Month: October 2015

Peeling back the layers

Once you look even a little below the surface, the state of reading in our secondary schools appears to be in sore need of structure and accountability. One of the first tasks in the Innovation Partner support programme is to undertake some research into the ‘problem’ we are trying to solve. In our case, we want to study the extent of the reading ‘gap’ in secondary schools, but finding national data on reading at secondary has proven surprisingly difficult. When you consider that reading is a fundamental skill that underlies a great many other skills required for academic success (not to mention everyday life), it is strange that secondary schools (and indeed the DfE) do not keep standard national data in the same way that they do, for example, on attendance. I haven’t been able to think of a good reason, although I can think of plenty of poor ones. There is national data in the form of the Key Stage Two English reading test. This one-hour assessment is meant to follow the English curriculum Assessment Focuses (AFs). …

Choosing the right tools for the job

When it comes to assessment, precision instruments are required. The key to teaching children who are struggling is detailed, fine-grain assessment. Without the information derived from such assessment, teachers cannot target and teach the necessary skills and knowledge. For secondary-age students, who may be working some years behind their peers, effective assessment is absolutely necessary if they are to make rapid progress and catch up completely. What people often comment on when they see Thinking Reading in action is the extent and depth of assessment. After initial screening, we systematically check students’ knowledge of sound-spelling combinations for both reading and spelling. This information is used as a basis for teaching and it also serves as a cross-reference when the student is reading prose. These days, much is made of student progress and accountability, but claims of progress are meaningless unless there is objective, measurable evidence of what the student can do now, compared to what they could do at a previous point. For this, we need a permanent product of their reading, along with an …