Storying Sheffield

LEAP: The Literacy Exchange and Achievement Programme

NB For the latest information about the LEAP project visit this page.

The Literacy Exchange and Achievement Programme (LEAP) is an exciting and pioneering collaborative project that sees The University of Sheffield, Sheffield City Council and secondary schools across the city working together to help support the development of literacy skills in local young people.
In 2013/14, University of Sheffield undergraduates from the departments of English and Education have been working closely with groups of secondary school pupils, helping them develop a wider range of literacy strategies, primarily in order to enhance their reading comprehension abilities. Over a period of several months undergraduates have been supporting small groups of young people, using internationally recognised methods to improve literacy.
Project Officer Matt Colbeck explained: “The school pupils taking part in this project have got a unique opportunity to work with university student mentors, using research based techniques to help them improve their literacy.”

LEAP is intended to benefit both school and university students who participate. As well as working to improve literacy, LEAP is facilitating a dynamic exchange of ideas and experiences between students, academics, teachers, and other experts in education. Evaluation and research initiatives are running alongside the literacy activity, with this aimed at deepening understandings of how to enhance reading ability, and of the challenges to this which young people face, and university students are keeping learning diaries online in which they reflect on their own learning and the effectiveness of their work. Undergraduates are in the process of gaining knowledge of theories of literacy, learning, and cognition, as well as being trained in how to work with young people to improve reading.
Professor Brendan Stone, Director of Storying Sheffield, said: “For the university, this project is deepening our understanding of how to enhance reading ability, and the challenges which young people face. Our undergraduates will not only gain knowledge of literacy, learning and working with young people but will also glean valuable insight into their University city, its people and concerns.”

The LEAP team at the University of Sheffield, October 2013
Students from the University are currently undertaking their second placement within schools, whilst playing a key role in the evaluation of the first cycle of mentoring sessions that took place in the run-up to Christmas.
The LEAP steering group, consisting of members of the University and staff at both secondary schools across the city and at Sheffield City Council, are gathering feedback from pupils, teachers and undergraduates, in the hope to develop the scheme as a cross-faculty academic module for 2014/15. An evaluation meeting was held, in which undergraduates shared their experiences of working within schools and the overall experience of being involved with LEAP, and this generated much insightful discussion and positive feedback.
One student commented that “the improvement in the pupils’ confidence in expressing their ideas was what stood out most”.
Another student, talking of her own personal development during the scheme, commented that ‘interestingly, it gave me more motivation to work hard in my degree and extra-curricular activities”.
One pupil at a partner school participating in the scheme commented: “I like the scheme because as well as helping me with reading, I get to find out about what happens at university.” This interest in the university seemed to be a common feature that was raised during the evaluation meeting, with pupils, according to our students, generally showing an increased interest in the university life of the undergraduates they were working with.
The internationally renowned School of Education at the University of Sheffield is a key partner in the project and in the evaluation of the research and feedback material currently being compiled. Researchers from the School are evaluating the impact of the classroom based literacy work on all participants: pupils, undergraduates and schools. It is hoped that the research outcomes will help us gain a better understanding both of outreach projects and initiatives to improve reading ability.
Dr Rachael Levy, Lecturer in Education commented: “This project is one of the most exciting literacy initiatives I have been involved with and it is being very well received by teachers and academics. It’s also a great example of how a single project can achieve multiple aims and therefore represents very good value for money. We are looking forward to analysing the results both locally and within the broader academic community”.
The University is planning an awards event, to be held at Firth Hall on Wednesday 7th May at 6pm, which will bring together members of the university and of the city council, undergraduates, secondary school pupils and parents to celebrate the personal development and successes that have been achieved. All those who have completed the scheme, both undergraduates and school pupils alike, will be awarded a certificate, signed by both the university and the city council, in recognition of their achievements on the scheme.
For more information about LEAP please contact Matt Colbeck:
Project documents (TUoS network only)