Aim: To raise the literacy level of both staff and students to ensure that a rigorous, subject-based curriculum could be delivered and accessed successfully. The aim was for the average reading age for Year 7 students to be at least in line with the average chronological age of the cohort and for no student to have a reading age which was more than two years below their chronological age.
Background: At the start of the project 92% of Year 7 were on or above target for predictions for the end of year, leaving 8% who were not and 100% with the potential to improve. There was a mixed picture of staff literacy as highlighted by the quality of their written reports. Marking tended to be subject-specific and students experienced a wide variety of styles and methods. The success of literacy interventions, such as Read Write Inc. (RWI) and Guided Reading had shown that intensive programmes were highly effective.
Year 1: Staff literacy training workshops covered the following topics: handwriting, common literacy problems, developing long answers, cross curricular literacy, literacy intervention at KS3, written communication and Read Write Inc.
All Year 7 students were enrolled in an online reading programme called Accelerated Reader which tracked and monitored their reading progress. A reading book became part of essential school equipment and students were encouraged to read for 20 minutes per day. A reading mentoring scheme supported students in Years 7 and 8 with a reading age below 8 years. The trained Year 10 mentors were carefully paired with a reader.
Year 2: Based on faculty feedback, the work was refined so that there was a sharper focus on literacy for exams, effective feedback and tracking of interventions at KS3. The Accelerated Reader programme continued with mixed results, however the smaller scale phonics programmes proved more effective.
Evidence: Exam results, interim assessments, faculty reviews, use of exam terminology in lesson observations, mock exam result analysis, student reflection.
Impact: Staff are talking to students far more often about what they are reading and why. Reluctant readers have been engaged and students have become more independent in their reading. They are also more confident in their descriptive, persuasive and informative writing.
Small-group interventions continued to have a positive impact on student progress: the majority of RWI students improved their reading age by at least eight months and one student increased her reading age by as much as two years and seven months. Reading mentoring benefitted both the students and the mentors. In 2015, during the second year of the project, GCSE results increased by 10% to 66% gaining 5 A*-C (including English and Maths), There was a rise in Average Point Score (APS) per entry from 40.6 to 41.2.
Reflections: Developing a College literacy policy, bringing all the initiatives together and reviewing their impact has helped raise the profile of this vital work. With the Accelerated Reader programme it is important that there is time built into each day for students to read, otherwise you will not see results.
Contact: Louise Rash, Assistant Principal KS3, firstname.lastname@example.org