An ‘inspirational’ Renfrewshire primary school has been named as Literacy School of the Year.

St Anthony’s Primary School in Johnstone was chosen for the honour by the UK Literacy Association, which aims to raise literacy standards in schools across the nation.

The school, which has around 200 pupils, was described by the judges as ‘inspirational’, with head teacher Jacqueline McBurnie’s ‘outstanding’ leadership also coming in for praise.

St Anthony’s is among the schools to introduce the innovative Renfrewshire Literacy Approach, a pioneering project between Renfrewshire Council and the University of Strathclyde.

Funded by the Council and the Scottish Government, it has led to an improvement in children’s literacy attainment regardless of their background

Head teacher Jacqueline McBurnie, who received the award this week from UKLA President Tracy Parvin at the school in front of staff and pupils, said: “I am absolutely delighted for our staff and children in receiving this prestigious award.

“It is testimony to all their hard work and unlimited enthusiasm for learning. The journey of St Anthony’s Primary was supported by the Renfrewshire Literacy Approach, which resulted in changes being made through a process of co-production between school professionals and university academics.

“The staff in St Anthony’s Primary embraced the programme with enthusiasm and determination that we would improve our knowledge of literacy, increase our understanding of how poverty impacts on literacy attainment and of how to intervene to promote equality.

“Our children deserve the very best and in St Anthony’s we strive to be excellent in every way, every day to achieve this.”

Independent assessors who visited the school noted how committed staff were to improving the life chances of pupils, as well as their determination to work with parents and the local community.

They added: “The outstanding leadership of the headteacher has led to a transformation in the teaching of literacy at St. Anthony’s and has proved inspirational to other schools in the local authority.”

St Anthony’s Primary School, Johnstone has been awarded the UK Literacy Association title of UK Literacy School of the Year
Pictured L-R
Head Teacher Jacqui McBurnie and President of the UKLA Tracy Parvin

They also noted how both staff and pupils speak eloquently about the books they enjoy and how every classroom has a wide range of books with comfortable reading areas.

Children also have the opportunity to discuss books in Reading Cafes and can learn using laptops, digital cameras and tablets.

The school, which is in an area with levels of disadvantage according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD)has an attached unit for children with communication difficulties.

The assessors added: “The school’s commitment to inclusion has resulted in impressive opportunities for the children with communication difficulties to share in this love of books and reading.  St. Anthony’s success reflects the determination of the head teacher and her staff to make a lasting difference to the children in their care, and their families.

“The work achieved through participation in the Renfrewshire Literacy Approach, because of the enthusiastic and reflective staff at St. Anthony’s, will continue to bear fruit in the years to come.”

Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Policy Board, Councillor Jim Paterson, said: “This award highlights the wonderful work being done in literacy by the head teachers and staff at St Anthony’s, as well as of course the pupils.

“The parents have also had a supporting role to play and everyone at St Anthony’s should feel very proud.

“The honour also reinforces the positive impact the Renfrewshire Literacy Approach has had on literacy attainment.

“Being able to read well and instilling a love of books in children from an early age means they will be able to take advantage of the opportunities open to them across education, whatever their background.”

The UKLA is a registered charity whose sole objective is the advancement of education in literacy and is committed to promoting good practice nationally and internationally.

President Tracy Parvin, said “This award recognises those schools which place literacy and literature right at the heart of children’s learning. It is more than a celebration of creative, enthusiastic and engaging teaching, it is a kite mark for excellence.

“This year’s winning school has left a lasting impression on our assessors. St Anthony’s Primary School is most definitely a school where literacy thrives.”

The school has now embarked on further training to improve children’s writing, as well as setting up a teachers’ book group to keep up-to-date with the best of children’s books.