At Shireland Collegiate Academy we run the highly successful Literacy for Life programme that has been developed here for over the past 10 years.


At its heart, Literacy for Life has 17 hours with the same teacher in Year 7, 13 hours with the same teacher in Year 8 and 5 hours with the same teacher in Year 9.

This helps students with the transition to secondary school, enables staff members to get to know students and therefore allows them to care for their academic and pastoral needs. Overall, this provides a strong link with families. Students following this curriculum have had the highest progress scores in Sandwell in each of the last three years.

It has been nationally recognised that most students who come into secondary education experience a drop in their progress. This is because in most schools the strongest staff are put with Year 11 and Year 7 is no one’s priority. Starting a new school can be difficult for some students and if they are seeing 14 or 15 teachers it can be hard to settle.

This is not the case at Shireland Collegiate Academy  where we have a dedicated team of Literacy for Life teachers. Each teacher is focussed on the students in their class, not just from an academic perspective but also getting to know the students and their families really well and forming a partnership which will really help students to progress.

Students have a dedicated classroom where they can store their work and feel comfortable as well as someone they can go to with any issues and who knows how they are performing across their subjects.


Competencies are the way we assess students in Literacy for Life.

We assess 10 areas of student development, six relating to academic development and four relating to how students are growing as people. Each lesson has a competency as part of it and students work to move themselves from Emerging to Advanced. There are Entry Level, Level 1, 2 and 3 competencies which become more challenging as students progress through the Academy.

These competencies are about improving students’ academic ability and ensuring they are learning both the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. Social and Environmental competencies cover all of the Humanities subjects. Every lesson has an academic competency attached to it and every theme has a spread of academic competencies that students will study, Many of these are then revisited to assess students’ progress as we move through the years.

In addition to the Academic competencies, the Academy has developed a series of assessments about developing students as people. Through this we want to create students who are: 

  • Happy students, who feel their school and peers support them and want to come to school.
  • Healthy students, both mentally and physically.
  • Successful students, ambitious for themselves and others.
  • Students who have strong aspirations and feel that they are capable of achieving them.
  • Students with a sense of decency, respectful of others both within and outside the Academy.
  • Students with a sense of pride in their Academy, who want to be involved in all aspects of Academy life.
  • Self motivated, inquisitive students, capable of independent study.
  • Students who have a joy of learning and a wish to learn.
  • Students who believe they can improve their skills and abilities through practice and hard work.
  • Students who have strong and resilient coping mechanisms to deal with change.
  • Students who are willing to take risks.
  • Students who know how to stay safe outside of the Academy.


To facilitate this we have four competency strands:

  • Personal Learning competencies assess how well students are able to learn, set goals, revise, concentrate and understand the skills that it takes to be a great learner.
  • Personal Social is about learning about yourself, staying safe and healthy eating but also the ability to be respectful and to work well with others.
  • Creativity is one of the most prized assets for any student or employee and this competency looks at developing students’ creativity in forms ranging from art to creative writing.
  • Professional Development is all about considering careers for the future and looks at the world of work, how to write a CV and be a confident interviewee.


Our Literacy for Life programme consists of subjects taught through themes. A theme runs for around three weeks and has elements of all the subjects taught through it. Not every theme has the same amount of every subject as some may be more history or science focussed, but we cover the national curriculum over the year.

We break out for some discreet Mathematics where a theme would not be an appropriate setting for this.

Literacy for Life is taught in mixed ability classes with different levels of support within the classroom for students who need to be stretched or who need more help. We look to produce work of real quality with opportunities for parents to see the work produced.

The curriculum is technology rich with each student having their own device and ICT taught through all the themes. We have a balance of written work and work on the devices as we are aware that students still need to be able to write fluently and accurately.

We assess students through a series of competencies, looking at both their academic progress and their development as people, equally important tracks to ensuring a well rounded education.

The year 7, 8 and Year 9 themes cover a wide variety of exciting and engaging topics. Below you can find an overview of what we cover.

Year 7 Themes subject image
Autumn Term Spring Term Summer Term
Citizen Me Journeys Off With Your Head
Journey to the Centre of the Earth  i-Robot Silent Movies
In Days of Old Growing
Fairy Tales Water
Year 8 Themes subject image
Autumn Term Spring Term Summer Term
Pudding Lane Da Vinci Please Sir
Grand Designs Apps for Good Silent Movies
Coming and Going Freedom
India Coast
Year 9 Themes subject image
Autumn Term Spring Term Summer Term
Follow the Leader World Study: Made in China Study Skills
Whose Earth is it Anyway Apps for Good World Study: Britain: A Living History
Tragedy World Study: America: Land of the Free Psychology of Learning


There are a number of subjects that reside outside of Literacy for Life which require specialist facilities or specialist teachers.



While there are a lot of themes that contain Science in Literacy for Life such as ‘Water’, ‘iRobot’ and ‘Planets’, students also receive two hours a week of practical science. This follows the AQA Science course and covers the following topics, with a strong focus on developing scientific methods and practical skills:

  • Forces
  • Electromagnets
  • Energy
  • Waves
  • Matter
  • Reactions
  • Earth
  • Organisms
  • Ecosystems
  • Genes



Students undertake two hours of physical education per week where the following activities will be offered

  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Basketball
  • Netball
  • Gymnastics
  • Athletics

Students undertake Music, Art and Design Technology on a rotation. Students are allocated two hours per week and hence will study two of these each term and then change to the next subject. These sessions are project based with the project lasting through the term.

Topic choices are at the discretion of the teacher but will cover the core KS3 competencies in the national curriculum.



Students study two hours of languages per week with the initial option in Year 7 being German.  We have chosen this language to have support from our sister Academy which has a strong German department.

During the year students receive introductory lessons in the four key competencies of:

  • Speaking
  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing

Students who already speak a second language, or those who are struggling with English, may receive additional English tuition at this time.

As the students move into Year 9, we view this year as a transitional year into Key Stage 4 as our students begin the Options process of choosing GCSE subjects. The Year 9 L4L curriculum is designed to support students and develop their levels of independence so they are ready for the rigours of KS4 and beyond. 

Year 9