Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

From trial to permanent fixture

Allendale Primary School, Northumberland

Allendale Primary School has been using Renaissance solutions since 2016 when they first took part in the Education Endowment Foundation’s trial of Accelerated Reader. The trial’s objective was to analyse the impact that Accelerated Reader had on pupils’ reading engagement and development.

Five years on, Allendale Primary School continue to enjoy the benefits of Accelerated Reader and Star Reading for their pupils’ reading enjoyment. Headteacher Alison Hawkins explains why the school opted to take part in the EEF trial with Accelerated Reader. She outlines why Accelerated Reader is as crucial to the school’s reading development strategy now as it was five years ago.

Why we opted in

Alison explains that Allendale Primary School was a first school until 2013, meaning the school taught children in Key-Stage 1. She elaborates that this is because the local education authority of Northumberland administers the 3-tier system of schooling. In 2013 the school began its transition to becoming a middle school. However, the middle school plans were scraped, and Allendale instead became a full primary school. Transitioning into a primary school meant that the school’s intake would now consist of children from Key-Stage 1 and 2, something the school had not experienced before.

Allendale Primary School carried out 7,179 Accelerated Reader quizzes from September 2019 – May 2021. An increased rate of 119.99%

Even when Allendale was a first school, Alison admits she looked into procuring Accelerated Reader (AR). However, at that time, the school’s budget was not sufficient. After the school had finalised its transition into a primary school, Alison came across an advert from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) for schools to trial AR. This trial allowed EEF to monitor and assess AR’s impact on pupils’ reading proficiency and development. One of the main reasons that influenced Alison’s decision to take part in the trial was the school’s initial SATs results in 2016. Alison explains that these results did not illustrate pupils showing greater depth in reading. Therefore, it became a priority for the school to develop pupils reading proficiency.

Alison states that the timing of the trial was well placed; she suggests that the school even got the Parent and Teacher Association involved too.

“AR gave an impetus to all pupils to maintain enthusiasm and engagement with reading.”

She states that the school quickly realised that AR does work. Alison then made the executive decision to procure the reading support resource. She recalls that Allendale Primary School was one of the few schools to take advantage of the EEF study. Initially, the school used AR to solely support their Key-Stage two pupils to improve their SATs scores. Consequently, Alison claims that the school’s SATs results really, really increased after that. So much so that in 2019, the latest recorded round of SATs results revealed that 83% of year six pupils demonstrated greater depth in reading. Alison explains that pupils showed a consecutive year on year increase in reading proficiency since the school implemented AR. She suggests that the latest Star Reading assessments in 2021 revealed that current year six pupils are on track to see similar attainment.

Allendale Primary School carried out 834 Star Reading assessments from September 2019 – May 2021. An increased rate of 200.68%

In the subsequent years after the school launched AR and continued to see the consistently positive impact on reading skills, the school introduced the programme to more able Key-Stage 1 pupils. Alison suggests that AR gave an impetus to all pupils to maintain enthusiasm and engagement with reading. To this day, Alsion states that the school still administer their half an hour a day segment of reading and quizzing for all pupils. She claims that this happens on the same day and time as it first did when the school first began this initiative when AR started.

Overall, Alison notes that AR has generally given children more encouragement with reading. She claims that pupils enjoy the quizzing aspect of the programme. AR keeps pupils self-motivated to continue moving up reading levels. Alison suggests that the school celebrate this reading enthusiasm success with big displays throughout the school corridors. These displays feature Venn diagrams of pupil success in reading, including the best scores from the latest round of AR quizzing. Alison explains that the younger pupils are mainly motivated by appearing in these displays. The school also has a glittery word millionaire display showcasing the pupils that AR has identified as having read over one million words! All of this celebration and positive throughout the school is capped off with a special presentation at the end of every school year celebrating the most significant achievements in reading.

Allendale Primary School averaged an 88% Accelerated Reader quiz pass rate from September 2019 – May 2021

Alison claims that the school has heavily invested in more reading books over the last few years. AR helps staff identify which books are appropriate for pupils and ensure the library is stocked with the latest books. As a result, she states that pupils now have more book choices than ever before. In addition, with Accelerated Reader, Alison’s staff can accurately measure pupil progress data and reading engagement. She states that all staff really like the programme.

Alison notes that a local secondary school headteacher recently suggested that they have concerns about pupils’ reading progress. Alison recommended AR as a reliable source for tracking reading progress and offering suitable intervention.

The average time pupils spent conducting  Star Reading assessments from September 2019 РMay 2021 was 21 minutes and 8 seconds Рthe optimum time Renaissance recommends should be spent administering Star Assessments

Bespoke training from Renaissance

Alsion suggests the overall quality of training and support that Renaissance Learning staff have provided throughout the schools has been excellent. In addition, she claims that Renaissance staff provided a comprehensive overview of the abundance of data included within the reports that staff can export from both AR and Star Reading (SR).

Alison suggests that it is helpful to receive a regular refresher session from Renaissance because there is so much you can do with AR and SR. For example, she explains that staff received a refresher on Star Early Literacy in the school’s latest training session. Star Early Literacy is a solution for AR supporting early years pupils and those in the most need of intervention.

Alison adds that the ‘live chat’ feature in the school’s Renaissance hosted website is particularly useful. She claims staff will often use this feature when a child accidentally locks themselves out or if they can’t access their quiz.

Supporting the wider reading curriculum

Recently, the school have started to use AR articles. These articles focus on real-time news stories that are child friendly and approved by child psychologists. AR articles provide pupils with a different type of text from fictional books to analyse and quiz on. Alison explains that the school use the Oxford Reading Tree in reception and year one. The Oxford Reading Tree is used primarily to support weaker readers. Alison has produced a booklet for staff aligned to the Oxford Reading Tree with corresponding AR levels and the quiz numbers for each book. Children can then carry out the related quiz on the book they’re currently reading within the Oxford Reading Tree.¬† –

Alison suggests that AR and SR support teachers structured lesson plans around reading. The school does not use any other ed-tech resource to support reading. Therefore, AR and SR are the sole resources for reading development and accurate assessment data in the school.

Allendale Primary School saw an increase in reading progress score of 42% from 2017 – 2019


Alison explains that staff refer to the Instructional Planning Report within Star Reading to investigate pupils’ respective Focus Skills to inform intervention. Focus Skills outline what the pupil must understand based on their pre-existing knowledge to scaffold their learning and see progress. Focus Skills are aligned to the national curriculum’s age-related expectations for reading development. Therefore, Alison explains they help teachers hone in on what barriers prevent the weaker reader from seeing progress in reading.

“Focus Skills within the Instructional Planning Report help teachers hone in on what barriers prevent the weaker reader from seeing progress in reading.”

As well as the Instructional Planning Report within Star Reading, Alsion suggests that she refers to other reports from Star Reading. For example, she indicates that her staff regularly analyse the growth and summer reports after pupils have completed their half-termly Star Assessments. These reports show a comprehensive overview of what pupils have seen the most progress based on school benchmarks and standardised national scores.

Alsion explains that the reports and data from Star Reading assessments highlight blips in reading development for specific groups of pupils. Identifying where growth is slowing allows staff to investigate whether there was an issue on the assessment day or a more permanent barrier preventing the pupil from progressing.

Allendale Primary School performed better than 99% of other primary schools in the LEA of Northumberland based on reading progress score.

The reports enable Alison’s staff to use their teacher instincts to decide whether a pupil needs to practice more in certain areas of reading. For example, teachers can use Focus Skills to highlight pupils needing more practice in vocabulary practice or SPaG. Suppose the data identifies a solid reader whose progress has recently plummeted. In that case, teachers can subsequently begin planning the next steps for appropriate intervention and learning to ensure the pupil gets back on track and maintains their reading targets.

Encouraging reading for all demographics

Despite having a high demographic of SEND and ASD pupils, Alison reveals that the school generally see improvement in reading for all pupils as they progress throughout Key-Stage 2. For example, she states that the year six pupils who achieved 83% greater reading depth in their SATs scores in 2019 would never have been expected to have achieved this when they entered Key-Stage 2.

In 2019, our year six pupils achieved 83% greater depth in the reading paper of their SATs test.

Alison theorises that this may be due to the type of children that attend the school in general. She states that most pupils are from a laid back rural culture where daily reading is not apparent at home. However, due to daily reading routines at school and the variety of books children have access to, Alison states that reading progress booms throughout their journey in Key-Stage 2. She affirms that this is also heavily influenced by the brilliant teachers and staff at Allendale Primary School.

For many children, reading can be challenging because they struggle with inference and prediction. After all, it’s in their nature to be quite literal at that age. Alison claims that these pupils love AR because progression for them is structured. With AR quizzes and SR assessments, teachers subsequently receive an abundance of insight into their pupils’ learning progress and styles. With AR and SR data, teachers can analyse whether pupils are focussing on inference. If not, the teacher can utilise the Focus Skills to plan the next steps and activities to help the pupil master this essential component for development.

In the lockdown, Allendale Primary School made AR quizzes accessible from home. Every parent and pupil was sent the link to the school’s hosted website to log into their respective pupil accounts to take quizzes. Alison explains that the school used the AR Book Guide to download a list of books that pupils could collect and loan from the school. She describes how pupils would bring their books back to school in a plastic bag and place them in a box outside the school’s front. A staff member would then sanitise the book and their hands and put the book back in the box, ready for the next pupil to loan out.

Alison shares that the school did allow Star Reading assessments to be conducted from home too. However, teachers knew that these results wouldn’t be the most reliable as pupils were not carrying them out in classroom conditions. Alison explains that allow pupils to take part in Star Reading assessments from home enabled teachers to monitor the reading proficiency of pupils while reading remotely. Plus, she admits, the data gave teachers a rough outline of how pupils were progressing and where teachers would need to focus their learning when pupils return to school.

Why we’re still using AR & SR

“At the beginning of the 21/22 academic year, just like every other year, we will carry out a baseline Star reading assessment and half-termly assessments thereafter to accurately assess the progress of pupils’ reading development.”

First of all, the school still use AR to maintain engagement with reading, Alison asserts. She reveals the school will still keep half-hour reading sessions per day. As soon as the new academic year begins, the school will conduct the first baseline Star Reading assessment for all pupils. Alison explains that, as usual, the school will then conduct subsequent Star Reading assessments every half term to assess the progress of pupils reading development.

Where teachers identify pupils who are not making enough progress, they will offer intervention strategies. Strategies include assigning reading volunteers to read with the pupil or generally increasing their engagement time with AR. Alison is adamant that the school will continue to use the diagnostic tools from AR and SR to assess ongoing progress throughout the 21/22 academic year. She repeats that it will be imperative to secure catch up intervention strategies for pupils who have had little engagement with reading over the last eighteen months.

For pupils in Key-Stage 1 who are showing signs of solid reading development, they will be fast-tracked onto the AR programme to accelerate their reading proficiency.

Here’s what pupils at Allendale Primary School had to say:

“AR is good because it gives students goals which result in healthy competition.”

“I like to have a target to hit by doing reading; something I enjoy.”

“I like the quietness and calmness when we’re doing our AR sessions.”

“I like our AR sessions because I like calming down after football and reading books to quiz, especially funny books.”

“I like AR because it’s really improved my writing and the range of books that I read.”

“I like how many choices of books there are in Accelerated Reader.”

“I enjoy the excitement of trying to read as many books as possible to get to Word Millionaire.”

“AR is good because it has helped me to read more books which helps me to learn.”

“I like Accelerated Reader because it allows me to read lots of books without having to buy them.”

“AR is good because reading all the books has helped me with my spelling.”

“I like AR because there are so many books and we are able to chill doing reading after break.”

To find out how your school can utilise Accelerated Reader and Star Reading to support pupils’ reading engagement, click here

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