A metacognitive approach to the learning and teaching of spelling (MALTS)

Rathfern Primary School in Lewisham are leading a project to evaluate a metacognitive approach to learning and teaching spelling.


Lewisham is among the 20% most deprived areas in England, with 39% of pupils receiving pupil premium (Indices of Multiple Deprivation, 2015). Hart and Risley (1995) found that parents in low-income families spoke 32 million fewer words to their children than professional parents over the first two years as a child. This vocabulary gap is clear in the schools participating in the evaluation. Sixty per cent of pupils speak English as an additional language, creating an added complexity to English acquisition, while over 30% have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Internal Key Stage 2 (KS2) spelling data, writing monitoring and pupil feedback identify spelling as a key issue. Over 50% of children make phonetically plausible attempts at unknown words as their predominant strategy; 40% of children across KS2 are below age-expected standards in spelling, and 50% of these children have SEND.


Rathfern Primary School’s innovation integrates a metacognitive approach with a thorough spelling programme, Support for Spelling (2009). Both the intervention and the control group will use Support for Spelling as their teaching tool. However, the intervention group will have an adapted programme that integrates an explicit metacognitive dimension promoting the learner as active, self-monitoring and reflective (Cordewener, 2018), because pupils who are aware of the strategies and processes they use perform better (Block and Peskowitz, 1990). It is fundamental that these skills are integrated with the teaching of spelling as research suggests spelling is not a memory but a thinking skill (Pentecost and Dickie, 2011)‚Äč.

Lead school

  • Rathfern Primary School, Lewisham

Schools involved

  • Kender Primary School

Download the protocol document