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Grantham academies place renewed emphasis on reading with new literacy programmes

After the half-term break, academies from the David Ross Education Trust (DRET) across Grantham are united in a renewed focus on literacy following their lockdown.

At primary level, school leaders at Ingoldsby Academy have organised twice-weekly ‘reading for pleasure’ sessions for each class.

Pupils are able to choose their preferred book for these sessions from a suggested shortlist, including The Girl Who Spoke Bear by Sophie Anderson, Cogheart by Peter Bunzl, Wonder by RJ Palacio and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

Ingoldsby Academy pupils reading. (48213894)
Ingoldsby Academy pupils reading. (48213894)

Pupils also spend time each day listening to their class teacher model reading from their classroom novel, helping them develop their vocabulary and ensuring every pupil has an opportunity to watch an adult read.

Pupils are also challenged to read for pleasure at home, using specially generated QR codes to log their reading and track their progress.

The DRET10 challenge pushes pupils to read 10 books from an age-appropriate shortlist each term, motivating them with the spirit of competition to push themselves to new levels.

Ingoldsby Academy pupils reading. (48213897)
Ingoldsby Academy pupils reading. (48213897)

Pupils gain raffle tickets, called ‘golden tickets’ in a nod to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by completing DRET10, with the opportunity to win prizes such as Amazon vouchers.

The PTFA at Ingoldsby Academy, as well as a local ex-pupil who attended the school in the 1940s, have also contributed to the updating of the school’s library.

Meanwhile at secondary level, Charles Read Academy has been running its own Tutor reading programme for the last two years, as well as organising Tutor reading three times a week.

They are also looking ahead to the new academic year, when they will launch DRET’s flagship literacy initiative, ‘DRETReads’. The programme, piloted by other schools across DRET, aims to boost pupils’ love of reading.

DRETReads sees the whole school read at the same time every day, and all classes in each year group read the same novel together.

The focus on literacy comes as recent statistics show that across the country, 25% of 15 year olds have a reading age of below 12, so cannot easily access the prescribed books independently.

All pupils from Year 7 – 11 will also read 46 books in class with full guided adult support, and an additional four books from a published list given to pupils, totalling 50 books by the end of Key Stage 4.

These texts, which include Great Expectations, The Silk Roads, 1984, and Mythos, will cover a range of voices, genres, and time periods to provide a rich grounding in the literary canon.

The programme has three main strands, each of which focuses on a different method of engaged reading. Strand 1 carves out 20 dedicated minutes a day for teachers to read aloud to pupils.

Strand 2 offers reading intervention, including Direct Instruction that supports the weakest readers through phonics and lexia, Accelerated Reader, and other interventions. Strand 3 takes classic texts and breaks down their key themes so pupils build a more detailed understanding of the foundations of the English curriculum, supporting their traditional English lessons.

Sue Jones, principal at Charles Read Academy, said: “In addition to our current Tutor Reading programme we will be joining the DRET Reads programme in September 2021.

"Not only does this daily reading regime have the potential to further improve our pupils’ academic outcomes, it also has the capacity to drastically improve their mental wellbeing.

"Reading is not always about pure escapism, as it causes us to reflect on our own world and lives, but it does allow us to gain fresh perspective and become more well-rounded individuals.”

Melanie Capes, principal at Ingoldsby Academy, said: “Our pupils really understand why developing their reading is so important, and they’ve responded so well to our efforts to focus on reading across the school.

"Children are encouraged to read for pleasure at school and at home, and are able to develop their reading in a really supportive and nurturing environment.

“The children have also written thank you letters to our former pupil who helped update the library. We really value our community and parental support in this project, and their efforts to update the class libraries have helped us promote the value of reading and literature in our school.”

Helena Brothwell, Regional Director at the David Ross Education Trust, said: “DRETReads is an important and powerful intervention for us to power up a reading culture in our secondary schools.

"We have chosen 30 books which are considered culturally significant but are difficult for many children to access on their own, which we don’t want to be a barrier for our pupils.

“That’s why we are so grateful for the DfE's recovery premium which has allowed us to pool together as a MAT and invest in a shared resource which will last us for many years to come, ensuring that 7,000 children benefit every day. DRETReads ensures that all of our children are read to for 300 hours over the 5 years they are with us, climbing into stories together as a tutor group every single day.

“We have been grateful for advice, guidance, inspiration and support from Tracy Maloney, Chair of Education Committee, Christine Counsell, Trustee and Alex Quigley, EEF and of course all of the champion tutors who have launched themselves into this programme with real passion and enthusiasm as they understand its potential for our children.”

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