Rebecca Roberts is the Assistant Head Teacher at Oakfield High School and College who has been involved in our Words for All programme since 2020. In this blog, we look at her project to improve reading ages for disadvantaged learners with lower than average reading attainment.
Oakfield High School & College is an 11-19 community special school in Wigan. All children at Oakfield start in year 7 with lower than average attainment, and are not secondary ready based on their standardised scores in year 6.
Rebecca evaluated the quality of teaching reading, by looking into the way in which reading was taught across school at all ages during the pandemic. She identified that a robust, cohesive system was needed in school. Learners needed to have access to challenging engaging texts to support a love of reading.
As part of the Words For All Programme, Rebecca initially created a reading intervention initiative, which went whole school. It was based on the University of Sussex’s “Just Reading” project, which suggests that when children are read aloud to, it improves their comprehension and vocabulary.
Rebecca took the key elements from this project and designed her initiative so that it would meet learner needs, suit staff expertise and COVID restrictions. She identified a cohort of disadvantaged learners to focus on, which included learners identified as Pupil Premium, learners on free school meals, those with social care support or who are looked after children. The aim of the reading initiative was to increase the pace and volume of reading whole narratives for readers with different starting points.
Examples of texts used include Private Peaceful and War Horse, which both have a reading age above where learners were reading developmentally. Teams were given CPD on how to read fluently, whilst supporting learner comprehension and understanding. The key was to avoid over analysing the text as that would be unengaging to learners. Instead the focus was on acquiring vocabulary, rather than dissecting individual words.
The theory and philosophy of the Words for All initiative is now delivered both whole school during form time, but also in all English lessons for all learners. Furthermore, learners reported that they enjoyed the intervention, and could see that it was supporting their understanding and vocabulary.