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Hele's School

Hele's School

Hele's School A great place to learn. A great place to grow.


We are delighted to offer a comprehensive literacy programme which focuses on developing students’ Reading, Writing, and Communication skills across all areas of school life.

All Hele’s staff are aware of the importance of ensuring our learners are effective communicators and we take every opportunity to guide and enthuse learners with a love of the English language in all its forms. Our commitment to improving literacy is outlined in our Literacy SOP which can be downloaded below.

Please click on the tabs below to browse the selection of literacy strategies which are part of every student’s day-to-day life at Hele’s School. If you require any further information regarding our literacy programme please contact Mr Fonseca (Assistant Principal) at


Our School Library

Our Library is open to students before school, during break and lunchtime and after school. The Librarians and their team of staff and students are always on hand to help and advise the students. The Library is also used regularly by class teachers to encourage students to read for research. As well as an excellent range of books and e-books, which is regularly updated, students have access to computers and a range of online sources that the school is registered to use, including Issues Online and the Newspapers for Schools NewsLibrary website. All Year 7 students have a dedicated ‘Library Lesson’ twice a term as part of their English curriculum and older students are given ‘refresher’ sessions to help them make good use of the library.

The new fresh re-design for the School Library is very appealing to staff and students alike. There is a welcoming feel on arrival in an open-plan setting. Comfortable seating is arranged throughout the ground floor and creative use of moveable shelving allows our students to browse freely for books to satisfy their reading interests. Fiction is arranged into genre categories downstairs where there is also a dedicated Accelerated Reader area to support Year 7 and Year 8 in their daily use of the AR programme. Non-fiction books can be found at the top of the stairs, arranged in Dewey Decimal order. More comfortable seating is a very welcome addition to the mezzanine floor level, particularly during lunch break when small groups like to gather to read factual books like the ever-popular Guinness Book of World Records. The Study Area upstairs is light and airy and an ideal place to concentrate on school work. It also has 15 laptops available for student use, a flexible resource for our school community.

DEAR Time and Accelerated Reader

DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) Time

All Y7 and 8 students are given 30 minutes of lesson time every day for reading. Students are expected to read a book of their choice on most occasions, although the reading may, on occasion, be directed by the teacher.

Accelerated Reader

AR encourages students to make challenging and enjoyable reading choices and monitors how well the students are reading the books they have chosen. It also has an impact on improving key literacy skills, such as spelling, vocabulary and sentence structure. The programme is tailored to meet each student’s individual needs through personalised targets and progress checks.

Once a student completes a book they will take a quiz. The students aim to achieve 85% or above in each quiz they take, and this also enables them to accumulate points towards a target. Their point score enables them to qualify for a range of prizes, including certificates, pens, bookmarks, trophies, vouchers and reward trips.

Accelerated Reader has had a significant impact on our students’ engagement with books and reading, however, from time to time, some may need a little more support. We monitor students’ progress throughout the programme, and we offer a reading mentor programme for students who require support.

Subject Specific Wider Reading

Wider reading and research plays a vital role in consolidating and reinforcing deeper learning. This will become increasingly important as the new GCSE specifications come into effect. As a result, our curriculum teams supply carefully chosen reading material (fiction or non-fiction) which extends and enriches learning in their subject area

Some suggestions for texts have included:

  • Novels with thematic links to the subject
  • Research articles
  • Magazine/newspaper articles which focus on subject-related issues

Post 16 teachers have also created a recommended reading list for current and prospective students. Details of the suggested texts can be found here.

E-Books & the E-Reader project

The School Library offers access to the Library Service for Schools e-book platform, managed by Wheelers. The link here will take you to the site. Please contact Mrs Wolf in the School Library to be given a unique login. Each e-book is on loan for two weeks and will automatically expire after this time, though there is also an option to extend the loan period by renewing it. Currently, the choice of books isn’t huge but it will grow as more students make use of this exciting alternative to paper books.

E-books are also available through the City of Plymouth’s Library Service and staff and students with a public library card are strongly encouraged to try this option. The public library e-book website can be found here. To contact our nearest public library please ring 01752 305630 or email and the staff will help set up a PIN to let you gain access to an excellent range of e-books.

The School Library E-Reader project has the use of 17 tablets donated to Hele’s School by The Rotarians. We use e-reader technology to overcome barriers to reading enjoyment with selected groups of year 7 and year 8 students. E-readers allow the reader to quickly find out a word’s meaning without disrupting the flow of reading. This helps with developing a broad vocabulary and helps to improve fluency of reading. E-readers also allow the reader to change text size, background colour and font, according to the needs of the reader.

Carnegie Awards Shadowing Event

Six students in Year 7 last year represented Hele’s School at the annual shadowing event of the Carnegie Children’s Book Award, which on this occasion we were delighted to be hosting in the Lecture Theatre. Having welcomed schools from across Plymouth, the students performed their presentation on Francis Hardinge’s ‘The Lie Tree’ with style and vivacity, communicating the characters and themes with undoubted enthusiasm! A much larger group of students had worked on the text in the prior weeks and had enjoyed taking part in the shared reading of this story. We are already looking forward to finding out which book we will be allocated next time around!

National Poetry Day

To celebrate National Poetry Day, Hele’s staff found their inner poet and surprised students with spontaneous readings of their favourite poems! Our anthology of poems can be viewed here.


Extended Writing

Our staff ensure students’ writing skills are developed by:
1. Ensuring students write in full sentences whenever appropriate
2. Taking opportunities to promote high quality writing through the use of planning and drafting
3. Insisting that handwriting is legible and a handwriting pen is used
4. Insisting that the presentation is of high quality or work must be re-written. Written work must be presented in line with school policy: CW/HW, title and date all underlined with a ruler; blue or black

Literacy Marking

All staff use the school’s standard symbols when marking work for literacy. These symbols are made available to students through classroom posters and on p19 of their planners. Through consistent feedback across all subject areas, we can support students’ vocabulary development and technical accuracy.

DIRT Time (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time)

Students are given regular class time to read and respond to teachers’ feedback, including improving and extending their responses and correcting any spelling or grammatical errors. Students are encouraged to take responsibility for the quality of their work and to take every opportunity to move it closer to excellence.


Communication Skills

All of our staff must encourage students to practice wider communication skills which also support writing by:

1. Planning talk as a scaffold for writing (class discussion / think pair share etc.)
2. Correcting errors in spoken language (tactfully by, perhaps, repeating the incorrect phrase correctly during verbal feedback)
3. Adopting appropriate cooperative learning structures to encourage effective learning discussions
4. Providing opportunities for students to present their work through a range of methods, e.g. oral presentations, ICT

Debating society

The debating society was started in 2015 as a vehicle for our students to express themselves, find their unique voice and become effective orators. We meet each Wednesday and are an eclectic bunch of year 8-13s. We use the Mace style of debating, which is quite formal but can still lead to some very exciting and interesting debates.

We compete in the English Speaking Union’s national debating competition and reached the regional finals last year. We have one-off workshops with expert debaters and will be working with the University of Plymouth’s debating team shortly.

Being part of the debating society enables pupils to explore the thorny issues which affect their day to day lives and wider matters of social importance. They develop excellent argument skills and become accomplished public speakers; skills which will serve them well in the world outside of school.


When our assessment data identifies the need for specific literacy support, we can offer the following strategies:

‘Speed Up’ Handwriting

On beginning at Hele’s School, all students sit the DASH (Detailed Assessment of Speed of Handwriting) assessment where they are asked to write a piece of writing about themselves and their life. This piece of writing is then carefully assessed by staff who will comment and evaluate the presentation of handwriting and identify which students will require handwriting intervention.

These students and their parents are then informed of the handwriting intervention programme we run in school called ‘Speed Up’. This programme helps the student improve the presentation and quality of their handwriting.

The ‘Speed Up’ programme is based on a range of exercises and fun activities without the use of traditional pen and paper. This programme has helped our students make excellent progress and achieve excellent exam results.


Read/Write Inc. Fresh Start

A select group of students are working through the Read Write Inc. Fresh Start programme during English lessons. Fresh Start teaches students to read accurately and fluently with good comprehension. It teaches them to spell correctly and compose their ideas for writing step-by-step. Students experience success from the very beginning. Lively stories and non-fiction texts are both age-appropriate and closely matched to their increasing knowledge of phonics and ‘tricky’ words and as students re-read the texts, their fluency increases.

Students write every day, rehearsing out loud what they want to write, using their knowledge of the alphabetic code and the ‘tricky’ words they have learnt. They learn to write compositions based on their own experiences and ideas from the story, drawing upon new vocabulary and grammar.

Metacognitive Reading

This strategy focuses on developing reading comprehension and vocabulary. Small groups work with an English teacher to develop the skills required to analyse texts. Study units follow a specific structure:

  1. Introduction – hook students with picture/video/unusual question linked to the text.
  2. Direct Vocabulary Instruction using words from the text – e.g. synonym/antonym webs
  3. Read the text – as a class at first then independently
  4. Summarise text using Card Pyramid and then transferring information into a 100-word written summary.
  5. Answer questions on the text.


Speed Up Read Up

Selected students follow a unique blend of Speed Up Handwriting and Accelerated Reader (see ‘Reading’ section) strategies to develop both their reading and handwriting.


Group and Paired Reading support

Some students benefit from additional support to develop their reading skills, so we run two kinds of groups in the Library, paired reading and group reading. In both cases, students gain confidence from further reading practice and are helped to develop techniques to improve their understanding of the books they choose to read.