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Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

A new trust-wide cross-curricular resource

West Norfolk Academies Trust - Secondary Schools, Kings Lynn

West Norfolk Academies Trust – Secondary Schools

We spoke to Olly Mackett – Trust-Wide English Lead for Secondary Schools to find out how secondary schools across WNAT are using strong reading proficiency to support all subject development, across the curriculum.

Olly writes:

As Trust-wide lead for English, secondary schools, since September, I work across all four secondary schools in supporting them with raising attainment and developing a pleasure for reading across all schools.

I’ve been in my role since September 2019. Part of my role involves travelling between the four different secondary schools and meeting with their Accelerated Reader champions to discuss their current reading and assessment strategies for English.

I’ve used Accelerated Reader (AR) before in a previous school for over two years, and currently, WNAT has been using AR for three years. We use it across year 7 and 8 within every school to offer a tailored approach to reading developing with our main goal being to establish an organic love of reading for more students.

Implementing a resource that we know would get the job done

Originally, AR was being used very successfully at Smithdon High School though it had been used previously at Springwood High School too. We also carried out our research before rolling out AR, including reading the Education Endowment Foundation’s study on AR which concluded:

“Accelerated Reader appears to be effective for weaker readers as a catch-up intervention at the start of secondary school.” 

Education Endowment Foundation

Consequently, as a result of both the success at Smithdon and the EEF study, we decided, as a trust, that AR was something we would definitely use. Now, all secondaries are using AR because of the success Smithdon High School got from the programme.

All secondary schools use AR slightly differently to each other. Some use the programme only in their library lessons; some teachers use the application to set and monitor homework, and some schools allocated a specific 25-minutes per day for reading and AR quizzing. AR is great for setting targets to be completed for homework, and this provides a drastic reduction in workload for our teachers, as well as supporting students’ reading. Accelerated Reader is now part of the Key-Stage 3 homework policy across the whole trust.

Using the crucial information to inform teaching and planning across all schools

St Clement’s High School have been doing an outstanding job with the AR programme, given that we are developing the capacity of their library. Springwood High School has the biggest library, so this allows us to look at we ways we can make reading more challenging by specialising books that we decide to put out to students. Each school will carry out a Star Reading baseline assessment at the beginning of the year and then subsequently two or three more times throughout the rest of the year. Following this, in most schools, students will have a library lessons to have discussions around what they’re currently reading or to for the teacher to provide guided reading while listening to the student read. From this information, the teacher will set further targets to guide the student’s individual learning pathway.

“The main benefit that our schools and students have seen since introducing AR across the trust has been an increased engagement of reading.”

The main benefit that our schools and students have seen since introducing AR across the trust has been an increased engagement of reading. Staff are now able to understand how it works as a tool to support reading – they need the information and data that the programme supplies to be accurate – which it is! AR and Star Reading introduce a competitive element to students’ reading development so that when they’re reading, they want to use the millionaire programme to win certificates and beat their friends! Staff will then present these certificates in assemblies and award the top readers in each class. Initially, at Marshland High School AR was only ever used during library and tutor times. We’ve since switched tutor time to PSHE lessons which include reading a book and have now implemented AR as a core addition to all homework assignments of Key-Stage 3. Despite all of these great benefits that AR gives us – we know we can still get a lot more to get out of it as there are so many reports to discover. I regularly meet with staff across all secondary schools to say how can we get the most out of AR and improve life chances for students with reading.

Reading is vital to cross-curricular attainment

If you can’t read, then the curriculum becomes more challenging to access; reading ability can be one of the most significant barriers to students being successful. Recently, we were looking at reading ages of textbooks in different subjects, including PE, and they are incredibly high. If students can’t read the resources, then they can’t access the curriculum to its full potential. We have redesigned the curriculum, and we continually increase our expectations of students’ daily reading targets and progress. Students are currently reading more texts, sharing more books and have increased their reading speed, across the trust. Students are encouraged to carry out reading in pairs whereby they read paragraphs interchangeably – it’s essential to be able to continue your reading as it promotes the focus on the text as their partner reads.

At the end of last year, the Director of Standards at the trust asked us to do a report which identified how many words and books are being read by students across each school and what progress they are making every month. The director wanted to know how critical groups (e.g. special educational needs and pupil premium) of students are progressing with reading, individually. With the data that is provided by Star Reading, I was able to quickly feedback this information to the director. It’s important to remember that all schools are very different settings and the great thing that AR and Star Reading support because it provides staff with live data.

“Star Reading is an incredibly useful resource to be used as part of our curriculum as it fits into the whole reading strategy across the trust.”

The importance of data is not about handing it over to Ofsted. Instead, it’s to see how pupils have improved and using that information to develop their respective reading age. Star Reading data allows our teachers to highlight intervention quickly. The special educational needs and disabilities department at Marshland High School use Star Reading to carry out 20-minute assessments of which the online questions will adapt to the student’s answers, painting an accurate picture of their actual ability. I personally use Star Reading reports to have an understanding of where students are in the spectrum of expertise, across all secondary schools in the trust.

Star Reading is an incredibly useful resource to be used as part of our curriculum as it fits into the whole reading strategy across the trust. It’s more than just part of our trust-wide policy because it affects students. I know a student in particular that I’ve taught who was struggling to engage with reading, he came in on an Education, Health and Care Plan. When he was able to read and be rewarded with a good score, instantly and watch his word count build-up, he went on to become a word-millionaire incredibly quickly! Now, he doesn’t put a book down any more because he’s reading for pleasure and we want him to love reading. For West Norfolk Academies Trust, AR is continually evolving; it’s not something that just sits there and exists. We’re regularly providing access to staff for AR/Star Reading training. All questions we may have during work hours are answered very quickly by the customer service and coaching teams at Renaissance. With AR and Star Reading, there is always something new to discover.

Accelerated Reader and Star Reading have a high profile across all of our schools, and it is firmly part of our trust-wide strategy.

Since school closures

Olly has since confirmed that Accelerated Reader reading and quizzing time has been set every day for 25-minutes as part of the trust-wide schedule to promote students’ learning from home.

For more information on how Renaissance Learning can support your Multi-Academy Trust, click here.


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