Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

To be among the top five schools in the country is incredible, and my vision now is to become a beacon to schools in other areas of high deprivation…

Ward Jackson CE Primary School, Hartlepool

UPDATE: Official results confirm that Ward Jackson CE Primary School is now the top school in the whole country for their progress in reading – 11.6. 100% of students achieved and 55% exceeded expectations.

Like many schools located in areas with high levels of social deprivation, Ward Jackson CE Primary School in Hartlepool has long been regarded as something of a ‘problem child’ – facing multiple challenges with staff turnover, poor pupil performance, high levels of mobility and a ‘requires improvement’ rating from Ofsted.

Unlike many schools of this type, however, 100% of Year 6 pupils at Ward Jackson achieved expected outcomes in their most recent SATs results. Furthermore, of all of those pupils 54% achieved a scaled score of 110 or more – and of that number, 82% attract Pupil Premium funding and 34% are identified as SEN pupils with a range of complex needs. What’s even more remarkable is that, when looking back at the KS1 scores of the same children, only one child was working at a higher level and 18 were not meeting expectations – leading to a progress score of an incredible 11.6.

These results have rightly attracted high praise from within the local authority and diocese, and were rightly described by the HMI described as “stunning”. Comparing reading results to those of 2017, it would place the school among the top 5 in the country in terms of progress.

David Akers, Head Teacher at Ward Jackson CE Primary, believes that much of the improvement can be attributed to school’s adoption of Renaissance Accelerated Reader back in October 2017.

Everyone is reading

As a new Head with responsibility for turning around a school ‘requiring improvement’ and a high turnover in staff, I was keen to do whatever it would take to get things moving. It was actually my Assistant Head Teacher, Joanne Campbell, who first suggested taking on Accelerated Reader. She had used it at her previous primary school, as well as a former secondary school, and was confident that it would help. However not everyone was keen, with some saying that it would take too long to implement before we would see results. But Joanne was passionate and, having been involved in successfully running the programme elsewhere, was able to ensure that we could get started immediately.

I admire Joanne for standing up for what she believed would help, especially being so new to the school. That’s not to say that there weren’t big challenges. We had to make changes to the curriculum to ensure we could provide 20 minutes’ daily reading time, but now when I walk around the school from 9am to 9.25am everyone is reading – staff and pupils.

Pupil Progress

Accelerated Reader also includes a licence for Renaissance Star Reading™ for every pupil on the programme. This valuable adaptive assessment not only identifies a pupil’s reading age and Zone of Proximal Development for use with Accelerated Reader, but also provides a wealth of other valuable data to measure progress and inform instruction.

We run Star Reading tests at least once a term, and often every half term, and share the data with pupils and parents. Combined with information from Accelerated Reader, the collective data informs my Pupil Progress meetings with staff. At the end of each term the SLT identify individual pupil success stories that are recognised at the Celebration Assembly where we award an Accelerated Reader trophy.

Engaging parents

The widespread enthusiasm for books and quizzing throughout the school has also helped to inform book purchasing decisions and engage parents.

Although we only starting using in Accelerated Reader in October, by November we had rolled it out across all of KS2. We’ve also now introduced it to KS1 – this was particularly important as although we’ve traditionally done well teaching phonics at early years, there was a drop off from KS1 onwards. Even though the quizzes have proved very popular and really motivate the children, we had to convert our designated computer suite into a classroom. So we adapted. Now you will find children reading all around the school and completing their quizzes on laptops, which offers even more flexibility.

The data generated by the programmes means we also know where we have gaps in our book stock, so we can ensure that we are purchasing suitably-challenging titles that match our pupils’ reading abilities.

We also make use of Home Connect to engage parents and give them an opportunity to view and support their child’s reading progress.

A beacon to others

To have achieved so much in little over a year is a truly remarkable feat and a great foundation on which to build and showcase Ward Jackson’s success to other schools in similarly challenging circumstances.

Our next Ofsted inspection should arrive sometime in the next six months. I am very proud of everything we’ve achieved and continue to achieve since their last visit. To be among the top five schools in the country is incredible, and my vision now is to become a beacon to schools in other areas of high deprivation. I want to share with them our experience of what works.

We are already seeing the school’s reputation improve and we’re receiving incredibly positive feedback from parents and the wider community. Obviously not every improvement can be attributed to Accelerated Reader, but it has gone a very long way to helping us achieve the results we’re now seeing.

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