The Importance of Literacy for All

Schools have worked night and day to be ready to welcome back all pupils over the next fortnight. Once children and staff are happy and settled, which could take some time, schools will need a renewed focus on supporting all children to not just ‘catch up’ but achieve their best, whatever that looks like. Literacy will be at the forefront of schools’ minds, given its importance not only to other subjects, but to life.

By Sarah Dean on 02 Sep 2020

Every child has the right to an education. They all have the right to leave school able to speak, read and write to the very best of their ability. Our job as educators, indeed our moral duty, is to support absolutely every child to be able to do this. Literacy is a skill for life, and we must do whatever is in our power to support its development.

Every year, schools rightly pay close attention to ensuring all children make progress in their learning. A child’s learning journey is individual and specific, meaning they will not necessarily follow the same trajectory as their peers. Our role is to support and guide each child, whatever their learning journey, challenging them all appropriately along the way.

Of course, this year brings its own additional challenges. It is not an overstatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all our lives, but particularly those of our children. They have experienced loss in many forms, not least that of part of their education. Despite the enormous efforts of schools, many children will not have made the progress which we would wish in any other year, and indeed, some may have lost learning which was not already secure.

Schools have worked night and day to be ready to welcome back all pupils over the next fortnight. Once children and staff are happy and settled, which could take some time, schools will need a renewed focus on supporting all children to not just ‘catch up’ but achieve their best, whatever that looks like. Literacy will be at the forefront of schools’ minds, given its importance not only to other subjects, but to life.

This year, more so than ever, we must promote Literacy for all. Only by ensuring every child can speak articulately, read fluently and write with clarity, can we be sure that we are supporting all children to fully engage with the world. With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the losses it has caused to children’s education, this is ever more imperative.

This year, our fifth annual Literacy conference, #LitConf20, will focus on the theme of ‘Literacy for All’. Our inspirational keynote speakers and workshop hosts will be sharing with delegates how they can best support and challenge all Literacy learners; ensuring every child leaves school able to speak, read and write confidently. This year’s event, which takes place on the 8th October 2020, will bring all of the wonderful aspects of our previous conferences to delegates virtually.

As always, the day will bring together amazing keynote speakers and wonderful workshops all designed to provide ideas, inspiration, skills and knowledge to delegates. Conducting the conference virtually not only means that we can bring you a greater range of speakers, but that delegates will be able to visit all workshops and experience the conference at a time that suits them. As many of you will be teaching in bubbles, or have limited staff due to social distancing, the day will be recorded and made available to those who are unable to attend live.

There has never been a more critical time to focus on the educational needs of all children. #LitConf20 will offer a strong support mechanism, exploring the myriad ways in which a well-designed Literacy curriculum can engage and appropriately challenge all pupils throughout the learning process.

Our first keynote speaker of 2020 is the fabulous Abi Elphinstone, author of books such as Sky Song and The Dreamsnatcher.

Despite being branded ‘unteachable’ at school, Abi went on to become a teacher and best-selling author. Abi will draw on her experiences in the classroom, both as a dyslexic child learning to read and write, as a literacy teacher in several schools across the UK and as an author working with thousands of children every year. Her keynote will discuss how teachers and librarians can motivate and inspire children as they learn to read and write.

Jungledrop, her adventure-packed new novel is published on 1st October 2020. Many schools recognise the power of using exciting novels such as Jungledrop to spark pupils’ interest and excitement in Literacy. We must provide our children with opportunities to listen to stories, let their imaginations run free, get lost in magical worlds, meet enchanting characters and join in their incredible adventures in wondrous settings.

Abi will also be discussing the 96 rejection letters she received from literary agents en-route to becoming a published author and what they taught her about determination and self-belief in regards to creativity. And as a volunteer for the literacy charity, Coram Beanstalk, where she runs a weekly book club for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, Abi will be championing the importance of literacy for all because every child deserves to leave school feeling empowered in their ability to speak, read and write.

Our second keynote speakers are #LitConf returnees. After their amazing workshop at one of our previous conferences, Simon Kidwell, the inspirational headteacher at Hartford Manor and Clare De Wolff, a wonderful Upper Key Stage Two teacher at the school, are back. They will be sharing how they have developed Hartford Manor into a true reading school where everybody loves books.

During their session, they will explore the six key strategies used to underpin reading for all at their school:

  • Early reading
  • Developing a book centred curriculum
  • Nurturing reading teachers
  • Developing strong reading networks
  • Promoting book talk and vocabulary
  • Building a school literature spine

With reading at the heart of their broad and balanced curriculum, the team are passionate about a holistic approach which includes everybody within the school. Teresa Cremin (Wider Reading, 2011) says that teachers need to obtain a ‘reading identity’ to lead children on their own reading journey. Clare and Simon will discuss the importance of this and how teachers can develop a broader, deeper understanding of contemporary children’s literature, using this to encourage all children to engage with books. They will also explain how they have developed strong reading networks within the school, enabling all children to participate in informal book talk and enjoy discussing themes, characters and plot lines within texts. They will share their experiences, their strategies for encouraging every child to be a reader and how Hartford Manor use reading as the key driver for school improvement.

Our final key note speaker, Sarah Hubbard, is OFSTED’s Subject Lead for English and one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors.

Sarah has been involved in all three phases of curriculum research undertaken prior to the introduction of the Education Inspection Framework. The framework, which was published last year, encourages schools to reflect on their curriculum’s intent, implementation and impact to ensure, ‘a curriculum that is ambitious and designed to give all learners, particularly the most disadvantaged and those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) or high needs, the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life,’ OFSTED (2019).

The EIF highlights the importance of reading as a fundamental skill, and one which all children should be supported to master. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, believes that the EIF’s emphasis on the importance of the teaching of early reading will support headteachers to focus more clearly on ensuring that every child learns to read fluently.

Sarah is uniquely placed to offer delegates insight into how schools can offer a literacy curriculum for all. She will draw from her wealth of experience and rich understanding of the latest Education Inspection Framework, to reflect on best practice in the teaching and learning of English for all learners.

The theme of ‘Literacy for All’ will continue throughout the day, with a multitude of workshops on offer covering all aspects of Literacy. Some of our workshops include: Making literacy more accessible for EAL children by Beth Southern; How literature can shape your school curriculum by Lekha Sharma; an appearance from Robbie the school dog, and much more. More details about all of our fantastic workshop hosts can be found here. Delegates will leave inspired with new knowledge and an array of ideas and strategies to use to support all pupils to become fully literate and engaged learners, with a true love of Literacy. #LitConf20 is not to be missed. For more information, or to book your place at our special virtual rate of only £79 plus VAT, click here or email

We can’t wait to see you there!


  • Cremin, T, 2011, Reading for Pleasure and Wider reading, UKLA Resources.
  • OFSTED, 2019, The Education Inspection Framework, Crown Copyright.
  • OFSTED, 2019, School Inspection Handbook, Crown Copyright.
  • Jones, G, 2019, Early Reading and the Education Inspection Framework, OFSTED.

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