TL Focus Title 1

Issue 2

Focus is the Teaching and Learning Newsletter from Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Engineering College and is written and compiled by staff to share good practice, highlight new ideas and develop our professional pedagogy.


Wider Academic Reading in Citizenship - Zoe Fox

One of the strategies trialled in GCSE Citizenship this year has been to use academic texts to support learning. Students often study Citizenship with a view to pursuing careers in law or politics, for example, and therefore it is important to promote the advantages of wider reading to support their studies. Seeing this, I asked, 'What I am doing as their class teacher to support them for the challenges to come in their educational journey?’


Studies suggest that reading for pleasure decreases rapidly after the primary years. Looking at this research demonstrates that there is a shared responsibility to develop reading and vocabulary in the classroom. To promote reading for pleasure, maintain and support literacy skills, there should continue to be opportunities and resources for students to access. Of course, for those students who had chosen to study Citizenship, there was an opportunity for me to promote literacy once again.

For a number of years, I have advocated the resources and social media sites of Simple Politics for use in Citizenship. Its founder, Tatton Spiller, is a former secondary school teacher who breaks down UK political developments into manageable chunks on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Tatton wrote a book called ‘The Breakdown: Making Sense of Politics in a Messed Up World’ (published by Elliott & Thompson in 2019). This covered political concepts such as the constitution, devolution of power and the role of the House of Lords. Tatton writes with an informed but relaxed style which makes the subject easily accessible.

My Y11 students, higher, middle and lower ability, were given an extract from the book to read as part of their personal study, which explored in detail some of the tier 3 vocabulary AQA expects the students to be able to define and use confidently in exam papers. Students were able to access this complex terminology through carefully chosen contextual examples. For example, the concept of The Cabinet, which the book explains concisely but light heartedly:

‘The cabinet is formed of the prime minister’s top talent…They meet once a week, normally in the cabinet room at Number 10, to discuss the Big Decisions... At the end of the debate or discussion, though, a decision will be reached, either through a vote or the prime minister will lay down what they want to happen… At that point the whole cabinet has to swing behind the idea and publicly back the decision. If they want to criticise the decision, they need to stand down… If you were planning a trip with a group of friends, there might be some disagreement about where to go…Once a decision has been made, though, you’ve got to go with it. However much you liked the idea of eating bagels and going to ‘Central Perk’ in New York, the opportunity to ride the Master Blaster at Butlin’s Minehead has more appeal for the rest of the group,’

The book has a reading age of between 12-14 years and is therefore suitable for Y11. Two students have shared their views. Student one said…

‘I believe reading this as part of our citizenship work has been extremely beneficial. It allowed me to add to my overall knowledge of the subject whilst gaining a deeper understanding of what I need to know in the Politics and Participation topic. Not only did I benefit from reading this, I found it highly enjoyable and incredibly interesting. I feel it has helped me to prepare for both college and university because I plan to work in the healthcare sector, which is of course very heavy with coursework and reading material, so the idea of reading to learn isn’t a foreign concept anymore and is something I’m happy and confident I’ll be able to apply in a further educational setting’

Student two said…

‘The academic reading task, on the whole, was an absolutely amazing piece of independent learning to be set. It allowed me to continue my learning in a very informal manner and felt a lot less like homework. The task helped me develop my skill in picking information from a text as well as developing my knowledge around the subject of which I was reading. These skills will definitely stick with me after I have left OLQP, especially in my English A level, where academic reading is vital to your success in the subject.’

A Year 10 student adopted a different approach to this: they asked if they could borrow the whole book and read it at their leisure, a bit at a time across the academic year. For context the student is middle ability but has been identified as talented with a genuine interest in the subject. They said…

‘The book that I borrowed shows me another way to understand politics and I can pick it up when I want to keep reading. I enjoy the subject because it helps me to express myself and develop my opinions but I was concerned about the politics topic. The Breakdown book allows me to explore political events and generally how politics works in the UK. For example I was interested in learning about the Coalition government in 2010, the Liberal Democrats had to change the way they thought politically in order to join with the Conservatives. The reading has helped me to see that politics is less complicated than people say.’


Overall, the feedback has been surprising. Despite my knowing the author and his values well, I didn’t think the students would find reading about politics that enjoyable. However, even though the trial was with a small group, it has been positive. I am looking forward to building upon this in the next term and the next acadmeic year. Reflecting on this experience, the tips I’d share with class teachers are:

  1. Don’t be afraid to try it - the students might surprise you with the way they react. Even if only a handful react positively, it will help prepare them for life after OLQP.
  2. Know the book or extract well – its writing style and its reading age are important in terms of if the students will engage and if they can access it.
  3. Give it worth and value - make students see its worth in relation to the course or task and be prepared to have a discussion about what they’ve read. They need to be able to see that their time hasn’t been wasted and where they can put their knowledge gained into practice

STEAM Reading Working Group - Sarah Calderbank

‘It is a simple truth: successful reading helps determine academic success. Reading provides the master skill of school.’

Closing the reading gap. Alex Quigley

As part as the Endeavour Learning Trust STEAM reading working group we are looking at promoting and developing ways to embed subject specific reading across the STEAM subjects. The idea is to get our students to ‘Read like a …. (Mathematician/ Scientist and so on)’. Many studies have shown the importance of subject specific academic reading to be the key to success for students, therefore by supporting students with this across the curriculum will not only benefit them during their time at secondary school but will also aid them to flourish after they leave us too. As students join us at the start of their secondary journey in Year 7 they are doing so with a very wide range of reading ages and experiences, our job is to cater to all of those needs and to look at ways to best support students in order for them to fully understand what reading looks like within each subject.

Reading across each subject can look very differently, therefore we are looking at different strategies to encourage students to not only feel more confident with reading content that is very subject specific but to also fully understand and enjoy this reading. Students must understand how certain words in one subject can mean something entirely different in another subject.

So far this has been done in a number of ways across schools within the ELTSA network but we are looking for other ideas or examples, not just across the STEAM subjects but across the whole curriculum.

An example from Maths:


This would be done at the start of the topic, this one being for the topic ‘Pythagoras’, either in class or set as a piece of homework prior to starting the topic. Students read the story about Pythagoras and then answer the comprehension questions which aim to develop the students scanning and vocabulary skills, as well as deepening their understanding of the background to the topic. This can then lead a whole class discussion to engage all students from the very start of the topic. There are a range of these available for many different topics that will be shared with the Maths department.

Other examples, this from a Science department, can be seen below:


This uses part of a BBC News article relating to the common cold virus and the task is promoted to the students as ‘Reading like a Scientist’. This uses a similar comprehension idea as the example from a Maths department, however it is used as a revision tool before an end of topic test that includes an extended piece of writing on the chosen reading article.

An excellent example of this currently running at OLQP is the subject specific reading Zoe Fox has been encouraging with her Citizenship lessons. Although not a STEAM subject, it is a really effective example of how subject specific reading can be used to develop a student’s understanding and enthusiasm for a subject, especially for those students looking to take that learning further when they leave us in Year 11.

Stem In Action


Talented Students Across the Curriculum - Jade Vose

Our Lady Queen of Peace provides for Able and Ambitious students through two main paths: enrichment and differentiation.  Enrichment refers to clubs, outings, trips and extra-curricular projects specially designed to stretch and challenge beyond the curriculum as well as developing their cultural capital. In terms of differentiation, Able and Ambitious students’ understanding of standard curriculum topics is strengthened and extended so they can apply their knowledge to more challenging problems.

This term we have been identifying who the talented students are in subjects across the school. Talented students are individuals who show a particular aptitude or skill for a subject that sets them apart from others in their year group.  This may look different for every subject – it may be a student who goes above and beyond by completing extra-curricular reading on the subject or being able to learn new skills and apply them quicker than others, or it could be a student with a natural talent in a subject such as music or drama. What is important is that we can identify these students within our own subject and develop their abilities through enrichment and differentiation.  It is the responsibility of every teacher to take the lead in guiding these students, in your classroom, as you have the unique advantage of passion for your subject.


Now that we have identified the talented students, the next step is to provide ways in which we can nurture their abilities and provide an enriching curriculum, which will allow them to reach their full potential. This will look different in every subject as we tailor our resources to best meet the needs of the students. I have included a few examples of how you may do this.


Developing talented students

  • Provide wider academic reading
  • Create a high ability revision class
  • Targeted questioning
  • Access to live speakers
  • Access to career information in their field of talent
  • Provide them with a personal ‘challenge target’
  • Allow them to lead revision sessions for other students
  • Provide extra-curricular opportunities e.g. talented artists visiting a gallery

Lockdown and home learning should not be a barrier to us supporting the Able and Ambitious, some subjects have already put initiatives in place this half term.  Sometimes we overlook opportunities that arrive from outside organisations, but checking my inbox presented a unique opportunity for students who are interested in nursing careers. Students including some Able and Ambitious and some Health and Social care students attended a live online talk with Dr Crystal Oldman, CEO of The Queens Nursing Institute. This was a highly informative talk that gave them a deeper insight to their chosen profession, and it allowed them to go and research different college courses and pathways into nursing. This was provided by Speakers for Schools. There are many online opportunities for students however it is up to us to uncover and share these with our students.

Over the coming term I will be sharing more opportunities with you, ensuring that Our Lady's continues to be an aspirational learning environment.


Top Book

Yesss!: The SUMO Secrets to Being a Positive, Confident Teenager

Sunday Times bestselling author and speaker, Paul McGee aka The SUMO Guy, helps give an insight into helping teenagers become resilient.

Most Read This Term

Making Every Lesson Count Series

These books have proved to be a hit with the teaching and learning steering groups, and amongst the schools direct trainees. The series includes a general book plus subject specific books for Maths, English, MFL, Geography, History and Science. These books are easy to read and an excellent way to reflect on your practice.

Online Resources

ASCL Spring Series

Many staff have attended ASCL sessions throughout autumn term and the feedback suggests these are an excellent resource. If you would like to watch any of the previous sessions or read the presentations they are now available at:

26th March  Break up for Easter
12th April  Return from Easter Break
3rd May  May Bank Holiday
28th May  Break up for Half Term
7th June  Return from Half Term
18th June  GCSE Marks Sent

Possible Transition Events for Years 5&6
Possible Year 10 Science Summer School (Selected Students)


Goodbye to all our Trainee Teachers

We would all like to wish Chloe, Emma and David the best of luck as they move on from Our Ladys to their next school practice. They have all been valuable members of our school community and participated in every aspect of school life. It is also worth pointing out that during lockdown they continued to teach our vulnerable learners despite difficult circumstances. It has been quite an experience for them, and we are grateful for their help and commitment.


We use cookies to track visits to our website. We store no personal details.