Literacy Pirates

a fleet of learning centres in Hackney, Haringey and soon beyond

Silly + Serious = Social Change

The Hackney Pirates' Impact Report - Making a transformational impact on literacy, confidence and perseverance


A balanced approach to learning: At the heart of our work at The Hackney Pirates lies a seemingly contradictory commitment. We really believe in fun. Fun, magic and wonder; the sense that learning is a grand adventure. But for adventure-seekers, we're also pretty obsessed with our serious side: rigour, excellence and attention to detail make up a vital part of any successful learning. Our ability to balance these different facets of our work was probably never better on display than at our double-bill premiere event on the 9th of March, where we launched both a fantastic new film by our Young Pirates, and our brand new Theory of Change. We're now delighted to share this piece of work more broadly.

Introducing our Theory of Change: Publishing our Theory of Change was the culmination of almost a year's work between the team, trustees and other partners to understand and capture the driving logic behind our learning programme. We have always taken seriously the need to have a clear rationale behind our learning sessions, and after five years of development and tweaking, we have learnt a great deal about what works. What results is, we hope, the clearest ever description of how the various strands of our programme work together to make a transformative impact on life chances of young people who are falling behind.

Rationale and evidence: Our programme isn't a simple one to describe: extra adult attention, an unconventional learning environment, a focus on confidence and perseverance, publishing projects and reading practice. It's a lot to fit in, and we have often been challenged to be clear on what matters the most. Along with the evidence of our impact report, collated from data from schools, parents and young people, we believe we can show a clear link between the activities at The Hackney Pirates, young people's literacy, confidence and perseverance and the impact we hope this will eventually have on their futures. Among other details you will see in the report, we're delighted to hear that 89% of teachers see an improvement in writing skills in the classroom, supported by evidence from reading tests that children make, on average, 67% faster than expected age-related progress in their reading.

Learning and scrunity: We learnt a great deal from going through the process. It was a good chance to scrutinise how we measure our impact, and pick out the areas where we want to do better. It helped us to focus our energies on the priorities for improvement and it challenged us to test our own assumptions. We spent time asking ourselves "So what is the point of fun?".

The good news is that we decided there is a point to fun.  You can read the report to find out what it is, or you could visit one of our sessions for the experiential explanation.

What next? We know that we still have a lot of work to do in making sure that our approach is shared with all the people involved: teachers, parents, children and volunteers. But it is an exciting time for The Hackney Pirates as we build on this report with some ambitious growth plans. We would love to hear from friends, challengers and co-conspirators who can help us make them happen. We believe that a positive, preventative, and fun approach to working with children who are falling behind is key, and we are serious about doing that well. 

Get involved: We are currently developing plans to scale up the reach of our education programme, both in Hackney and in new areas. We are looking for several different types of support and interested in hearing from anyone who can support us as we grow. We are particularly seeking the following:

  • Partnerships with employee volunteering programmes to support the ongoing delivery of our sessions to young people;
  • Trustees to join our board;
  • Expertise on growth;
  • Educational partners to offer the ongoing scrutiny and challenge to further improve our programmes.

To find out more or get involved in any of these ways, please get in touch.

You can see our Theory of Change and impact report here.