Let Teachers SHINE winner 2021: Rachel Ward – Ready Let’s Read

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A Manchester teacher has won £25,000 in the annual Let Teachers SHINE competition to fund an innovative project that will rapidly improve young children’s reading and writing skills.

Let Teachers SHINE, run by the education charity SHINE and supported by Tes, awards funding to teachers with brilliant ideas to help disadvantaged students succeed in English, maths or science.

Rachel Ward, from Moston Fields Primary School, said she was “over the moon” to receive the award, which she believes will make a real difference to many disadvantaged children who currently begin school with poor levels of literacy.

Her project, Ready Let’s Read, will involve working closely with small groups of the most vulnerable Reception age children.

“During my time working in three Manchester schools I have become increasingly aware of the need for high quality early literacy intervention for the most vulnerable children in Early Years,” Rachel said.

Rachel is a specialist in a teaching programme known as Reading Recovery, which has decades of research behind it and targets Key Stage 1 children. Ready Let’s Read is a pre- Reading Recovery intervention, taking the success of the Reading Recovery research, philosophy and practice and creating something to support the most vulnerable children and families in Early Years. The Ready Let’s Read project aims to accelerate literacy learning through a series of daily 20-minute sessions with small groups of children. Parents will also be encouraged to attend some sessions so they can learn some of the techniques of language development and early reading.

I believe in it, because it works. It works because it’s specific to the children’s needs, it takes into account their background and generational disadvantages which is why it also involves supporting parents and carers.

Rachel Ward Let Teachers SHINE winner

“We need to use the research from the Reading Recovery intervention and create an additional intervention which is expertly taught so that early vocabulary and literacy gaps are narrowed. We’ve been saying for years that we need something like this, but without the resources, money and the capacity it’s not been possible. Until now. We need early interventions like ‘Ready Let’s Read’ now more than ever. If we provide children with preventative support earlier on we will then begin to see a decrease in support needed in KS1 and beyond. If this is quality support akin to that of Reading Recovery then it will make such a difference to the most vulnerable children and their families,” Rachel said.

The children will have focussed daily sessions which are bespoke to their literacy needs and will include early storytelling, phonological awareness, phonics, early book handling skills and letter and word work.

“The idea is that we take complete non-readers to the point where they are at the beginning of their reading journey with all the early building blocks securely in place. A number of these children may well still require the support of Reading Recovery in KS1 but Ready Let’s Read would have provided more children with the skills they need to thrive in Year one. Others who still need further intervention would have a secure baseline from which to then access Reading Recovery and make further accelerated progress.” said Rachel.

After the project has been trialled for a year, the plan is to roll it out into ten other Reading Recovery schools in Manchester. This will ensure that the Reading Recovery teacher who is an in-house literacy expert can support the new intervention and maintain the rigour required for its success. And in the future, Rachel hopes many more schools will take up the approach.

Teaching staff will be trained in the techniques behind Ready Let’s Read, so that hundreds more children can be helped.

“I believe in it, because it works,” said Rachel. “It works because it’s specific to the children’s needs, it takes into account their background and generational disadvantages which is why it also involves supporting parents and carers.”

Helen Rafferty, Interim Chief Executive of SHINE, said: “Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s Let Teachers SHINE competition. This year’s awards were held during some of the most challenging times teachers have ever faced, making the quality of the applications all the more impressive.

“Each of the teachers who took part in the competition demonstrated their innovation and commitment to really make a difference to the futures of children from low-income families.

“We look forward to working with the winners to help them develop their ideas and help hundreds of children to succeed at school.”

For a full list of this year’s Let Teachers SHINE winners, click here.

Since August 2000, SHINE has invested more than £31 million in projects benefiting almost 1.4 million children from over 20,000 schools.