Katy Pinchess, headteacher, talks about how Bentley CE Primary School is successfully identifying and supporting children’s literacy skills to boost confidence as well as reading progress
Despite the best efforts of teachers and parents, months of home schooling during the pandemic have taken their toll on pupil progress and schools continue to focus on closing learning gaps.
In our school, the percentage of pupils needing high levels of support in their literacy development doubled from 7% in October 2020 to 14% more recently. And we’re not alone.
The Education Endowment Foundation has highlighted that schools across England have seen an increase in young children needing help with language skills, the essential foundations for literacy and a gateway to the wider curriculum.
For children with more complex issues, such as those with dyslexia, learning deficits can be even greater.
At our school, Bentley Primary School, we want to ensure we can identify issues early as this is the first critical step to building back the literacy skills children need to progress in their learning.
The hidden issues
The first step is to give teachers a clear understanding of where their pupils are in terms of their achievement to prevent them from falling further behind. We use the latest in reading assessment technology to help us to do just that, quickly and simply.
Children are routinely screened using a new piece of eye-tracking software with AI to get an accurate picture of their literacy skills. The technology, called Lexplore Analytics, allows us to look deeper into aspects of a child’s reading that other more traditional tests are unable to reveal.
It helps us to monitor reading accuracy and fluency, but importantly, we can flag the specific issues children struggle with when they read, whether it’s certain letters they get stuck on, words they find difficult or whole sentences they struggle to decipher.
Lexplore can pick up key details such as how long a child’s eyes rest on a word and how quickly they move backwards or forwards from one sentence to the next. The results provide teachers with the information they need to pinpoint areas of reading that are causing issues – and also pick up the early indicators of dyslexia.
The insight we have gained from using technology to assess children’s reading ability has made a real difference to the way we support progress in literacy at Bentley Primary.
For example, we had one child who found every aspect of reading and writing a challenge from a young age. Results of the assessment showed clearly that there were no deep-seated issues that might be preventing her from developing the literacy skills she needed. It was her confidence that needed a lift.
Working with the girl’s parents, more reading activities were introduced at home, including family board games and cooking from recipe books. The additional support the pupil received in school and at home not only encouraged her to read more, it made the act of reading much more fun too. As a result, we’ve already seen an improvement in the child’s reading in a relatively short space of time.
Another boy had a clear desire to read, but the assessment results showed he was really struggling. Sharing the data with the child’s parents, they could see which words and letter combinations were challenging for him. This gave them much more confidence in their ability to help him, which in turn, made a real difference to his progress. He is now much more likely to pick up and enjoy reading books both inside and outside of the classroom.
Encouraging progress, one child at a time
Children who find it difficult to learn to read and write often struggle to achieve what they are truly capable of across the wider curriculum.
When schools can quickly identify the exact issues holding pupils back and have a toolkit to hand to address them, they are best placed to ensure every child has the opportunity to experience learning success, every time they come through the school gates.
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