It is this time of year that Christine Gilbert and I present the annual Achievement and Standards Report to our members at the Children’s, Schools and Families Scrutiny Committee. We spend a couple of hours presenting the data from early years to post 18, outlining the trends, significant improvement or declines, progress data and investigating vulnerable groups. Our members are hugely interested in the open and transparent manner in which we present the data, their questions are thorough and forensic, with a proportionate level of challenge and plenty of curiosity.

As you would expect, we covered a range of topics during the scrutiny session, never losing sight of our ambition and benchmark to be in the top quartile in London for all measures. One of the key lines of enquiry and questioning was the subject of early reading and phonics; as well as the value of being a competent reader into KS3 and beyond. Our phonics outcomes at the end of Year 1 fell slightly, with 81% of pupils reaching the expected standard, which is below the national and London averages. We discussed early reading with all our primary schools at their standards meetings last term, and schools have a coherent and structured approach, using either Letters and Sounds, or Ruth Miskin’s Read Write Ink resources. It does beg the question, can we being doing anything differently in our approach and what practice supplement might add value?

In a report from GL Assessment, the research analysed the data from more than 370,000 secondary school pupils across the UK in one of the largest studies of its kind. The report also drew on the initial findings of the Blackpool Key Stage 3 Literacy Project, which aims to raise the reading abilities of children in one of the most challenging areas of the country. It focused on one secondary school in particular to find out what obstacles to literacy teachers are facing and how they are overcoming them. The results are illuminating and I have attached the report here. It has been highlighted in the report that a quarter of 15 year olds still have a reading age below 12; and consequently these pupils are struggling to understand the questions that the reformed GCSEs demand.

Last year, as part of the Camden Learning Bursary scheme, Acland Burghley School devised a secondary reading programme to engage and enthuse students about the power of modern literature. The programme explored how to run a year group Reading Project including: choosing the right book; ideas and principles; and getting buy in from staff, students and parents. If you want to find out more, they are organising a session at ABS on the 10th June; further information can be found in our CPD brochure on page 46.

As World Book day approaches on the Thursday 5th March 2020, how are you celebrating stories and encouraging a love of reading at your school?

Jon Abbey

Managing Director, Camden Learning

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