Reading in Primary Schools: Guide

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Reading matters
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Teaching reading in schools
Extending reading
Case studies
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Case studies

Case Study 1. Bourne Abbey Church of England Primary School, Lincolnshire

The school mainly serves White British families. Its headteacher is a National Leader of Education and she and her staff support a number of schools in Lincolnshire. From Reception onwards, children read and write every day. The school introduced the Read Write Inc. scheme for reading and writing three years ago and it is now a lead school for the programme. Generally, Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 children follow the programme for four days each week, and on Fridays spend time on a piece of more extended writing. From October during their Reception year, children are set by attainment across the year group. This setting continues in Year 1 and Year 2. The school considers that children do not become fluent readers using one skill alone, so children take part in guided reading at least three times a week, and more often if they need this. As well as texts from the Oxford Reading Tree scheme, which include phonically decodable books, ‘real’ books are available for the children to take home, banded by difficulty. A team of parent helpers assists with guided reading.

Case Study 2. Trenance Infant School, Cornwall

The school serves the tourist town of Newquay. The vast majority of the pupils are White British; languages other than English include Polish and Filipino. The current headteacher, took up her post in September 2007, inheriting the structured Read Write Inc. programme for reading and writing that her predecessor had recently adopted. The keys to the school’s success were reiterated constantly: absolute consistency across the school; high-quality training and staff development for everyone involved in teaching reading; very strong, logical progression from individual sounds to blending sounds to make words, then sentences, and then reading whole books; setting by attainment, with fluid movement across groups and, every eight weeks, assessment of the progress of each child across the whole school to refine the groupings. In addition, the high-quality, consistent teaching has had a substantial impact on eliminating behavioural problems because the pupils are so engaged.

Case Study 3. Woodberry Down Primary School, Hackney

This multi-ethnic school has a mobile population of pupils, almost two thirds of whom are learning to speak English as an additional language. There is much social and economic deprivation and a quarter of the pupils are refugees.  One of the assistant headteachers coordinates work on reading and writing, providing weekly staff training sessions to sharpen the skills of teachers and teaching assistants. She also trains the staff of other schools, especially the other three members of the Best Start Federation, of which the headteacher is the executive headteacher. Phonics teaching uses the Read Write Inc. programme and is systematic, fast-paced and intensive. Within the nursery, there is a very strong emphasis on speaking and listening to prepare children to enunciate sounds, blend sounds together and segment words into their individual sounds. Developing children’s social skills, including speaking and listening, is essential as many of those at the school come from homes where there is much less structure than usual. Formal phonics teaching starts properly in the Reception year, where pupils from the two classes are organised in seven attainment groups on a ‘carousel’ basis. Pupils are taught in sets based on attainment across each year group.

Case Study 4. Horton Grange Primary, Bradford

Horton Grange was rated outstanding in June 2015. The school is located in an area of significant urban deprivation, in one of the poorest wards in the country. It is deemed three-form entry and makes provision for 740 learners aged 2-11. Over 99% are from minority ethnic backgrounds. The vast majority are either new to English or do not have English as a home language. The majority are Punjabi speakers or of Mirpuri Pakistani heritage, with a range of additional first languages spoken across school. Disadvantage indicators, including pupil premium eligibility, confirm that the school is in the highest quintile nationally. The proportion of learners with special educational needs and/or disabilities supported at Range 1 or 2 is above the national average. The number of learners identified as eligible for pupil premium is currently around 30%. A much larger proportion of learners than is usual enters or leaves the school at times other than the start of the academic year. Attainment on entry to EY, whether in preschool, nursery or reception, is well below age-related expectations across all areas of learning, with few children working at expected levels in the prime areas.

A key school priority to give all learners, in particular the more able, the opportunity to deepen their understanding of a text. Further learner interviews identified that learners wanted more quality time within lessons to discuss books they were reading in class in order to analyse and understand the language in texts, and in doing so develop a deeper understanding of the text. This was a particular focus as most are EAL learners and as a result can struggle with the nuances within the English language.

Staff CPD time was used to share current good practice of teaching reading skills and developing comprehension of texts. Staff were given opportunities to share how the teaching of reading could be further improved to develop and introduce the new initiative. CPD was delivered to develop creative and consistent approaches to developing learners’ understanding of texts and development of vocabulary. Whole-school CPD was delivered by external consultant to teaching staff and learning support assistants to create a consistent approach. Resources were provided to support staff in developing appropriate question stems, activities and selecting appropriate texts. 3) Resources were provided and additional books purchased to engage and motivate learners’ reading for pleasure and ensure sufficient challenge within the texts being provided. 4) Monitoring of impact identified areas for further improvement through learner interviews, lesson observations and teacher feedback throughout the implementation of the initiative. Information gathered was used to further improve teaching of reading or provide bespoke CPD and support to individual staff. “ERIC time” (Enjoying Reading, Improving Comprehension) was introduced as a whole-school approach to promote reading for pleasure, immerse learners in higher-tiered vocabulary, provide opportunities to discuss texts in more depth, and develop comprehension. The initiative has provided a consistent approach for all staff and learners, leading to increased enjoyment of reading, extended vocabulary ranges, and greater skills and confidence in exploring and using new words in a range of contexts.

There was a change in learner attitudes towards comprehension and learning new words. Learners now ask more questions about what words mean and why. They began to transfer words discussed or introduced through reading into their speech and writing. This led to the introduction of “words of the week” – selected from ERIC sessions to further embed new vocabulary. Data analysis demonstrated that the introduction of ERIC had a significant impact on attainment and progress, as well as the teaching of reading across the school. Learner interviews demonstrated that children enjoyed these sessions and the discussion that took place within them helping them to understand texts. ERIC sessions provided all learners access to age-appropriate and challenging texts through the whole-class reading and discussion. Both staff and learners benefitted from a consistent whole-school approach to developing comprehension and building vocabulary. Staff confidence and expertise in creating higher-order questions and tasks increased as a result of CPD provided.