Literacy and Numeracy


To be able to increase progress in the curriculum, it is essential that we as teachers are teaching Literacy and Numeracy within all subject areas.  The question is, how do we achieve this?

For most teachers, we include Key words and pick up on spelling and grammar for literacy and for numeracy we try to include the use of data and use statistical.




literacy picture

There is nothing new about the focus on whole-school literacy. As a headteacher commented in The Times Educational Supplement:

If you want a sure way to provoke a collective groan in your staffroom, announce that you are intending to hold a training day devoted to whole school literacy. ‘We did that five years ago!’ someone will shout.

At its most specific and practical, the term applies to a set of skills that have long been accepted as fundamental to education. The Department for Education is clear and emphatic – the curriculum should offer opportunities for pupils to:

  • ‘engage in specific activities that develop speaking and listening skills as well as activities that integrate speaking and listening with reading and writing’
  • ‘develop speaking and listening skills through work that makes cross-curricular links with other subjects’
  •  ‘develop reading skills through work that makes cross-curricular links with other subjects’
  • ‘develop writing skills through work that makes cross-curricular links with other subjects’
  • ‘work in sustained and practical ways, with writers where possible, to learn about the art, craft and discipline of writing’
  • ‘redraft their own work in the light of feedback. This could include self-evaluation using success criteria, recording and reviewing performances, target-setting and formal and informal use of peer assessment. Redrafting should be purposeful, moving beyond proofreading for errors to the reshaping of whole texts or parts of texts.’  (Ofsted)


‘Literacy’, however, is more than the mechanics of reading, writing, speaking and listening. The National Curriculum demands that connections be made between each strand and across subjects, which calls for thought and understanding, for recall, selection and analysis of ideas and information, and for coherent, considered and convincing communication in speech and in writing. All pupils should be encouraged to:

  • ‘make extended, independent contributions that develop ideas in depth’
  • ‘make purposeful presentations that allow them to speak with authority on significant subjects’
  • ‘engage with texts that challenge preconceptions and develop understanding beyond the personal and immediate’
  • ‘experiment with language and explore different ways of discovering and shaping their own meanings’
  • ‘use writing as a means of reflecting on and exploring a range of views and perspectives on the world.’ (Ofsted)

For example using the writing instruction below:-

writing instructions


‘What’s in it for departments?

  • Literacy supports learning. Pupils need vocabulary, expression and organisational control to cope with the cognitive demands of all subjects.
  • Writing helps us to sustain and order thought.
  • Better literacy leads to improved self-esteem, motivation and behaviour. It allows pupils to learn independently. It is empowering.
  • Better literacy raises pupils’ attainment in all subjects.’

book pictureFurther reading:-




numeracy picture

While most people have a reasonable understanding of what it means to be literate, one of the issues with numeracy is the many different definitions; it means different things to different people.

For some it is synonymous with mathematics, for others it is a subset of mathematics, while others will argue that numeracy lies only partly in mathematics and partly in many other disciplines. Some see numeracy skills simply as those needed to do a specific job (e.g. an engineer or a bricklayer, or for calculating invoices).

Many see numeracy as being essential for the ability to be a reflective learner (e.g. making sense of charts and information reported in the media).

Numeracy is a fundamental life skill that is needed in many ways – personal, leisure, social and work – in order for people to lead a confident and fulfilling life in school and beyond.


To raise standards in schools, numeracy needs to be seen as a practical capability that enables learners to apply their skills and knowledge to solve problems in a whole range of contexts across school and in real life.

Key messages

  • Numeracy is a basic life skill without which individuals will struggle in and beyond school
  • As a life skill, the description of numeracy goes beyond mere computation – it includes essential abilities such as solving problems, understanding and explaining the solutions, making decisions based on logical thinking and reasoning, and interpreting data, charts and diagrams

the essential in literacy


Belief or a ‘Growth Mind-Set’: US professor of psychology Carol Dweck states that it is our mind-set, not abilities or talent, which lead to success (Dweck, 2008).

In a fixed mind-set, people believe that their abilities can’t change. In a growth mind-set, people believe that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. They seek to learn from mistakes and embrace challenges. They have a can-do attitude.

To achieve growth, people must therefore believe that their maths abilities are not fixed, and feel confident that anyone can develop mathematical skill.

For teachers outside the mathematics department, how are we ensuring that we are using numeracy within our curriculum?

Further reading:-

Dweck, Carol. 2008. “Mindset and Math/Science Achievement “. Teaching & Leadership: Managing for Effective Teachers and Leaders.