Four-year-old Eva attends Moston Fields Primary School in Moston, Manchester - an area which is among the 8% most economically deprived parts of England.
Many children who start at the school struggle with their oral language, have underdeveloped social and emotional skills for their age and have had a limited exposure to books. Research shows that one-in-eight of the most disadvantaged children in Manchester don’t have a book of their own at home.
The school’s own 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, this issue becomes entrenched and harder to address.
Moston Fields teacher Rachel Ward was determined to do something to tackle the problem at an early age, to help children like Eva, before they are left too far behind their peers.
Ever since starting reception, Eva had been very shy. She always avoided eye contact with adults and never put her hand up in class to share ideas. Both Eva’s mum and her teacher were acutely aware of how reluctant she was at school.
Eva was also a long way below the expected level for reading and writing and her teacher was very concerned at her lack of progress.
In February, Eva was selected to take part in Ready Let’s Read – an innovative project led by Let Teachers SHINE winner Rachel Ward that aims to rapidly improve young children’s reading and writing skills through bespoke daily sessions.
Rachel created the project because she is passionate about the importance of supporting the most vulnerable children in the early years with high quality early literacy.
To begin with, Eva would not go with Rachel to be assessed, even refusing to look at her. She only went, reluctantly, when accompanied by a teaching assistant.
In the assessment, Rachel found that Eva didn’t know where to start reading or which way through the pages to go. Her writing skills were also poor, and she struggled to form some letters of the alphabet.
Just one month later, Rachel met Eva’s mum who told her she was shocked by the “massive improvement” in Eva’s reading at home since she had started Ready Let’s Read. Eva was now confidently reading a book to mum, who couldn’t understand how she suddenly knew so many words.
Within days of the meeting, Eva had independently written her first sentence – “The mermaid has red hair”. She proudly showed it to her class teacher.
Eva was starting to come out of her shell and was concentrating really hard in her sessions with Rachel.
In April, Eva’s teacher said that she had started to put up her hand regularly to share her ideas. The teaching assistant added that the change in her during phonics sessions was incredible. She was now sharing her ideas and was happy to come out to the front to model writing words for the rest of the group. She had begun articulating how she had learnt things and showed real pride in her learning.
Eva was beginning to write more independently on a regular basis and her motivation to write meant she became excited to attend sessions. She ran to all staff to give them a hug when she saw them – a huge shift from just two months earlier.