Pioneering literacy project at Woodberry Down school aims to get boys reading and writing

The Our Literate Boys project team.

The Our Literate Boys project team. - Credit: Archant

A groundbreaking literacy project at a Woodberry Down school is helping boys improve their reading and writing in an effort to close the gender gap in education.

The boys who took part in the project: Ridwan Abdilla, aged 14, Christivie Bwana, aged 13, Jaquan B

The boys who took part in the project: Ridwan Abdilla, aged 14, Christivie Bwana, aged 13, Jaquan Byrue, aged 13, Daniel Taiwo, aged 13 and Ahmed Guthmy, aged 14-years-old. - Credit: Archant

The Our Literate Boys project, run by 1st Verse Education, aims to engage boys from secondary schools in literacy by helping them explore words and language through film, short stories, music and spoken word. It was developed by Alexandros Ayeni, a teacher at Skinners’ Academy, in response to low achievement levels and high exclusion rates, particularly those from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

The first to try it were the school’s Year 8 and 9 students. Christivie Bwana, 13, said: “The project means a lot to me because it’s taught me how to communicate better with people and how to accept constructive criticism. I’ve learnt about different interpretations of black people, the stereotypes around black people and how to best deal with them.”

Ahmed Guthmy, 14, added: “Taking part in this project has made me realise there’s more to me and my identity and there’s another side of myself that I can express.”

The plan is to roll out the course to other schools across the borough.

Mr Ayeni said: “The outcomes have been fantastic. It has developed their confidence and a deeper understanding of GCSE English. It has shown me what can be achieved when education is stripped of educators’ prejudices and preconceptions and from the pressures of exam results. For everyone working in education, it is our collective responsibility to develop every student’s’ latent skills, abilities and power.”

The students presented their work at media agency MediaCom. Deputy mayor Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, opened the event. She said: “It was clear to see what a transformative experience it had been for the students, allowing them to explore their own identity and heritage in creative ways.”