ERO’s 2014 report, Raising student achievement through targeted actions highlights the importance of the board of trustees’ role in making decisions about allocating resources to accelerate children’s progress.
Boards of successful schools made careful decisions about where best to allocate the resources they had. These boards regularly reviewed progress and the success of the learning opportunities provided.
At RICHMOND SCHOOL, the board allocated additional resources to support reading. In response to findings from a curriculum review they funded an information skills teacher. They purchased licences and software for an online reading programme. This was trialled and
related assessment data was analysed and reported before the reading programme was extended. The board also funded extra support for junior children.
This narrative shares the three funded approaches and the ways leaders and teachers trialled, monitored and reported outcomes.
Leaders identified a combination of strategies contributing to children’s success with reading. The board provided additional funding for the following three strategies:
Leaders focused on creating a strong base where junior school students achieved success they could build on in the future. The board provided extra resources to support reading for children in Years 1 and 2. They aimed to have all children experience success with reading as soon as possible after starting school. The funding enabled the Reading Recovery teacher to take groups of two or three five-year-old children who needed additional support with text processing strategies. The teacher also supported students who did not qualify for Reading Recovery. The teacher identified the strategies those children needed more practice with and provided them the relevant learning activities from a Reading Recovery programme.
Leaders aimed to have all teachers understand how reading is taught through all the year levels in the school. Teachers observed lessons taught by other teachers in the school, including observing both the Reading Recovery and Information Literacy teachers. They also moved to different year levels over their time at the school to better understand what had come before and what the children would focus on next. Guidelines were in place that outlined leaders’ expectations for the teaching of reading. One expectation was that reading programmes were to happen every day without exception.
“It’s about knowing the reading process inside and out and how children learn to read. Reading is not just a 45-minute lesson.”
The impact of changes from the additional reading support in the Year 1 classes was highly evident. In 2013, 41 percent of their children reached the reading standards after a year at school but in 2015, 61 percent achieved this goal.
A key initiative involved the information literacy programme, introduced as a result of a curriculum review. Leaders identified that children needed more confidence with a variety of information skills to allow them to fully engage with the rich inquiry topics they experienced during Term 2. The board funded a teacher to implement the information literacy programme for 24 hours a week. Leaders designed the programme so the information literacy teacher focused on information skills, while the class teacher focused more on the knowledge the children accessed.
Each of the school’s 20 classes participated in the information literacy programme in the school’s library for 30 to 45 minutes every week. The teacher designed a series of deliberate acts of teaching that matched the inquiries or programmes children were involved in, in their classroom. Below is an example of the information skills the teacher planned for one of the Years 5 and 6 inquiries. The same type of planning was completed for the Years 1 and 2 and the Years 3 and 4 teaching syndicates.
A key aim was to provide activities that would motivate and engage children. During the planning and introduction stages of the inquiries, teachers set up a scaffold sheet that helped students find answers to problems from webpages or sites, similar to a WebQuest. The information literacy teacher recognised it was important to keep discussing what the children wanted to focus on to get the ‘trigger to engagement’ in the inquiry.
Teachers hyperlinked or coded all the pages required and sites in the students’ scaffold sheets. This meant that initially the children didn’t have to spend time surfing and searching the web. They could go straight to the tasks.
Teachers found this had particularly engaged the boys and resulted in minimal down time for children while they were finding appropriate sites online.
The information literacy teacher also developed library displays that celebrated the work the children had completed, and which encouraged them to read and search more widely. A recent term’s work and associated display featuring graphic novels resulted in many children choosing to take them from the library and read them.
Children used digital devices in the library and classrooms as research tools and were then able to access the information from both their class and from home. Children’s enthusiasm and engagement were clear, as ERO saw many children using digital devices to access new information even before school had started each day.
Children and parents were able to access their child’s schoolwork at home. A parent portal allowed parents to see what their child was learning. Parents and children could log on through Office 365 to see what their child was currently focused on. Teachers told ERO that some parents had then talked to their children about their inquiries and/or writing, and had suggested further ideas for them.
Teachers were encouraged to trial and implement new strategies and initiatives. An online reading programme, focused on reading fluency, comprehension and vocabulary development, was successfully engaging Years 5 and 6 students in reading. The online programme Reading Plus was trialled as part of their regular reading programme in three classes in 2014. Teachers saw that the programme was tailored to engage children from across a wide range of abilities. Leaders used the Progressive Achievement Tests (PAT) Reading stanines to evaluate the impact. The positive changes in student engagement and achievement data supported the continuation of the programme for Years 5 and 6 children.
“The programme doesn’t replace instructional reading for groups. We still have that, especially for those who need that close teaching. There were lots of discussions before going down this track, as we had some sceptics who are now convinced. Most rooms use the programme for a term on, and then a term off.”
“We’ve found it makes a real difference for some of our boys. We had a group that used to think that it wasn’t cool to read. They liked the competitive nature where you can move up levels. Now some of them are getting up really early in the morning to get more aspects completed and correct.”
ERO spoke to children who enthusiastically shared their improvements in reading. They understood their personal comprehension achievement rate (generated by the computer) and enjoyed being able to choose the vocabulary development activities that accompanied the passages they were reading. They also knew how to track their reading mileage and proudly stated how many thousands of words they had read. They liked the feedback the programme gave and that they could select passages that interested them.
Each of the three aspects the school shared with ERO had required additional funding from the board. Leaders monitored and reported children’s engagement and progress to show the impacts of the funding to the board. Each month teachers wrote statements about the success of the programmes that were then shared at the board meeting. Leaders also regularly shared data with the board related to charter targets.
Both the information literacy teacher and the teachers in each syndicate completed a SWOT analysis to formally determine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats they perceived from each inquiry topic. This included a focus on the information skills children were gaining. Every year leaders collated the evaluations from each term and discussed them with the board. Trustees were clearly able to determine how well their resourcing decisions had improved outcomes for learners.
A copy of part of the SWOT analysis showing the evaluation comments after one inquiry topic is shown below.