We see a number of secondary school children at Satchel who are extremely able at maths and science subjects, but who seriously struggle (in terms of motivation and results) with English.
Whilst they will almost certainly drop English as soon as they have finished their GCSE, it is vitally important that they achieve a minimum of a 4 or 5 in English language or literature to secure a place at a Sixth Form college. However if they hope to go on to a career in medicine, for example, they should aim for at least a 7.
We believe it is important to get these children reading. Many will have not picked up a book since primary school. We have a number of books in our class libraries that can engage these children. Comprehension and understanding is not something that can easily be taught; there are numerous skills involved. However regular reading is a proven way to facilitate this process.
Writing can often be a particular chore for these children. We use a number of techniques to help. We start them on Short Writes, asking them to write around a paragraph of high quality work. We also use Sentence Sheets to help them craft their work, getting them to use a semi colon or a sentence that starts with an adverb, for example. As they approach longer pieces of writing, we spend a large amount of time on the planning process. We may also get them to redraft and improve the quality of certain sections.
It is not easy to turn an English hater into an English lover. However with the right encouragement and preparation, we can develop a grudging tolerance for the subject and help these children achieve academic success.