“An inability to read effectively can mean students struggle to access the Key Stage 3 curriculum and can eventually result in underachievement in vital examinations further down the line. So, it is important to catch them early and put the appropriate interventions in place.”
Students with a poor grasp of literacy in the early years of secondary school will feel the consequences by the time they reach GCSE. An inability to read effectively can mean students struggle to access the Key Stage 3 curriculum and can eventually result in underachievement in vital examinations further down the line. So, it is important to catch them early and put the appropriate interventions in place.
At Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, Year 6 students participating in their induction from feeder primary schools in July take the New Group Reading Test (NGRT) in preparation for their arrival in September. Taking it during the induction process also means that by the time students arrive for the new academic year, staff will know which students are excelling and who requires intervention.
NGRT is a 30-minute adaptive online assessment of reading and comprehension which provides teachers with vital information about every pupil’s abilities compared against the national average. As the assessment covers both decoding and comprehension skills (including phonics, where necessary), it reveals exactly where support is needed. And, as it adapts to the student’s reading ability, it means that students with lower reading skills find the assessment accessible and non-threatening.
Dave Tandy, Hinchingbrooke’s Literacy Coordinator, explains: “We have around 170 students involved in literacy intervention across Key Stage 3. Most of these students will be supported by reading age-appropriate books but some will need additional, more tailored support."
“Around 35 students are placed in Waves 2 and 3. These students need bespoke higher level literacy interventions. Those in Wave 2 have a limited vocabulary or poor spelling and are working below their chronological age. They work in small groups, and the content is linked to their English lessons. Without these sessions, they would underachieve at GCSE.
“Students in Wave 3 lack basic levels of literacy and are generally very weak readers, and they work one to one with literacy assistants. Students involved in the interventions have a mix of needs. Some have English as an additional language but may also have literacy problems in their mother tongues, while others have special educational needs, including learning and behaviour issues, or are just behind with their reading.”
A sample of 50 students from the intervention groups is tested again the following July and again in January to check on how much progress has been made. The outcomes allow Dave and his team to compare these with anecdotal evidence from teachers who may have observed improvements in a pupil, but don’t always have a means of proving it.
“Looking at the NGRT data together with feedback from teachers means we can keep the groups fluid and students can be moved from Wave 3 to 2 if they have made progress,” Dave explains.
The flexible approach also ensures individual needs are met: “One pupil identified as needing intervention disliked the sessions because he felt he was being singled out having to leave his normal lessons. Teachers spoke with his parents, and an alternative method was found where he worked with a sixth former instead.
“Sometimes you must do something a bit different, but most students, especially in Year 7, enjoy the one-to-one sessions because it’s more like what they were used to in primary school.”
NGRT is now available termly and will be used in the autumn, spring and summer terms in Years 7 and 8, so that progress can be tracked, and adjustments made to the levels of support required. “The introduction of the termly NGRT test helps this process and this is something we’re looking forward to using,” Dave says.