Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

The Complete Literacy Solution at Finham Park Multi-Academy Trust

Finham Park Multi Academy Trust, Coventry

In March 2015, Finham Park School applied to the Department for Education to convert from single Academy Trust status to Multi Academy Trust (MAT) status. Their Business Plan was accepted by the Department for Education, and Finham Park Multi Academy Trust came into existence. Their intention is to continue to grow a small, Coventry/West Midlands based MAT consisting of several secondary schools in addition to partners in the primary sector.


In 2017, Finham Park School, Finham Park 2 and Lyng Hall School all invested in Accelerated Reader (AR) and Star Reading. The Trust invested in the Renaissance solutions to improve literacy levels and develop a sustainable reading culture. In July 2020, the Trust invested in myON by Renaissance, the online digital library, to tackle a further loss to reading development to support blended learning throughout the 20/21 academic year. 


We spoke to Bernadette Pettman, Senior MAT School Improvement Leader for Finham Park Multi-Academy Trust. Bernadette explains why Finham Park MAT invested in Renaissance’s complete literacy solution and how they have since continued to support the Trust.


Bernadette’s story


The Trust’s ambition was to allow the schools to give Accelerated Reader to the students they felt would benefit most. Finham Park School’s focus was primarily on disengaged boys, many of whom also had a particular educational need or disability (SEND) or simply weren’t fully accessing the curriculum. From the offset, Finham Park School’s PLC (personalised learning centre for students with SEND and those most vulnerable) were impressed with the success of Accelerated Reader. Following this, the programme was then extended to include students in Years 7 & 8 with some students continuing into Year 9.


Finham Park 2 introduced Accelerated Reader to all students in Key Stage 3. The English Department worked closely with their school library, including incorporating library lessons into the English curriculum and time for reading every day. Currently, the library isn’t available to all students – so we’re bringing books to the students instead! Each bubble has its own mini-library where students can borrow books and continue their reading journey. The impact of AR and the trainee librarian programme has allowed students in our new sixth form who were ‘raised’ on AR to set up their own sixth form library. The official opening took place in November and students are already delving into the bookshelves to borrow exciting new reads.


Students enjoying reading their Accelerated Reader books as a starter to an English lesson.


“With the help of Accelerated Reader and myON’s digital library of over 5,000 books for every child, Lyng Hall School successfully held onto a reading focus throughout the first lockdown.”

Lyng Hall School didn’t have a library when they initially introduced Accelerated Reader. The English team had to set up book boxes throughout classrooms as a substitute. Now, the school has a small library staffed by sixth formers. When Lyng Hall launched AR, it focused on more able students, and we found that even their reading levels were significantly lower than should be. Lyng Hall have since extended both AR and Star to students with English as an additional language (EAL) students over the last two years.


Lyng Hall are also using myON by Renaissance with all children throughout the school. The school has now established daily “drop everything and read” (DEAR) tutor time and has really been clear in maintaining a push on reading. This push is particularly crucial for the 2021 academic year as we’re noticing the gaps that are appearing from the lack of reading engagement throughout the lockdown period. However, with the help of Accelerated Reader quizzes being made accessible from home, and with myON’s digital library of over 5,000 books for every child, Lyng Hall successfully held onto a reading focus throughout the first lockdown. The work that Lyng Hall is doing to support the disadvantaged cohort is reflected in the school’s improving Progress 8 Score. Additionally, in June 2019 the school received an Ofsted inspection grade of Good, which acknowledged the narrowing of the disadvantage gap within the school.


“With Renaissance’s complete literacy solution, the ability to provide bespoke work matched to students’ individual ability is incredibly useful.”


With Renaissance’s complete literacy solution (Accelerated Reader, Star Reading and myON), the ability to provide bespoke work matched to students’ individual ability is incredibly useful. Allocating bespoke work allows staff to accommodate adequate challenge and give instant gratification to students with feedback, praise and rewards, which is invaluable.


Each programme is personalised to each individual student, thanks to computer-adaptive questions which provide an individual assessment based on the student’s answers and ability, which gives teachers an accurate and bespoke overview of every child. The data shows us more specific progress information than just merely reading age. As teachers, this makes our lives easier by reducing workload and identifying progress clearly. This then allows staff to let children take quizzes and assessments independently, knowing that the work will be set at the appropriate level. Students can be autonomous in their quizzes and assessments because the questions adapt to their own responses – whereas if students are answering questions in a traditional foundation or higher tier format, there are no assurances that they can answer all questions at the appropriate challenge set. 


Celebration assembly, where the top readers and those who have hit set targets are celebrated.


“With Star Reading questions, it’s so much better as the data allows teachers to have a precise overview of progress.”


There has always been a question around whether students are accessing appropriate questions for their unique level of ability. But with Star Reading questions, it’s so much better as the data allows teachers to have a precise overview of progress. The subsequent reports that teachers can run off after an assessment has been carried out give individual strategies for individual students, and all of these features are really powerful. We’ve since found that it’s much more meaningful to have a personalised report – a report that’s not just about numbers or reading age, but one that’s so much more than that, such as the Focus Skills included within Star Reading reports. These skills provide teachers with strategies to develop each student’s learning with reading comprehension and spelling, punctuation and grammar understanding. The skills are matched to the National Curriculum and are uniquely suggested based on the student’s current progression.


For us, Star Reading reports provide us with the essential information to share amongst schools, and that’s really powerful. At Finham Park Multi-Academy Trust, we feel that excellent practice is where those reading strategies are shared with all staff. By sharing successful strategy based on accurate data, teachers can provide appropriate literacy support for students. This allows teachers in different subjects, across the curriculum, to know who the weakest readers are to give more support: for example, the subject teacher can provide a list of key vocabulary to the weakest readers to help them with understanding the keywords within the specific subject.


“Regular communication and meetings with the AR leads and a MAT overview allows us to share best practice amongst schools.”


At Finham Park Multi-Academy Trust, whilst we believe data is important, the context behind the information is more critical. We give ownership to each school to run AR in the way that they feel is best for their students or their cohorts. We meet termly with each school’s AR lead to review how they’re using AR, share strategies, and we look at the predicted outcomes together. When reviewing progress, we can compare if a student has used AR or Star Reading in the last term or previous academic year. Most students will have carried out their first Star Reading assessment very early on at the beginning of the academic year so you can see their individual benchmark from the off.


We feel that it is essential for a narrative to come with the summary of progress from each AR lead. This allows us to look at overall progress, understand the context, and share strategies. Each cohort is different and varies from school to school; however, we can compare children on the AR ‘watch-list’ to see the progress made and what worked well for them to make this progress. It is particularly important to me that schools can provide this comparative information along with narrative and context. The holistic overview is also essential to see comparative data and progress amongst year groups within different schools. Again, the unique context behind this data explains why schools are using their current strategy.


Regular communication and meetings where the AR leads come together and a MAT overview allows us to share best practice amongst schools, senior leadership teams and at MAT level. AR leads will not only include progress data in terms of reading ages but also share data relating to engagement, such as the number of words read. This surface data enables us to provide rewards, identify engagement and look at the broader opportunity for students. We’re always looking beyond just closing the reading age gap, which enables them to access the curriculum and ensuring students develop confidence and a love for reading for pleasure.


Accelerated Reader celebration display located in the English corridor.


“With EAL students specifically, students are more confident because everyone is taking part and its very much a peer support programme.”


We’re able to provide continuous professional development for staff around AR, so that they can better understand reports and support the weakest readers in their classes. We provide Star Reading training too for staff who want to learn more and offer better strategies in literacy. All of this is important for student engagement and progress. We also feel it is essential to give students a voice too: and they tell us they feel more confident, and they are enjoying reading more. With EAL students specifically, students are more confident because everyone is taking part and its very much a peer support programme, including the use of sixth-form reading mentors. We’ve found that when our EAL students read with highly confident readers at the same time, they are more engaged. Even if they’re reading at an appropriate level to their own needs, this shows everyone at the school that reading is valued and being developed. We’ve definitely seen EAL students’ confidence grow because reading, quizzing and assessing becomes normalised and therefore a very natural thing that they’re working on.


“myON helps with that engagement and reading development so, myON for us was the natural choice to having as a reading programme.”


We introduced myON to supplement Accelerated Reader. There is certainly an appeal for a digital library point of view for many reasons: for instance, the ability to access a vast number of books for everyone’s preference and ability is really appealing. We don’t want to replace physical reading books or the feeling of picking up a book, but the reality is that the current generation is more used to the digital environment – far more than previous generations.


The restrictions of COVID-19 have changed the way we use resources. For example, during the first national lockdown, schools were only open to a limited number of children. Now when schools are fully open, they’re quarantining a book for up to 72 hours before it’s picked up by another child. As teachers, we’ve had to adapt to a more blended approach to learning. It comes more naturally to children who are learning from home and myON helps with that engagement and reading development. So myON for us was the natural choice for a reading programme to use both in and out of school. We’re also using myON with sixth-form students and Year 11 students who aren’t necessarily on using AR or Star so that we can still monitor their reading development and vocabulary acquisition. It also allows them to enjoy a wide range of texts which they couldn’t otherwise access.


In my experience of Renaissance’s complete literacy solution, I’ve seen a rapid and accelerated improvement, which closes the gap between the chronological and reading age of students. This is especially evident for students whose prior attainment was lower than the average. The programmes have had a positive impact on every students’ ability to access the curriculum. Now, students are more able to enjoy reading and read for pleasure.


Other voices

“Accelerated Reader has made a huge impact on my Year 8 class. They actually enjoy reading as AR makes it explicitly clear where they have improved, which has increased their confidence. Based on my experience, I feel Accelerated Reader would be an advantage to any school.”

– Chloe Chand, English teacher at Lyng Hall School


Students said:

  • “myON has been really good for levelling up my reading skills and vocabulary.” 
  • “myON is a great place to read. It has lots of different genres of books that are good for any type of reader.” 
  • “myON has lots of great books I have never heard of before.” 
  • “I really enjoy the audio feature as it allows me to read with my family.” 
  • “I’ve really enjoyed the reading challenges that have been set. I’ve completed 3!” 


To find out more about how your MAT can utilise the complete literacy solution from Renaissance, click here.

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