“RSP has supported us in achieving aspirational goals”
Heartlands High School, North London
Accelerated Reader (AR) was introduced at Heartlands High School as part of a whole-school strategy to improve standards in literacy. The school joined the Renaissance School Partnership to support the implementation of AR across all five year groups.
The school’s Literacy Lead, Andrew Lloyd, explains how reading was perceived before joining the partnership programme. “Reading was a strong feature of the English department – we had DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time – but we found that some students seemed to be reading the same books for ages. Our ability to track progress in reading was poor, and it was seen as an English department issue.”
In a short space of time, the team behind AR at Heartlands have implemented a programme that is already yielding strong results. Students are increasingly engaged with reading, reading for longer each day and completing more books than previously. “There has been a massive change,” Andrew comments. “Reading is now a big part of the school; students are seeing it everywhere.”
Reflective use of data
The Renaissance School Partnership programme provides six on-site training days through the course of the year in addition to remote training sessions, all of which are tailored to the individual school’s needs. Staff at Heartlands wanted to monitor progress and inform intervention strategies more effectively, so part of the training they received was focused on data analysis. Andrew says this training has allowed the team to be “data-driven but reflective” in their approach.
“When we started with AR, we ended up with a lot of data. The training we received from our programme manager gave us a focused way of using data to develop strategies. We had some whole-school staff training to introduce the programme and made sure we didn’t launch anything until we knew what we were doing. Because it was adapted to us, we weren’t overloaded; it was gradual, and we were in constant dialogue.”
The clarity provided by feedback from a dedicated programme manager has given Andrew the insight he has needed to support other staff members effectively. “Our conversations are focused on progress,” he says.
“The way the half-termly reports are presented is very helpful: they compare us to ourselves, our targets and other schools. Because all of the information is presented to us in one place, we don’t have to waste a lot of our time trying to figure out what’s working: the main thing you should care about is the impact on students’ reading ages. What has been the impact and why?”
Tailored training opportunities
A significant feature of the reading programme at Heartlands High School is a paired reading programme that uses the house system to pair up struggling readers with peers in higher year-groups.
Hannah Tall, who co-ordinates the reading programme across the school, explains how this has become one of the school’s most successful interventions. “Our programme manager gave some training for our younger intervention students with their vertical tutor pairs. Each house is allocated a day in the week where pairs of reading partners can come to the library or restaurant to read together. We’ve seen excellent results with these intervention students, who have made nine months of progress in six months.”
Staff have also benefitted from a day-long event for schools on the partnership programme held at the Renaissance Learning office. Delegates heard from RSP programme managers, an Ofsted consultant, and saw presentations of best practice in other partnership schools. “The office day was really useful,” Hannah comments. “It gave me the opportunity to talk with other schools in the local area about what works for them with similar catchments. We’ve been in touch since, sharing resources.”
Important role for the library
The school’s librarian, Helen Swinyard, also found it helpful to network with delegates at the office day. “Speaking with librarians at other schools was encouraging, knowing that the library is an important part of the scheme.”
One initiative Helen has organised this year is the Haringey Children’s Book Award, which has seen children in Years 5 to 7 from 16 local schools reading from a shortlist of five high-quality books. A local bookshop has supported the event, with an awards ceremony expected to attract local literary figures. “All of the shortlisted books have AR quizzes, which has been a helpful way of linking the initiative with our wider reading programme.”
Reflecting on the overall success of the programme, Andrew believes the programme has put in place a strong foundation for the school to make further progress. “We’ve got to a place where the systems are understood and we understand the data,” he says. “RSP has supported us in achieving aspirational goals that the school sets generally, and has allowed us to align our aspirations to those of the school. The programme has had a big impact, but we’re looking forward to seeing more growth in the coming year!”
|Programme||Renaissance School Partnership|
|School Type||Academy, Secondary|
|Talking Points||Data review, Paired reading, Progress monitoring, Reading culture|