriculum in Feltham Young Offenders Institution (YOI) and the National Careers Service In Custody provision in 40 prisons.
In Feltham YOI the English qualification achievement rate is 84%, exceeding benchmarks. In Feltham, as in all education settings, there is an expectation to prioritise literacy and numeracy, ensuring all school-age learners achieve a grade C or above in GCSE English and maths. In Feltham all colleagues take responsibility for improving literacy and numeracy, regardless of the subject they teach.
Here Feltham colleagues share their triumphs.
When Charlie first joined my English class he was testing. He would try to wind the other young people up and make antagonistic remarks about me. He would do anything to take the focus away from doing his work.
When Charlie first came to Feltham he was assessed as being Entry 3. He often refused to do the work set and appeared to have had no interest his own learning.
One day I brought in a newspaper article about a famous case in English legal history. Charlie was fascinated and felt really passionate about the verdict. He began really engaging in the discussion and eventually with much persuasion and encouragement he started to write down his own thoughts about the case. It had started off with a few bullet points and by the end of the next lesson he had written an article. I remember he said to me, “Miss, I never thought I could do English!”
Through positive reinforcement and feedback Charlie’s confidence has soared. He proactively seeks support and asked for a 1:1 support session for exam practice, it’s so fulfilling as a teacher to watch this transition.
Charlie has also noticed an improvement. He commented: “Since I’ve been at Feltham I’ve learnt the correct grammar and how to get my point across using the right vocabulary and persuasive language. This has given me the confidence to take exams. My reading skills have also improved and I really enjoy going to the library too. I feel more comfortable speaking to official figures. I now get questioned if I speak in slang! I think this is going to help me when I apply for a music course at college and I’ve already practised writing a cover letter.
“All my work has made me feel like I’ve achieved something. I feel really proud of myself and I appreciate all the help and encouragement I’ve received from the staff.”
Since February Charlie has completed level 1 functional English and sat Level 2 reading exam.
* Not his real name.