At Ark Alexandra, we prioritise reading in every classroom and beyond. By promoting reading across the full curriculum spectrum, we equip students to read fluently and comprehend texts in every subject discipline. Nurturing fluent readers who can independently comprehend a wide range of texts is crucial for students to appreciate the central role of reading to acquiring knowledge and setting them up for excellence in future learning. Reading, comprehending and interpreting texts develops students’ skills in self-reflection, discussion and navigating divergent opinions and interpretations. In this way reading enhances and expands students’ empathy and self-awareness, encouraging them to be kinder and develop faith in their own opinions and abilities.
The following principles underpin our beliefs about reading and influence our approach to reading at Ark Alexandra and across all areas of our work.
- Reading is prioritised to allow all students to access the full curriculum offer.
- Reading is celebrated, enjoyed and discussed by all staff and students.
- All children read at their chronological age level by the end of year 9.
- Children are taught to be metacognitive (self-reflective) readers so that they can unlock challenging texts and independently read for meaning.
- Reading is embedded across the curriculum.
- A rigorous and sequential approach to the intervention reading curriculum develops student fluency, comprehension, confidence and enjoyment in reading. 100% of students in years 7-8 receive targeted reading interventions.
- All teachers are teachers of reading, regardless of the subject they teach.
- High quality training is in place for staff to ensure teachers are experts in the teaching of reading.
- The “Five Pillars” are the components for the effective teaching of reading.
The assessment of Reading
All students in year 7- 10 are tested each academic year using the NGRT assessments, in line with schools across the network to measure impact, progress and ensure interventions are targeted to meet the specific needs of our students. The NGRT is a standardised, adaptive, assessment to measure reading skills against the national average.
Students reading below their chronological age in year 7 are identified on entry using primary SATS data. We also work closely with our local Ark primary schools to ensure swift support upon transition to year 7. Students reading below their chronological age are confirmed by the NGRT test in September, and tested each half term using the NGRT assessment, to monitor the impact of the intervention curriculum.
In years 8-10, all students receiving targeted reading intervention to support their ability to read at their chronological age are tested termly using the NGRT assessment to monitor the impact of their intervention. This data is used to inform the next phase of their reading intervention.
All teachers use the NGRT data to inform their planning, and seating plans.
Lower School Reading Programme
In years 7-8, 100% of students receive targeted reading intervention during tutor time to both support and stretch their reading skills.
The Reading programme follows a long-term curriculum map that enables students to develop:
- Explicit reading instruction using our Reading Strategies – Guided Annotation, Inside, Outside and Beyond, Paired Reading and Repeated Meta-cognitive Fluency Reads.
- Tier two vocabulary acquisition that is planned for retrieval and built upon throughout the curriculum progression.
- Exposure to a wide canon of genres and rich paired non-fiction texts to develop cultural capital.
- Develops student confidence in reading with expression to convey meaning.
- Instils a love for reading that will develop independent reading for pleasure habits.
- For students below chronological reading age the curriculum is adapted to provide targeted intervention for specific barriers. Phonics and decoding barriers are targeted with use of the Fresh Start Programme. Readers who are secure in their phonics, but below chronological age receive targeted intervention through the use of Lexia, Lexonik, and explicit reading instruction.
Years 9- 10 Reading for Pleasure - Tutor time Whole Class Novel
A rich, vibrant, and diverse canon of modern texts have been carefully selected to provide tutor groups with enjoyable stories to read and discuss together, promoting moral and social debates to develop student empathy, faith and resilience. The Tutors are trained at the beginning of each academic year to successfully deliver these Reading for Pleasure sessions.
Reading Intervention curriculum (Lowest 20% of readers)
Students who are below their chronological age are assessed further to ensure that they receive a targeted intervention.
Students will receive the following targeted interventions and support dependent upon their individual needs:
- Fresh Start – Phonics intervention to ensure that students can decode with automaticity and read fluently.
- Lexia – A blended intervention that combines online learning with 1:1 teacher instruction to ensure that students improve their comprehension skills.
- Lexonik – An intervention that combines both fluency and automaticity with comprehension skills to be able to swiftly understand sub word levels of meaning (prefixes, suffixes, and root words)
- English Pre-read with Direct Reading Instruction – An intervention that explicitly teaches the signature reading strategies aligned with pre-reading of key texts in the English curriculum.
- 1:1 Staff Reading Mentor – Targeted students will be assigned a staff reading mentor who will meet on a 1:1 basis and support their fluency whilst developing their confidence and love of reading.
All students in years 7-8 who are currently reading 1+ years below their chronological age will be supported with Home Learning using MS Teams Reading Progress. Students can use their issued Chromebooks to access the home learning tasks that will support accelerated progress towards their chronological reading age.
All students who receive a targeted intervention will also be given access to a wide range of Reading for Pleasure books at their level.
Reading across the curriculum
- Reading is prioritised in every subject to unlock our curriculum and prepare students for life-long success and happiness.
- Purposeful inclusion of reading texts in every subject. Texts have been planned carefully in terms of accessibility and challenge. Co-planning is used to identify and plan texts.
- Senior Leaders and Heads of Departments coach and support staff in the effective implementation of signature strategies.
Signature strategies to develop metacognitive readers.
All teachers will enable students to use the following strategies in lessons. Staff receive regular CPD to develop their expertise in teaching Reading.
- Our classrooms will be filled with resilient, collaborative and supportive students who listen to and learn from each other.
- Every child will have a voice in our classrooms.
- Paired reading allows for all students to develop their oral fluency and for teachers to roam the classroom formatively assessing and targeting their feedback.
I.O.B – Inside, Outside, Beyond:
- A vocabulary strategy for students to use independently (initially modelled by teacher) to decipher the meaning of an unfamiliar word.
- Inside - Structural clues within the word e.g. key morphemes; roots and affixes.
- Outside - Contextual clues outside (around) the word, including punctuation clues, positioning of the word in the sentence to determine word type.
- Beyond – unlocking meaning by activating prior/background knowledge on the topic/word. Students can also use textual conventions such as glossaries, + multimodal texts - images/graphs etc.
- Enables students to interact more directly with a text .
- Provides students with tools to break down and make sense of challenging texts. Students are able to identify the barriers and fix them to ensure they read for meaning.
- Enables students to engage with increasingly complex texts, becoming metacognitive readers.
- The more students become familiar with the different types of contextual cues authors use, the better equipped they will be to recognise and utilise these across a wide variety of texts.
- Makes referring to evidence and citing specific examples from the text easier, increasing the quality of student discussions and writing.
A Reading school culture
- The heart of the school on both campuses is the library, which helps to mitigate against ‘book poverty’ by providing access to hundreds of books for children to read for pleasure.
- The library provides a quiet place for students to read independently at break times.
- Student Librarians are recruited and trained by the librarian to support students in their choices and help to run the library, developing their leadership skills.
- The librarian encourages and celebrates children's reading through engaging them in the choice of books, competitions and events.
- Teachers use the library as resource and place to develop students' knowledge and engage them in their learning.
- All staff are readers.
- Staff read and discuss what they are reading with their students. They ask students about their own reading.
- Staff get caught reading competition each academic year over the summer break.
- Staff share their reading recommendations with each other and our students.
The reading programme and our priority of reading throughout the curriculum has enabled our students to make excellent progress in their reading ability.
Since 2020, the reading ability of students has improved significantly year on year. In 2020, 55% of our students were reading at or above their chronological age. In 2023, we now have 68% of students reading at or above their chronological age.
- Our year 10 cohort made 13.6 months additional progress from Autumn 2022 to Summer 2023.
- In 2021, every year group had an average reading age below CRA. In 2023, we have improved significantly, with every year group now having an average reading age higher than their chronological age.
- 19% of our current cohort of years 7-10 students have a reading age of 17 years and above.