‘Making reading one of our top priorities’

Oxford Mail: Wallingford’s St John’s Primary School headteacher Jane Ratcliffe with Ethan Strange, Bea Swaine, Eve Green, Ben Parkinson and Emily Strange Buy this photo » Wallingford’s St John’s Primary School headteacher Jane Ratcliffe with Ethan Strange, Bea Swaine, Eve Green, Ben Parkinson and Emily Strange

THIS school is hoping to ensure that nine out of 10 children reach higher reading levels after taking part in the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign.

More importantly, staff at St John’s Primary School, Wallingford, are hoping to engender a lifelong love of reading in their children.

The Oxfordshire Reading Campaign is an Oxfordshire County Council initiative – run by the National Literacy Trust and backed by the Oxford Mail – aimed at driving up reading standards and enjoyment of reading in seven year olds, using a reading intervention scheme and volunteers reading with children.

Headteacher Jane Ratcliffe said: “We are keen to take part in any initiative that improves reading, writing and literacy.

“We are also really excited about getting parents involved both with their own children and other children and making reading a really high priority.”

The school has recently reintroduced a class book, which the teacher reads aloud to the class every day.

Reading workshops, where different groups will all be working at reading activities ranging from phonics training to guided reading, have also been brought in.

Last year 88 per cent of children achieved Level 2 or above in reading at Key Stage 1, and 80 per cent a Level 2b or above with 40 per cent reaching Level 3.

Eve Green, six, said: “I like reading because I like words. My favourite is Roald Dahl because he writes good stories.

“I do my own reading and with mummy and daddy. I like to read in the library and in bed.”

Ethan Strange, six, said: “I like that there's lots of pages to read.

“I like Horrid Henry and Roald Dahl. I like scary books and exciting books and funny books.

“I sometimes read with my twin, Emily. We do like to do better than each other and we like the same kind of books.

“Sometimes I read with my parents and sometimes I read on my own. I like to read in bed and on the sofa curled up.”

Mrs Ratcliffe said she would like to see 90 per cent getting a Level 2b and an increase in the proportion getting a Level 3.

She said: “Our results are pretty high but we have a lot of bright kids.

“I drive standards pretty hard. The national comparisons are important but it’s also the comparison with ourselves and what we know our children can achieve.”

The school already has a network of parents who come in and work with children.

Literacy co-ordinator and assistant headteacher Sarah Burgess said: “The use of volunteers in the programme is a real strength of it.

“That might be something we can build on so once this programme is over. We will have links with the volunteers and other wider members of the community so we can sustain that.”

The school uses book weeks, author visits, character days and parents coming in to talk about their favourite books to help engage the children. Pupils also helped to work on a library rethink, telling staff they wanted comfy cushions to sit on rather than reading at a table.

Mrs Ratcliffe added: “I think our children are keen readers.

“There are probably one or two who are less so and I hope this project picks them up and inspires in them the love of reading the rest of the class have.”

The school is also set to spend £2,000 on new books by authors identified by pupils, with money coming from the PTA.

Unlike some of the focus schools, there are relatively few pupils with special needs, about 12 per cent, and only seven or eight out of the 209 on roll speak English as an additional language.

One group the school has identified as needing extra attention is middle-ability girls.

Mrs Ratcliffe said: “They’re doing well enough, they are not in any clearly identifiable vulnerable groups but actually there are some of them who could be doing better.

“We use very detailed data analysis and pupil progress meetings to make sure we can use appropriate interventions.”

Forty-five county schools are taking part in the reading campaign, and 103 people have signed up as volunteers.

CAMPAIGN GOALS

The Oxfordshire Reading Campaign was launched by Oxfordshire County Council, backed by the Oxford Mail, to improve reading standards in the youngest children. The goals are to:

Improve the proportion of children who reach Level 2B at Key Stage 1 to 86 per cent – a rise of 12 percentage points.

Increase enjoyment of and confidence in reading.

Eighty-one schools across the county, chosen based on Key Stage 1 results over the past three years, are being invited to take part.

The campaign is being run by the National Literacy Trust and will involve:

A reading intervention programme called Project X Code working with Year 2 children in up to 81 county primaries.

Volunteers coming in to schools to read one-to-one with the children involved in the Project X Code programme.

Training and professional development for teachers, teaching assistants, literacy co-ordinators and headteachers.

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