In this guest blog, Freya Laing from Bookmark Reading Charity shares her thoughts on what governors can do to ensure that all pupils have the chance to read and to enjoy reading.
Starting from the Autumn Term, the new Education Improvement Framework (EIF) will change the standards of the teaching of reading in early years. It will be particularly driven by the Quality of Education section which emphasises the importance of a broad and rich curriculum – and steps away from the previous focus on narrow testing.
Inspectors will scrutinise whether all children have been given the chance to read well and enjoy reading, no matter their background or ability. They’ll pay particular attention to opportunities for the most disadvantaged children in the class.
But are schools prepared for this step-change in assessment? Many children face challenges with literacy – and by understanding these challenges and their significance, governors can improve literacy outlooks for children.
The literacy challenge
This year’s SATs results showed that 27% of primary school leavers are unable to read to the expected standard. Furthermore, a study of teachers by the Oxford University Press showed that more than half of those surveyed reported that 40% of their pupils lacked the vocabulary to effectively access their education.
Overcoming the challenge
Reading for pleasure has been reported by the OECD as more important for children’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education, and is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background.
Engaging with extra literacy support improves the possibility for all pupils to get the help they need, while demonstrating a school’s commitment to the EIF’s expectations in the context of reading. Bookmark helps schools in this area by pairing volunteer readers with children in need of extra literacy support. This helps children to develop their storytelling and comprehension skills, extend their vocabulary, and engage in reading in a fun, creative and informal way, developing a love for reading.
What steps can you take as a governor to improve reading support at your school?
There are lots of things governors can do to ensure literacy is a priority at your school.
Step 1: Ask questions
- Who monitors the progress the school makes?
- Are there any barriers preventing all children from attaining a good level of literacy?
- Is there a clear vision and strategy for the literacy development of all children, which is being implemented effectively?
- Is there an appropriate amount of testing to recognise when pupils fall behind?
- Do teachers have enough support to deliver a broad curriculum for all pupils?
- Is there a literacy lead at the school, a teacher who is responsible for implementing the school’s vision, and a policy for improving literacy?
- Are there sufficient resources and appropriate training for teachers to support children who are struggling to read?
- Do you feel confident that your school can provide evidence to Ofsted of your targeted support for struggling early readers?
Step 2: Become a Literacy Link
You can support teachers at your school by becoming a Literacy Link. In this role, you can enable communication between staff and governors regarding literacy issues, evaluate the literacy strategy throughout the academic year and analyse its impact by liaising with your school’s literacy lead. You can also keep up to date with literacy strategies by attending training and stay alert to local opportunities to promote reading at your school – like arranging for a writer to visit. A recent study by the National Literacy Trust found that children who had an author visit their school in the last academic year were more likely to enjoy reading than those who did not.
Step 3: Form Partnerships and Get Extra Reading Support
Access to trained volunteers is an effective way for schools to help more children with their reading. At Bookmark Reading, we help pupils in Years 1 to 3 develop their literacy skills at a crucial stage in their development, supporting them with vetted and trained reading volunteers who provide one-to-one guidance. Teachers can connect with local volunteers through our digital platform, alleviating time spent on admin whilst ensuring children are able to get extra one-to-one support. This year, we are working with the National Literacy Trust to create detailed and thorough impact reports, which will enable our partner schools to show their clear expectations for early readers and the support available for those who are struggling.
Are you interested in becoming a reading volunteer?
Governors are ideal reading volunteers because they have the knowledge to understand the importance of literacy and the passion to make a difference. This is a great opportunity for individuals who are interested in gaining a fuller understanding of learning techniques and the effects of early intervention, and getting experience within a classroom environment – whilst supporting improvements in the ability, confidence and enjoyment of reading for a young child.
We welcome school governors to get in contact -whether you‘re interested in becoming a reading volunteer or would like to let us know about a school which would benefit from our programme.