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Reading at Thornhill Community Academy

The ability to read is a fundamental life skill and essential for full participation in society and the world of work. As an Academy we recognise the significant impact that secure literacy and reading skills have on the progress and outcomes of students. Reading is arguably the most crucial literacy skill, for cross-curricular success in secondary school.

At Thornhill Community Academy, we have invested time into researching and investigating the importance of reading and the impact of this on students both in school, but also in their wider lives outside of school. Our reading and literacy policy have been most heavily influenced by the following bodies of research:

  • Geoff Barton, Don’t Call It Literacy
  • Education Endowment Foundation, Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools Guidance Report, 2019.
  • National Literacy Trust
  • Ofsted Report, ‘Now the whole school is reading’: supporting struggling readers in secondary school Published 31 October 2022

Recent research by the National Literacy Trust, has revealed the following:

  • 1 in 8 disadvantaged children in the UK say that they don’t have a book of their own.
  • The longer children maintain an enjoyment of reading, the greater the benefits are in the classroom.
  • Children born into communities with the most serious literacy challenges have some of the lowest life expectancies in England.
  • Only half of children in the UK enjoy writing.
  • Children who enjoy reading and writing are happier in their lives.
  • 1 in 6 adults in the England (16.4%/7.1 million people) have very poor literacy skills.

Consequently, as an Academy we are committed to improving the literacy and reading skills of all students. Literacy and reading permeates the curriculum at Thornhill Community Academy, not only within the English curriculum, but across all subject areas. We strive to ensure that all students have and or develop, the skills required to be able to read fluently, speak confidently and write articulately. At Thornhill Community Academy, we work hard to instil a love of reading in our students through a range of strategies. We encourage our students to read challenging and ambitious texts to develop their skills to achieve highly.  Staff promote a love of reading and this is improving the rhetoric around reading amongst our students. Our expectations around engagement with reading and literacy are clearly communicated with students, which supports our positive culture around reading.

As an Academy, we have six key principles which underpin our approach to reading. These are:

  1. Strategies to encourage students’ enjoyment of reading are high profile
  2. All students, including those who are disadvantaged and those with SEND, know how to access challenging texts which they can read for pleasure 
  3. CPD packages include opportunities for teachers to develop their understanding of teaching reading, particularly for weaker pupils 
  4. The teaching of reading permeates the curriculum - All subjects have integrated reading into their curriculum and staff are well equipped to support students with reading and decoding.
  5. Mechanisms to identify and then support weaker readers take place on entry and throughout students' time in school
  6. Reading catch-up plans are implemented which address the core areas of need. These should focus on phonics for early-stage readers.

It is important to swiftly identify those in need of extra support. To facilitate this, students complete a New Group Reading Test (NGRT) every year to ascertain their reading ability and determine a reading age. Those in need of extra support will then be further screened to determine whether they need phonics support with trained members of our phonics team, or other interventions. These strategies are outlined in our intervention plan linked below.  Reading interventions are tailored to meet the needs of students and are applied using the 3-wave model in line with the SEND Code of Practice.

Reading interventions may include, but are not limited to:

  • Fresh Start Phonics 5x per week – small group or 1:1
  • Lexia PowerUp
  • Intensive EMA intervention to support children new to the country to acquire English language.
  • In class support via an Academic Mentor
  • Small group or Individual literacy intervention lessons
  • Reading Friends intervention with a trained KS4 peer

Regular assessment of Reading Age allows for the interventions in place to be as short-lived as required.

In Key Stage 3 we aim to identify students’ reading ability and develop a love of reading. Our strategies include:

  • Testing students on entry through the NGRT testing program to evaluate reading abilities.
  • A full library induction, introducing students to the school library and teaching them how to select appropriate books.
  • Regular library visits for students in Y7-9, to support a regular habit of borrowing books.
  • Providing all students with a dictionary upon entry to Y7. This forms an essential piece of their equipment.
  • Placing a strong focus on reading aloud (by both teachers and students) in all curriculum areas.
  • Developing a curriculum which supports the development of academic reading and writing within the classroom, as well as the development of oracy.

At Key Stage 4 we aim to further develop students into confident, independent readers. Our strategies include:

  • Developing reading fluency through the use of reciprocal reading in all lessons.
  • Encouraging students to read challenging and ambitious texts.
  • Providing KS4 students with reading lists linked to each curriculum area, supporting enrichment outside of the classroom and insight into the wider world.
  • Providing opportunities for students to take on the role of student librarian.
  • Providing opportunities for KS4 students to have regular library visits, to support a regular habit of borrowing books and promote use of the library’s excellent resources.
  • Providing Year 10s with opportunities to volunteer as a Reading Friend, where they will receive training on how to support younger readers.