Whole-school literacy at Preston School

At Preston School, we recognise that literacy is at the core of everything we do in preparing our young people for a successful and prosperous future. In the following report: Literacy Changes Lives 2014, research suggests there are ‘potential social and economic gains to be made by improving literacy levels.’ (Literacy Changes Lives)

So what is meant by literacy? The National Literacy Trust defines literacy as: ‘the combination of reading, writing, speaking and listening skills we all need to fulfil our potential. These life skills are essential to the happiness, health and wealth of individuals and society.’ (Literacy: State of the Nation)

We believe that literacy underpins everything we do and here at Preston School, we are working hard to nurture and improve our students’ literacy skills across the whole curriculum. It is essential that our work is in partnership with parents and carers and therefore, we have provided useful resources which are not only accessible to teaching staff and students, but to parents and carers for use outside the classroom (these will be added to and amended when necessary). In recent years, curriculum changes have placed even further emphasis on improving literacy standards and it is paramount to understand this has to be achieved by working together: students; parents; carers and teachers. Being literate enables a child to access the whole curriculum and further their chances of a successful future; the national curriculum currently states: ‘Teachers should develop pupils’ spoken language, reading, writing and vocabulary as integral aspects of the teaching of every subject,’ (DfE KS3 & 4 Framework) but this is something that can also be encouraged outside of the classroom and it is hoped that our resources will prove to be useful tools for everyone.


Our ambition for reading 

At Preston our ambition is for all of our young people to be reading at or above their chronological age, by the end of Year 9 at the latest. This will allow students to confidently access their Key Stage 4 curriculum and GCSE exams. Further, confidence in reading will lead to students reading regularly, which will increase their cultural capital, enhance their vocabulary and develop their imagination. We aim to build a reading culture where students develop a love of reading and read for pleasure.  

A good grounding in reading is essential for students’ acquisition of knowledge and their ability to develop schema (making connections between the things that they know, both within and across their subjects). The average reading age required to access GCSE level texts and examination papers is 15 years and 8 months. We therefore have a comprehensive and rigorous approach to reading, which ensures that our students develop the knowledge, vocabulary and reading fluency to access the curriculum and their exams, and that they leave school with sufficient reading skills for future learning and employment.  

We ensure that our students read widely and constructively, and students’ reading supplements our curriculum to ensure that students leave us with sufficient knowledge and cultural capital to succeed in life. Our approach to reading develops students’ reading skills, comprehension and accuracy and their confidence and enjoyment in reading.  

Building a reading culture is particularly important at Preston School. Studies show that girls outperform boys in reading and literacy skills and that boys are more likely to leave school unable to read. Research by the National Literacy Trust found that the gender reading enjoyment gap increased five-fold during lockdown, with 60.2% of girls saying they enjoyed reading during lockdown, compared with 48.9% before, while only 48.7% of boys said they enjoyed reading amid the pandemic, compared with 46.6% pre-lockdown. In this context, we must take a robust approach to boys’ reading at Preston School.

How we ensure children become good readers

Reading as part of the curriculum

In Years 7 and 8 reading is timetabled as part of the curriculum. In Year 7 students have two hours of reading per fortnight and in Year 8 students have one hour of reading per fortnight. The Accelerated Reader Programme (see below) is implemented through these lessons. 

The table below gives the list of titles we cover in reading lessons at school: 

Year 7 Year 8 Year 9
A Midsummer Night’s Dream 
The Hunger Games 
The Graveyard Book 
A variety of myths, legends and fairytales 
A range of poetry about nature 
The Tempest 
My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece 
Gothic writing extracts 
Refugee Boy 
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry 
A range of Travel Writing 
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 
Lord of the Flies 
Billy Elliot 
Animal Farm 
Modern Text extracts 
A range of poetry 

A phonics-based reading programme takes place to support our weakest readers in Year 7 as part of what we refer to as our ‘Step Up Curriculum’. Year 8 will receive this as part of our intervention programme. This aims to rapidly develop reading confidence and fluency. 

A Step Up group has a strong literacy support focus in place for students who require additional literacy support in Years 10 & 11. These lessons focus on reading and writing skills and vocabulary development. Students are assigned to this class in discussion with the SENCO. 

Across both KS3 and KS4, vocabulary is focused on in every lesson with key words displayed and referred to as part of the whole school teaching and learning policy. Teaching reading and developing vocabulary is seen as part of the responsibility of all teaching staff. All Subject Improvement Plans include an objective to develop reading within their curriculum areas with Literacy Leads in each department working with the school Literacy & Oracy Leader.  

At home, you can help by encouraging your young person to read, discussing books with them, asking questions about what they have read and visiting your local library together. Together, we can help every child to be a successful reader! 

For further tips on how you can support with reading at home please click on the link below:

7 Top Tips For Supporting Reading At Home 

Reading in tutor time 

Within the tutor time programme, a slot has been designated each term as an opportunity for reading to take place: 

  1. Pleasure 
  2. Class Reads 

Reading on a daily basis 

Students in Years 7, 8, 9 and 10 are expected to have reading books with them every day. The school library is available for reading at break, lunchtimes and students are encouraged to use this resource. 

Extra-curricular activities also give opportunities for reading wherever possible e.g., Dungeons and Dragons Club, Duke of Edinburgh Award.

The Accelerated Reader Programme 

We use the Accelerated Reader programme (AR) which helps teachers manage and monitor student’s independent reading practice. Students pick books at their own level and read them at their own pace. When finished, students take a short quiz on the computer – passing the quiz is an indication that the student has understood what has been read.  

Teachers and Support Staff may assist pupils by: 

  • Guiding them to books appropriate to their ability and interests 
  • Asking probing questions as students read and before quizzing 

To access Accelerated Reader quizzes from home students need to log into https://ukhosted13.renlearn.co.uk/1893254/ then use their login details and password to access the quiz. 

We recommend regular reading for, as with anything, performance improves with practice and students who read at least 20 minutes a day with a 90% comprehension rate on the AR quizzes see the greatest gain. Some of this can be completed as part of the weekly homework schedule. 

We have lots of books that students can choose from in school, however we are also aware that many like to read their own books from home. You can visit the website www.arbookfind.co.uk  to search all of the available books with AR quizzes to see if the book your young person wants to read is on the scheme. The quizzes can also be completed from home. 

In school STAR Reading assessments are used to determine students’ reading levels. It is a computer-based reading assessment program that uses computer-adaptive technology. Questions continually adjust to a student’s responses, making the difficulty easier or harder where appropriate. The test uses multiple choice questions and takes approximately 30 minutes. Teachers support students in taking a STAR Reading assessment twice per year.  

Book levels (Zone of Proximal Development scores) represent the difficulty of the text. The levels range from 2.0 up to 13.5. Books are chosen based on recommendations from the STAR Reading assessment.  

Each student is given a range of books (for example 2.5 to 2.9) to challenge them without causing frustration or loss of motivation. It is important for the STAR Reading assessment that students read with a high degree of comprehension and within the given range. Teachers may decide that a student needs to read books beyond the original range, suggested by the assessments, in order to give them a fresh challenge. 

Reading Intervention Programme 

We use data from the AR STAR tests, GL PTE and in house reading assessments to inform our reading intervention programme which is in place to support pupils with reading. Interventions are as follows: 

  • Reading Rota groups – These rota groups have been developed to target pupils in need of reading support whose reading age is well below their chronological age. Reading Rota Group runs weekly with parents informed about attendance and their progress recognised and rewarded. 
  • Weekly Lunchtime Reading Club – This is for pupils reading slightly below age expectation. They will read exciting teenage/young adult texts with snacks. Parents are informed about attendance and their progress is recognised and rewarded. 
  • Reading Buddy Programme – A select group of students buddy up with weaker readers in KS3. It’s a time where KS3 pupils spend 15-30 minutes a week reading to their own ‘buddy’ who has volunteered to support this programme. Importantly, its aim is to enthuse the younger pupils, engender confidence and encourage more frequent reading. In addition, it’s a time for the older students to recapture their own imagination and enthusiasm for reading alongside the younger students. 
  • The phonics reading programme and literacy support groups referred to in the curriculum section above.

How we foster a love of reading

The Library  

Our library offers a wonderful space for our students to come in and read for pleasure. The shelves are always fully stocked and updated on a monthly basis to ensure that pupils have access to a wide variety of texts, from modern literature to classics. There are books and magazines available for all abilities, but students are encouraged to read books in their ZPD (zone of proximal development) range so that they are always developing their reading skills. We love to receive book recommendations from our students.  

The library is open at break times, lunchtimes and after school so that students always have a safe and quiet space to read during their free time at school. Many students choose to read outside on the field during the summer months, too. 

Preston School student reading a book

Reading Competitions 

We run a few reading competitions throughout the year and have a whole school approach to ‘World Book Day’ with lots of activities going on, such as the collaborative reading of a short story at the start of each lesson throughout the day, and staff dressing up as book characters.  

We have a ‘Millionaire Reader’ competition each term to see which students have managed to read one million words across Year 7 and 8. If this is achieved a certificate, a book of their choice and a bookmark is presented to these students. It really is a phenomenal achievement!

Spelling Bee, Events, and Information 

Our English team run a Spelling Bee for Year 7 and 8 students to further promote an enjoyment and aspirational culture when it comes to reading and literacy.  

We also have our ‘Book Tree’ on display in the library which is updated regularly with staff and pupil recommendations of books to read from a ‘genre of choice’ each term.  

Visits to see authors present their writing will be arranged as they occur throughout the year. 

Staff Training 

Reading and vocabulary development is a focus for staff training through INSET days, staff meetings and Teaching and Learning briefings. This ensures reading remains high profile and all teachers and teaching assistants have strategies to use to develop vocabulary and support reading, including a basic understanding of phonics.

Intended Impact of our reading strategy 

Our intended impact is that pupils develop a love of reading, develop the reading skills, fluency, vocabulary and knowledge to access the full curriculum, to build cultural capital and be fully prepared for the next stage of their education. 

We are aiming that: 

  • by the end of Year 9 (KS3) all our students are reading at their chronological age or have surpassed it 
  • the majority of our students are entered for and achieve the EBacc in Year 11 
  • Year 11 students achieve a good set of GCSE outcomes which allows them to progress to their intended destination with over 90% achieving a Grade 4 or above in English

Supporting Reading at Home 

At home, you can help by encouraging your young person to read, discussing books with them, asking questions about what they have read and visiting your local library together. Together, we can help every young person to be a successful reader! 

To support the school reading programme, you can do the following: 

  • Ensure that your child is reading for at least 20 minutes per day 
  • Ensure that your child is doing AR quizzes when they finish a book 

For further tips on how you can support with reading at home please click on the link below: 

7 Top Tips For Supporting Reading At Home 



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