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Partners in Education

May 4th 2020

In this blog post, we sit down with Tom Wallace, Co-Founder of Balance, as he talks about his struggle with dyslexia and his friendship with The Literacy Company.

Tom Wallace - Co-Founder of Balance

The best part of working in schools, is every day is a ‘school day.’ Okay, that was a bit cheesy, but true. This is the case with The Literacy Company. I’ve always loved teaching English. Whether it’s falling in love with a good book during a whole class read, or creating a lost world in writing, English has always been a favourite of mine. However, being dyslexic, I’ve always struggled with English, but had a real passion for stories. When I trained to be a teacher, I had to work extra hard when teaching English, as I was always so worried about making mistakes. Ironically dedicating more time to English made me fall in love with the subject more. English became a favourite of mine and I hope to believe, this rubbed off on my classes.

Luckily for me, I was sent on some writing training for year 5/6 teacher. This was the first time I was introduced to Linda and Cath, and from that moment a friendship was born.

At this point in career, my passion and slight obsession for assessment was rapidly growing. Having finished a year of action research with Shirley Clarke and deep into year 1 of delivering Dylan Wiliam’s Formative Assessment course, my knowledge of understanding of the power of formative assessment in classroom practice was deepening. Yet, it was becoming more and more obvious that it didn’t matter how good my understanding was of assessment strategies, without deep subject understanding, I could never truly master formative assessment. So, beginning to work with The Literacy Company was perfect timing. Now, I would say that my level of English subject knowledge at this time of my career was good. But listening to Linda and Cath talk during my first twilight, blew my mind. I realised then that I had so much more to learn. The way they explained often complex grammar in such simple ways or brought a series of ‘dull lessons’ to life, grabbed my attention instantly. But what struck me most was the passion that they both had for the love of the English Language. Listening to either of them read a book, explain language features and then help apply them, was like a light bulb going off in my head. From that moment, I was hooked – I was a TLC fanboy (no pun intended).

Over several training sessions in school and at different venues, my passion for English, especially writing, deepened. Through engaging texts that had been so carefully handpicked by Linda and Cath, I felt my planning begin to have a sense of depth and (dare I say) magic to it! A series of lessons flowed seamlessly into one another, strung together by a book that captured and captivated all my children (and definitely me) through the quality of questions Linda and Cath had created.

I noticed a change in my children’s attitude towards English. The same with our school. We weren’t just teaching English anymore. It was deeper than that. We were so invested in the subject, that it became a pleasure to listen to other teachers talk about which Literacy Company unit they were teaching. Children wanted to share their writing with other classes and teachers. Parents commented on the visible change in their children’s love of English. There was a real passion buzzing around the school. This is why now, when working with schools across the country, I point them all in the direction of the Literacy Company without a second’s hesitation.

This doesn’t happen by mistake. This is well thought out, prepared and planned over years. This is built upon years of knowledge, support and dedication to a subject. This is crafted from a love of English, which I feel blessed that our school had a chance to share. I feel lucky to have met Linda and Cath, as they helped me develop and grow as a teacher and then leader. I’m lucky enough now to partner with them over many exciting projects and every time we meet, I still learn something new. More than this, I’m lucky enough to call them my friends.

Find out more about the assessment product Balance has to offer on their website. They have also recently released Balance Lite, a FREE tool to support schools during the current Coronavirus crisis.