Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

Accelerated Reader school announced as Secondary School of the Year!

Cathedral Academy, Wakefield

Swift improvements needed

The academy implemented Accelerated Reader (AR) at the start of September 2017, so is now approaching the end of its second full academic year using the programme. Judy told us: “It was brought in when the current principal joined the school in a bid to improve literacy levels, and the school’s reading culture generally, as swiftly as possible. Ofsted have placed heavy emphasis on the correlation between proficient reading and attainment across all other subjects.”

The academy uses Accelerated Reader and Star Reading primarily with Key Stage 3, but it is also used with some older students who need additional support with literacy. Even though most students stop using the programme when they leave Year 9, school results show that it has supported their GCSE results later on. Judy told us that both AR and Star Reading have been integral to the monitoring and charting of progress made by less confident readers, as well as the most able. “This is supported by the visual stimulants that pupils can see themselves, within their AR profile, allowing them to track and build on their own progress,” said Judy.

Judy told us that each book having its own ZPD range encourages reluctant readers to want to visit the library and pick their next book. “They’re not deterred from reading by accidentally choosing a book that’s too difficult for them,” Judy told us, “as they now have control and stability over their choice of literature.”

“The Star Reading reports are visual and adaptable to suit the needs and requirements of each teacher.”

Collecting the data…

The school carries out several Star Reading assessments throughout the course of the academic year: once at the beginning, one just before the summer holidays, and any additionally where intervention is needed. At no extra cost, Cathedral Academy can carry out as many Star Reading assessments as required to provide the most accurate and rounded picture of a pupil’s development. “For example, if there is a student whose results aren’t improving, their teacher can implement an immediate and appropriate intervention to get their development back on track. Star Reading is invaluable in allowing us to keep setting and maintaining individual targets,” said Judy.

…and putting it to good use

As part of Judy’s role, she collects the data from every pupils’ AR quizzes and Star Reading assessments, which can be done instantly and easily from the AR diagnostic report. She then forwards this information onto teachers for them to refer to when carrying out lessons, so they can use different strategies based on the data.

“With Star Reading assessments,” says Judy, “the ability to group pupils together based on different factors is imperative to effective teaching strategies. Whether it’s a particular set of pupils who have similar levels of ability, or groups such as EAL students, the power to run data reports on a group’s progress plays a big part in the day-to-day teaching here. Because they’re used so regularly, the AR and Star Reading reports needed to be easy to understand, and that’s exactly what I’ve found – the reports are visual and adaptable to suit the needs and requirements of each teacher.”

“More students than ever before, including reluctant readers, are checking out books from the library.”

Cultural changes too!

The school’s library has seen significant changes since the implementation of Accelerated Reader, including an increase in usage from staff throughout the school! “More students than ever before, including reluctant readers, are checking out books from the library,” says Judy. “A noticeboard of pupils’ own book reviews and their recommendations has been set up outside the library.”

Following the success of this, Judy intends on allocating Junior Librarians, “who will hopefully continue to incentivise more pupils to try different authors and genres based on peer-led recommendations,” says Judy. “The endorsement of a book from a fellow pupil (particularly older pupils), coupled with the easy-to-read AR book labels, has resulted in the spike of active library users at the school. The library has become a bustling location for reading, quizzing and socialising, which means it’s now open more than before, including in homework clubs before and after school!” Judy reports that the reading culture of the school has significantly improvement since they invested in Accelerated Reader.

Support when it’s needed

In the two years the school has been running the programme, Judy tells us that Renaissance’s Customer Service teams have always been on hand to respond efficiently and effectively in resolving any issues that crop up. She told us: “The initial training required to get set up with Accelerated Reader allowed the members of staff who led the implementation process could do so happily and confidently.”


On 21st June 2019, Cathedral Academy was announced as the winner of Secondary School of the Year at the Tes Awards! We’d like to say a big congratulations to Cathedral Academy’s staff and students for their incredible work!

Tes Schools Awards

Click here to read our success stories from other schools shortlisted in the Tes Schools Awards 2019.

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