Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

Attitudes to reading transformed in a year

Kingsmead School, Middlesex

Staff introduced Accelerated Reader in 2011 and quickly saw the impact it was having. “We recognised the need to improve students’ literacy levels and to raise their reading ages and ability,” comments Jan Evans, a Deputy Head at the school who represents the SLT on the project team. They knew that with the right implementation AR could be even more effective, so they applied to join the Renaissance School Partnership.

“There is a huge amount of data produced with AR”

“The Renaissance School Partnership helped us to establish an effective core team to co-ordinate and support implementation of AR. We appointed a member of staff to take responsibility for working with me on implementing the programme. Responsibility for promoting AR was added to the job descriptions of Learning Directors of Year and their deputies’ job descriptions. We have also deployed teaching assistants and increased the working hours of an admin officer to support it.”

“There is a huge amount of data produced with AR. It’s important to manage that and not be overwhelmed by it; to make it work for you.” The additional support of the Programme Manager has helped staff at the school to do just that, with data collected in weekly reports sent to the project team. “It’s incredibly helpful both in monitoring students (and staff!) performance, and also the impact of the programme.”

“We now use AR data in Year Team meetings to show tutors how their classes are doing with the programme. This has helped us to identify good practice, which in turn has enabled us to train staff where necessary so they can support each other with successful implementation.”

When Ofsted inspected Kingsmead during 2013, the inspectors were impressed with the academy’s reading culture. The head inspector commented on how students were drawing the attention of the inspectors towards their reading books in the classroom and around the school.

The final inspection report highlighted AR as a good use of additional funding. The inspectors said, “Year 7 catch-up funding is used well for underachieving students entering the academy, providing good support via the accelerated reading programme.”

“The support we have received has had a hugely positive impact”

“The support we have received through RSP has been tremendous; it’s had a hugely positive impact. We have been able to identify where staff have not been using the programme as we would wish and so enable us to direct training and put additional support in place where necessary.”

“The resources we have received from our Programme Manager have been excellent. All tutors involved with Accelerated Reader now have folders containing examples of tips and status of the class sheets which help for monitoring purposes.”

“The remote sessions have enabled targeted training to take place and have really helped to refresh our knowledge and skills. It’s a very convenient method of delivering CPD. These have helped us to identify good practice and also to identify teachers who need more support to engage with the programme. The sessions have also helped us to identify students and classes to reward to keep motivation going.”

“A huge improvement in engagement and in attitudes towards reading and writing”

Kingsmead took part in the National Literacy Trust’s National Literacy Survey in November 2012 and again in November 2013. This annual survey asks about ‘soft’ attitudes towards reading, such as whether students perceive it as a ‘cool’ activity, and how often they read. The year-on-year change in attitudes measured by the survey is a testament to the impact of RSP and the effectiveness of the implementation by staff at the school. “There is clear quantitative evidence of a huge improvement in engagement and in attitudes towards reading and writing,” Jan comments.

The percentage of students saying that they enjoy reading very much or quite a lot increased from 47% to 72% over the year. The number reading outside class every day or almost every day doubled, from 25% to 50%. In 2012, 53% of students identified as being a reader, and a year later that had risen to 87%.

Jan has noticed this change in attitudes in daily life around the school. “Our students read! They talk about reading, they talk about books, they bring books to school.” Tanaka, a Year 7 student at the school, has experienced this change in attitudes first-hand. “I never used to read much,” she says, “but when we got Accelerated Reader it boosted my confidence in reading. It is also a fun way of reading as sometimes you gain points and there’s competitions.” Turan, also in Year 7, agrees: “It’s good to see that I am progressing.”

Chart showing attitudes to reading outside class

Chart reflecting answers from the National Literacy Trust’s National Literacy Survey in November 2012 and 2013

“The library is being used more than before”

Kingsmead has implemented a range of reading initiatives to complement AR. Prizes are awarded to incentivise students with their reading, while space for reading has been created in the timetable to ensure that the recommended engaged reading time is available during the school day. “In addition to reading time at the start of English & Literacy lessons, 25 minutes of class reading time is timetabled into every school day for years 7, 8 and 9 which has supported the AR programme.”

“There are six star reader badges per form, which go to different students. The students wear them with pride! We also purchased Kindles as prizes for a termly draw. In addition, students can be nominated for book prizes: they are desperate to get picked so they increase their quizzing. Leagues of students who have been successful with their reading are published on our VLE to mark their achievements.”

These initiatives have put reading at the centre of school life, impacting on the role of the library. “The library is being used more than before, and by a greater number of students. It is always used for homework club after school, and our reading buddies now work there with their partners.”

“It’s been a great investment!”

RSP has helped staff at Kingsmead to make the most of their implementation of AR. From the ongoing training for core team members like Jan down to the conversations about books that students are having among themselves, the impact of the programme has been felt across the school. “It’s been a great investment! I have had discussions about books with Year 9 boys at the bus stop on a Friday afternoon – amazing! It’s not unusual to pass students in the corridor discussing books, students reading at lunchtimes or before school. We still have a way to go and it is a big job keeping on top of it all, but very worthwhile.”

Chart showing attitudes to reading at Kingsmead

Chart reflecting answers from the National Literacy Trust’s National Literacy Survey in November 2012 and 2013

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