The Department of Education school improvement document “Every School a Good School” and the supporting literacy and numeracy strategy “Count, Read: Succeed” place emphasis on the promotion of literacy and numeracy in schools and highlight not only high quality learning and teaching in the classroom but also early intervention as pivotal in raising attainment in literacy and numeracy in Northern Ireland.
While the ETI, in a recent inspection, judged learning and teaching in the Royal School as “very good”, reporting that “at a whole school level, a high priority is given to the development of pupils’ literacy and numeracy skills” and GCSE results in both English and Mathematics are consistently well above the Northern Ireland grammar school average, the school, at management and departmental level, is committed to continuous school improvement , with literacy and numeracy constantly to the fore.
For more than ten years now the Royal School has piloted a number of initiatives, including developing a very successful peer tutoring programme to support pupils in Years 8-12 who, through various baseline tests and teacher recommendation, have been identified as requiring additional, one to one support in literacy and numeracy. The programme involves Year 13 pupils mentoring, advising and assisting pupils in Years 8-12 who require extra support in Maths or English and the work, which depends on the need of the pupil, ranges from specific tasks set by the Head of English or the Head of Maths or work set by the classroom teacher to support within a classroom situation. Peer tutors are trained annually in September and accountability has been ensured. A recent survey of the programme highlighted numerous benefits to both pupils and their tutors: while pupils have emphasised improved confidence as well as improved grades in literacy and numeracy, their tutors have also commented on improved confidence and enhanced organisational and communication skills to name but a few. The peer tutoring programme also plays a key role in the pastoral life of the school with senior pupils acting as confidantes for junior pupils.