Writing Mastery


the matrix red pill blue pill


In the iconic film The Matrix, the choice offered by Morpheus is between the red pill and the blue pill. The blue pill is chosen by Cypher: preferring not to know, his mindset is that ignorance is bliss. The red pill chosen by Neo takes him to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

This analogy can be applied to a mastery curriculum. We could stay very much as we are (blue pill mode) or we could take that eye opening ‘red pill,’- venturing down that rabbit hole…


Our aim is to go beyond the ‘broad, balanced curriculum,’ in its place we will provide a stunning education, a world class curriculum, where we encourage children to question, evaluate and ultimately build upon their own personalised learning in clear measurable steps.

Mastery education will allow this to happen, and hopefully, this document will clarify what it means to us and how we are going to develop it effectively at Robin Hood Academy to ultimately make a clear difference to all of our pupils and in turn to British society today.


What is Mastery?


Mastery learning (or as it was initially called, “learning for mastery”) is an instructional strategy and educational philosophy, first formally proposed by Benjamin S. Bloom in 1968. Mastery learning maintains that students must achieve a level of mastery (e.g., 90% on a knowledge test) in prerequisite knowledge before moving forward to learn subsequent information. If a student does not achieve mastery, they are given additional support in learning and reviewing the information. This cycle will continue until the learner accomplishes mastery, and may move on to the next stage.


Much of the mastery curriculum is based upon pedagogy and the opportunity for teachers to slow down the pace and build upon the understanding: giving children the opportunity to apply, analyse and eventually create. This works hand in hand with our philosophy on education and our strong emphasis on independent learning.



An English curriculum taught through immersion in a high quality texts to develop young learners who have fluency and depth of understanding in a range of reading, writing, grammar and punctuation skills. Talk for Writing is a key driver in achieving this, the process itself being heavily reliant on pedagogy and learning strategies.



  • There is just one lesson for the teacher to plan so it has to be an excellent lesson.
  • The texts are carefully chosen, appealing to the needs of the children.
  • Every single pupil experiences reading and engaging with high quality literature/writing- rather than literature being dumbed down because they are in an ability group and not yet ready.
  • The children’s writing and reading process are inextricably linked.
  • Specific technical writing skills are completely embedded into the whole class teaching approach and taught in the context of the whole class text through the Talk for Writing approach.
  • Through careful modelling and links to high class texts, each child becomes a prolific, effective writer and reader.
  • Differentiation in English will look very different, children will have the opportunity to have pre tutoring sessions if they are finding concepts difficult
  • Children will sit in mixed ability groups to support one another and to stretch all children
  • Modelling demonstrates mastery, teachers plan mistakes ‘mantle of the fool,’ in order to ensure children know how to up level their work and support one another effectively.


Beliefs and Values of Mastery

An absolute belief that every child can and will achieve.  Focussing on the reasons why children can succeed, rather than excuses about why they will fail.  Being prepared to make a cultural shift from previous approaches.  A strong awareness that the children’s life chances depend on them achieving the expected standard as a minimum.  Removal of fixed ideas about innate ability: opportunities rather than genetics.  Learning potential is increased through effort. Work of Matthew Syed-100,000 hours of practice and anyone can become proficient.


What about the children who struggle with reading and writing?

In the past, the primary curriculum has allowed many children to fall behind and teachers have put a ceiling on their learning by giving them easier work to do (I hold my hands up-  I am guilty of this). With mastery, teachers will expect every child to reach the high expectations; therefore any pupils who are not keeping up with the pace of the learning are given ‘same day intervention’ to ensure that gaps are addressed immediately. What this means is that, instead of a widening gap of several years, there can never be a gap of more than a few hours. If the teacher feels that a child may find the lesson too challenging, they would work with them before the lesson to pre-teach the skills or the language that they need in order to be able to confidently access the learning content within the lesson. Furthermore, children are not placed in ability groups but instead in a focus group- for the teacher/adults to work with. If a child has not sufficiently understood the lesson they have opportunities to redraft and improve their work.


Peer/self assessment

Children to look at written work and ensure that they are reviewing the progress of others and themselves. Critique is an important element- Austin’s Butterfly. The concept relies on the process of improving and re-editing or redrafting to become highly skilled and achieve greater depth.

This can be ongoing but is particularly effective in the Invention stage of Talk for Writing. The books will reflect this and will show gap marking but also those ongoing changes made by the children.


Mastery targets

Every year group to use mastery writing sheets- the aim is to encourage faster progress within the age range of your class rather than aiming for lots of targets that are now irrelevant.

Year 1; Year 2; Year 3; Year 4; Year 5; Year 6

See examples of texts/targets for writing at each level of depth. Mastery age related expectations.



Reading and writing- process interlinked, comprehension tasks based upon Talk for Writing texts/genre.

Securing higher level phonics is a priority for those who don’t achieve it in KS1.

  1. Read easily, fluently and with good understanding
  2. Develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information
  3. Acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions
  4. Appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage
  5. Greater emphasis on literature, especially classic texts  
  6. Learning and reciting poetry by heart

Mastery in reading is based upon building up a love of literature; an understanding of composition, word choices and then applying this to what is read and also to writing composition.


Curriculum Planning Beliefs Expectations from teaching Cycle of Assessment
Teachers plan together to define threshold concepts and learning objectives so that all children can achieve.

No ceiling is placed upon learning.

Teachers believe that virtually all pupils can learn important academic knowledge to a level of excellence.

Growth mindset underpins our philosophy.

Teachers set high level of challenge

Explanations, modelling, questioning, feedback and the classroom environment.

Learning is class paced.

Whole class work is carried out initially.  

Interleave the learning- breaks.

Differentiation looks very different- all completing the same task.

Children do not sit in ability groups and cooperative learning is an embedded feature.

Cold task/formative assessment.

On going- catch up tasks.

Pre tutoring- if needed.

Hot task.

Polished/up levelled piece of writing.



About class03

Head teacher at Robin Hood Academy
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