As part of the partnership programme, Eileen has been supported by a dedicated programme manager who has given regular on-site and remote training to help implement the programme effectively. Her programme manager has been “brilliant,” she says. “The partnership has been really hands-on: I’ve always had immediate responses to my questions as well as ongoing training and accountability in not letting things slip.”
With new timetabled reading periods and the introduction of motivational initiatives, there has been a significant change in the level of students’ engagement with the programme. The average amount of engaged reading time students conduct has almost tripled over the course of the academic year, and now stands at over 30 minutes per day.
“Students know what is expected of them: they must have their log books on them at all times; they get merits if they are filled in accurately; they know what their ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) is and what they should be reading. The staff team is very supportive as well: they go out of their way to know the students and their ZPDs.”
“Running the AR programme is now much more structured than it was in the past,” Eileen says. Year 7 students have two regular form times of 20 minutes each week in addition to a session in the library focused on reading.
The result of clearer structure and more deliberate intervention from the supportive staff team has been a transformation in students’ enthusiasm for reading. Eileen has promoted the philosophy that ‘if you read, you will become successful,’ and has used praise and positive affirmation to motivate students to read for pleasure.
“Reading was perceived as a punitive exercise, but we have made reading more fun. We have a different competition or prize on offer every half term, designed so that students of all abilities have a chance of winning something. The awards, badges and certificates are all presented publicly in assemblies.”
“I love the fact that the results are immediate,” Eileen comments. “The students come up to discover their levels. They are really pleased to get a new ZPD, going up the levels and making progress – I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Eileen has found that students are talking to each other about what they are reading. At least as important as the regular chance to win prizes is the inherent reward of making progress. Students approach Eileen to tell her about their 90% and 100% quiz scores. Likewise, when they take the half-termly STAR Reading test to measure their progress, students are among the first to learn their new reading ages.
And students are making progress. An increasing number are achieving the research-based 85% benchmark for Average Percentage Correct on their AR quizzes, demonstrating that they are understanding what they are reading. This is having a positive impact on their progress, with reading ages increasing across the cohort.
“Everything is going up!” Eileen remarks. “Every characteristic group is making progress; it’s pleasing to see. Six, seven, eight months – a couple of classes have gone up ten months, and some students have gone up by as much as two years. The challenge now is maintaining that.”
The Year 7 cohort will continue with the programme as they move to Year 8, doubling the number of students at the school using AR. Eileen is confident that the structure she has put in place this academic year will stand her in good stead for extending the programme, with the support of a skilled staff team and the enthusiasm of the students to recommend it.
“The partnership has guaranteed that reading is firmly high on the agenda for progress across the school,” she says. “I would like to think that we have established a culture of reading for pleasure; and the data speaks for itself. It’s been a very good tool for giving concrete evidence for reading, which can be so nebulous otherwise. Without these parameters how could I measure the success we’ve had?”
Northumberland Park is an average-sized co-educational, multi-ethnic community school in North London. Two in three students are eligible for pupil premium funding. The number of students with a statement of SEN or school action plus is marginally above average.
Accelerated Reader™ (AR™) had been in place for about five years at Northumberland Park Community School, but the staff team knew they were not getting the most out of the programme. There were library lessons and other initiatives to encourage reading, but no clearly defined structure. “The impact was negligible,” says Eileen Bolton, the school’s AR Co-ordinator. “We found that some students would have the same book on them for weeks at a time.”
Head of English, Wellacre Academy
You would never have believed that there wasn’t a reading culture because our lads are walking around with books in their pockets.
AR Co-ordinator, Northumberland Park Community School
Reading was perceived as a punitive exercise, but we have made reading more fun.
Deputy Head Teacher, Sir William Burrough Primary School
Reading is not about school; it’s about life, which is why we celebrate the concept of reading at every opportunity.
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