Education Policy, From the Chalk Face, Reading Interventions, Research, School-wide Literacy, Training
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Looking Back – old problems, new challenges


2016 has been a very challenging, but rewarding, year. Establishing a rigorous, powerful approach to reading intervention in secondary schools takes time to embed: There is a great deal for teaching staff to take on board, school systems need to be adjusted, and school culture must also begin to change. It has been very satisfying to work in schools across England, and to see the early evidence of impact.

One of the major needs in education is for schools to accept the scale of the illiteracy problem, and to persuade them that it is necessary and possible for them to take responsibility for addressing this situation. These posts raised questions for school leaders:

measuring tapes

Accountability? A Scandal for Schools

In what has been called the age of managerialism and accountability, schools seem to be measured for everything: not just GCSE grades, but levels of progress, Progress 8, EBacc results, value-added, attendance, exclusions, all within a wide range of ‘context’ measures.

Ostrich head in sand (Shutterstock)

Addicted to Denial?

When it comes to the reading problem there appear to be two forms of denialism: the claim that there is no problem, and the claim that there is no solution.


No Excuses Left

“So what if they can’t read? And whose fault is it anyway?” This post examines the evidence for the scale of the reading problem, and considers what can be done about it.

As we marshal evidence from the literature and from the schools in which we are working, we are always trying to encourage educators to realise what amazing gains students are capable of given systematic, explicit teaching. The following posts highlight key evidence:

Sunbeam forest road (Pixabay)

There is Hope

This post tells the stories of students whose futures have been altered because they were taught to read and made remarkable progress.

What works for children and young people with literacy difficulties?

What Works?

The latest edition of Professor Greg Brooks’ work provides important insights – and raises questions for schools.

An old two pan balance on white background

Building on the Evidence

This post describes the research literature base on which Thinking Reading has been developed. In particular, approaches such as systematic synthetic phonics, Direct Instruction, Precision Teaching, and Applied Behaviour Analysis are discussed.

We have found in working with schools that senior leaders often benefit from the opportunity to gain an overview of a wide-ranging and complex area (both in terms of student needs and school provision). These posts look at how leaders can develop effective and efficient literacy strategies:

Desert iris (Shutterstock)

Leveraging Literacy at Secondary School

This post covers the importance of a sound screening system as the basis for making informed decisions with reliable data.

Arriving at More 4

A Towering Issue

A short account of the workshop series that we began to offer in 2016. It has been fascinating to work with senior leaders from such a variety of schools. The similarity of students’ needs, however, is also remarkable.


Looking for Impact? Structure Matters

The findings from our recent implementations suggest that the leadership and management structure around the new intervention are critical to its impact.

Late in the year, we published three posts on the theme of literacy leadership:


Part One – Clear Vision

Part one discusses the need for senior leaders to have a clear view of the problem, a thorough plan and, most importantly, a sense of mission which they communicate to the whole staff.


Part Two – Building with Care

Part two considers the importance of care and attention to detail when establishing a new set of practices. Powerful transformations can proceed in small steps.


Part Three – Return on Investment

Part three surveys recent evidence from two schools of the impact of Thinking Reading. We argue that significant progress is possible for struggling readers if leaders will make strategic investments.

Top 10 posts:

  1. Code-Teaching or Code-Breaking?
  2. 7 Misconceptions About Teaching Adolescents to Read
  3. Pulling the Strands Together
  4. 10-Point Checklist: Literacy at Secondary School
  5. No Excuses Left
  6. 15 Tests for Secondary School Reading Interventions
  7. Can’t Read, Won’t Read: Part One – The Matthew Effect
  8. 5 Principles to ensure that literacy improves for all students
  9. 7 Steps to Improving Reading Comprehension
  10. What Works?

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