The leadership team at Wellacre was concerned by low levels of literacy across the school. An Ofsted inspection highlighted literacy across the curriculum as an area needing additional attention, which was supported by test data staff were seeing.
“All the evidence suggested that some of our boys had deficits in their reading ages compared to their chronological ages,” explains Vice Principal Julie Sharrock. “Sometimes the gap was as much as three years. This was contributing to our concerns over the attainment of our students in Key Stage 4 across the curriculum, which was identified in an Ofsted inspection as a real weakness for us. In GCSE PE or History, for example, exam papers had reading ages of 14 or 15 but the reading tests provided evidence that students were unable to access those exam papers. So it became a pressing need for us.”
“All the evidence suggested that some of our boys had deficits in their reading ages compared to their chronological ages.”
Because low levels of literacy were having an impact across the curriculum, it was clear that a whole-school solution would be needed to address the problem. The academy joined the Renaissance School Partnership programme to complement the implementation of Accelerated Reader with bespoke training and support from a dedicated programme manager.
A plan was put in place to embed reading as a central activity for every student’s time at school. Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) time was introduced into the timetable after lunch for 25 minutes each day, and form tutors were given responsibility for their students’ success with Accelerated Reader.
Reading has become a central part of life at Wellacre. Every boy has a book with him at all times, and between them they read nearly 5,000 books in the first two terms of the 2014/15 academic year.
Julie remarks on the difference the Renaissance School Partnership has made. “Before, I never heard any discussions about reading for pleasure. Reading was just something that you had to do because the curriculum dictated that you did it.”
“Before, I never heard any discussions about reading for pleasure. Reading was just something that you had to do because the curriculum dictated that you did it.”
When the academy’s head of English, Tom Daly, joined the staff team this year he found it difficult to believe that literacy used to have such a low profile. “It’s amazing to hear from Julie what the reading culture was like,” he comments. “You would never have believed that there wasn’t a reading culture because our lads are walking around with books in their pockets. They are desperate to be involved, not only just with the programme because of its competitive edge, but also because they enjoy the fact that they are reading. There is just a very, very clear culture that reading is what we do.”
Wellacre is an average-sized secondary Academy for boys, located on the outskirts of Manchester. The number of students eligible for Free School Meals is typical, while the number of students with School Action Plus or SEN statements is well above average.
The academy uses Accelerated Reader™ (AR™) throughout Key Stage 3, and additionally a group of Year 10 students use the programme as part of a catch-up intervention scheme. It is in the second year of the Renaissance School Partnership programme.
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, Duke’s Aldridge Academy (formerly 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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