Reception-age children making “leaps in progress” thanks to reading project

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RLR has already made a vital impact in the reading skills and attainment of the bottom 20% of our reception cohort. It identified swiftly and accurately the barriers to learning for some of our most vulnerable learners and has already increased their projected level of progress with their reading.

Simon George Reception Teacher at Barlow Hall Primary School

Teachers say reception-age children are being given “an opportunity to meet their potential early” and are making “leaps in progress” thanks to a reading project backed by SHINE.

Two years ago, teacher Rachel Ward won funding from Let Teachers SHINE to fund her idea to improve early years literacy.

After a successful pilot in her school, Moston Fields Primary School, Manchester, Ready, Let’s Read (RLR) was last year expanded into a further four schools in the North West.

Research shows that early intervention is the most efficient and cost-effective way to support children who are likely to struggle with literacy. Tracking data indicates that problems identified in the early years persist throughout the children’s years in primary school and on into secondary school. And as children get older, the learning deficit becomes entrenched and harder to address.

RLR targets children starting reception with limited oral language skills, who have had limited exposure to books, and who have underdeveloped social and emotional skills for their age.

The aim is to ensure these most vulnerable children become successful readers and writers as they move into Year One at primary school, and beyond.

Small groups of early years children take part in a series of bespoke sessions, carefully crafted to meet the needs and barriers of the children in each group.

Through success and positive experiences with books, RLR instils a love of books and literacy from an early age.

Sarah Murray, headteacher at Moston Fields said RLR has been a “highly successful programme” that “has had a huge impact at Moston Fields on many levels”.

She added: “The confidence this has brought to the staff, children and now, to the other schools that have joined the project is unquantifiable.”

Rachel has developed a training package to support teachers in the new schools that have joined the project and has also worked with staff in training sessions and school visits.

Naomi Hill, Phase Leader at Holy Trinity Primary School, said:RLR is really exciting to be part of. We are already seeing a positive difference in the children taking part. They are excited to read, are building the confidence to believe that they can do it, and we are seeing leaps in progress already.

“The training, knowledge and support from Rachel has been invaluable – we would not have been able to do this by ourselves.”

Two reception children at Holy Trinity have gone from being in the lowest 20% to being classed as “secure” in literacy assessments. Their teachers say it is RLR “that has made the difference” and that they would not have achieved this success without the programme.

Lyndsey Conlon, Early Years Phase Lead at Brookburn Primary School, said: “This programme is what has been needed in reception for such a long time and I know that Rachel will continue to improve and train more practitioners, which will mean more children will leave reception as confident readers.”

Simon George, Reception Teacher at Barlow Hall Primary School, said: “RLR has already made a vital impact in the reading skills and attainment of the bottom 20% of our reception cohort. It identified swiftly and accurately the barriers to learning for some of our most vulnerable learners and has already increased their projected level of progress with their reading.”

Jen Holden, Headteacher at Brookburn Primary School, said: “The feedback from the team has been so positive and it has really increased their confidence in how to ensure that the support in place is targeted and identifying next steps and moving children on. It has given the team new skills and techniques to provide intervention at the earliest opportunity, [which] is critical at this stage.”

Fiona Botterill, Greater Manchester Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, said: “RLR is meeting a real need for reception children that would otherwise go into Year One struggling to read and write.  It is well known that early identification and intervention has the greatest impact but accessing and opportunity to meet this need can be thin on the ground, especially in the current education climate.

“RLR is giving these children an opportunity to meet their potential early and to be inclusive within the classroom from the start.

“I have worked with Rachel on the planning and delivery of the training and the response has been a unique experience.

“A key moment was observing three reception children, all with diverse learning, social and emotional needs have a lesson at the mirrored screen after 2pm. A challenge for any teacher or TA but their high level of engagement, enjoyment and learning was inspirational. They were all independent in reading and writing and succeeding with the skilful pitch of RLR.

Rachel’s Headteacher, Sarah, added: “We are fully committed to broadening this reach and look forward to improving the life chances for the children that will take part at our school and the family of schools that will be created through this project.”

Following the success of the first two years of Ready, Let’s Read, Rachel has been awarded a second grant from SHINE, of almost £60,000, which will enable her to continue her project until 2025 and to introduce it into 13 schools across Manchester, Tameside and Liverpool.

Reflecting on the first two years, Rachel said: “The main success is that all children on the programme have made progress. All staff have approached me for support where needed and I have built strong relationships with all schools involved. And all teaching assistants have made progress in their understanding of the complexities involved in the teaching of reading.

“This grant has been life-changing for me so far. I am learning that I can do bigger things. I can reach more children and that I do know what I am talking about.

“I need to reach out to more children with what I know. To educate the most vulnerable and to teach them to read and write is my passion.”