Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

Ofsted: “Reading is at the heart of the curriculum”

Guston Church of England Primary School, Kent

Guston Church of England Primary School has been using The Complete Literacy Solution from Renaissance since July 2021. In October 2021, the school received a ‘Good’ Ofsted Inspection report with specific recognition for their reading development strategy.

Literacy Coordinator, Jonathan Wells writes about how Accelerated Reader and Star Reading have supported the school maintain a successful culture of reading for all pupils which have since been acknowledged by Ofsted.

Jonathan writes:

Before Accelerated reader

Progress and attainment in reading in our school have always been good with the majority of pupils meeting national expectations by the end of year 6; however, children’s passion for reading and pupils working at a greater depth level has not been at the standard we strived for.

We invested in the teaching of reading in 2019 with Big Read and saw improvements however our children were still reliant on reading scheme books and teachers found it difficult to pinpoint where a child was in their reading progress and see clearly where their next steps were.

Our school fiction books were in classes; while the teachers used them to the best of their abilities they were essentially places to store books. Children were also restricted to the books that were in their rooms. The library was very rarely used but took up a lot of room in the school. It was a none fiction library and very few of the books had even left the shelves.

Something had to change

We invested in Accelerated reader in June 2021. The hard work then really began but we were supported every step of the way by the accelerated reader team. Initial training was effective and efficient allowing us to assess all pupils from year 2 to 6 through star assessments. Teachers were empowered by the findings as the pupils’ results supported their own professional judgements only this time, they have the hard evidence to back up their initial intuition. This meant that they were confident in setting their next steps in their teaching.

We then set about totally revamping our library. This mammoth job involved moving all the none fiction books out of the library to a central location and collecting all the fiction books from throughout the school to be logged and given their ZPD number and quiz number. This, while taking a very long time did mean that I now have personal knowledge of every fiction book in the school! The process while taking a lot of time was easily done.

“The impact was immediate.”

The impact was immediate. The library was a place where the children could sit and enjoy the book we had in school the ZPD classification meant that the children and the teachers knew which books were appropriate for which levels and it quickly identified where we were lacking resources for certain abilities of reading. We clearly saw that we had few books aimed at high-interest low ability readers as well as books that would challenge our more-able readers. The children had a much wider range of books to select from meaning they were keen to read as much as they could so they could explore the variety of books now open to them. Reading scheme books are still available to the children and have been allocated ZPD levels but they are not the only books that children in the lower years can read so the children are building a love of reading as they delve into boos that would have been seen as free readers in the past. Some children who had been put of reading books as they always felt that some books from ‘Free Reader’ areas were always out of their ability.

“Star Assessments have streamlined our reading assessment process.”

Star Assessments have streamlined our reading assessment process. It means that teaching assistants are not taken out of class at the beginning of each term to complete various reading age tests which have then got to be interpreted by the teacher. The areas for development that the test gives to teachers means that the children have individual targets which can be hit when reading with them and any common targets can be those areas to which teaching is targeted through a term. The assessments work alongside our approach to teaching reading informing the progress of our reading curriculum.

“The tests are not intrusive and the pupils have no anxiety about taking them so the results we have received have been fair and reliable.”

Upon re-testing of the pupils, we have seen a marked increase in reading ages in all year groups from year 2 to 6. The tests are not intrusive and the pupils have no anxiety about taking them so the results we have received have been fair and reliable. The following results have also allowed us to start to analyse the data using several of the expensive reports that are available. These reports have not only supported teaching but have allowed us to be more confident when talking about the pupils reading to parents and allowing us to share specific areas of development that they can help at home with.

We introduced the children to the Accelerated Reader quizzes as quickly as possible and made sure that they had the time to complete these as soon as they had finished a book. They love them! They love the competition with themselves to achieve the points and are proud of themselves. The biggest impact has come from the pupils who didn’t use to complete a book in a term or so; these pupils have hooked into the competition, they can see fellow pupils taking quizzes and getting through books ad it makes them want to read more.

The digital library

“The quizzes are very good actually. I love the questions and they actually challenge you!”

Year 6 pupil

In the future, we are going to start reader of the week in our celebration assembly to celebrate those pupils who have improved their average reading quiz scores.

We also invested in myON. The children love myON. This compendium of digital texts directly linked to their ZPD means that the children have access to a variety of books on their computers and tablets. This has engaged several of our reluctant readers who would rather spend time on their screens but has also given immediate access to a massive variety of genres and texts to those children who want to read more and more…

One of the most powerful tools for our families is the audio option. This means that the children can listen to the book they are reading if they want to. In the case of our families, this is invaluable as English is often the second language spoken at home.

myON has helped with the setting of reading and writing homework through the Projects tool. This means that the teachers can set work that they know the children have the texts for and can specifically tailor it to their classes specific needs or themes.

All of these steps forward in our school reading were given the Ofsted seal of approval when we were commended for our reading by our inspector in October 2021.

“Reading is at the heart of the curriculum. Pupils spoke proudly of the wide range of books available from the well-stocked library. Their selections are carefully matched to their needs through regular assessment. Pupils know that reading is important. They enjoy reading on their own”

Inspection report: Guston Church of England Primary School 20 and 21 October 2021


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