Nova Hreod is an 11-16 mixed comprehensive school with a significant number of students with Polish and Brazilian heritage.
To enthuse students and expand their vocabulary through reading activities, and to increase their understanding of what they are reading.
Despite having high prior attainment, up to 60% of students were not at their chronological reading age when they joined the school.
The aim was to challenge and support high attainers by providing them with complex texts and a rich range of reading material they could draw on in their assessments and exams, while also supporting disadvantaged students in order for them to have access to cultural capital they might not have access to outside school.
The activities were designed to make reading a whole-school priority and not simply the responsibility of the English department.
A daily 20 minute reading slot was established for Year 7 leading to increased borrowing from the library. The Burnet News Group was established, engaging a small but enthusiastic group of students in producing online news stories which were shared with students from other schools. The English department explored key/new vocabulary as part of silent reading and teachers were given a template to share the books they were reading with students.
A tutor reading programme was initiated across KS3, including a series of abridged classics. The Burnet News group included a filmmaking element which increased the size of the group. A homework blog allowed students to explore how to analyse vocabulary more thoroughly and the benefits of challenging reading were promoted to students via assemblies which encouraged them to change the texts they were reading. The benefits of challenging reading were presented to Teach First trainees at Bristol University, and several subsequently formed their own class libraries.
In response to teacher and student voice surveys, the tutor reading programme was developed to appeal to a wider range of tastes. Students reported that this had helped to improve their vocabulary. A ‘Nova Canon’ was implemented in the school’s library and an Accelerated Reader programme saw an increase of around 25% in students’ reading ages. The assembly programme was broadened to include staff members from other faculties talking about the books they loved. An extensive homework reading programme saw students read a wider range of high quality literature.
Student voice surveys, teacher voice surveys.
Every student in the school has access to a broad range of texts that they have a regular opportunity to read and respond to, and students have a broader vocabulary as a result of our reading programme. The vast majority of teachers regularly participate in reading with students and the SLT have participated in the quality assurance of tutor reading and understand the value of the programme. Some students have started to engage with the more challenging texts of the Nova Canon.
However, there have been elements of insecurity in delivering the tutor reading programme, for example, where tutors were unfamiliar with texts, support could have been more effective. The limits of tutor time also meant that it could take a long time to complete texts.
The biggest challenge has been to convince some colleagues and students that the level of challenge we have introduced to the reading programme is not only appropriate but also necessary. In terms of practice it would be useful to develop the tutor reading programme to a point where the texts are compelling to the readers whilst providing them with the deeper vocabulary and cultural capital that they deserve. It might be useful to research what other schools have found to be useful in terms of fostering enthusiasm for such texts.
Nick Hetherington, Hetheringtonn@holyfamilycarlton.org