Tag: closing the gap

Increasing engagement in reading with Primary 2 at Beancross Primary School

In March 2018 Rebecca Morrison, class teacher of primary 2 at Beancross PS began looking at ways to help her pupils make more progress in their reading. After attending a CPD session which explored enjoyment and choice in reading, Rebecca decided to make links with the local library and to involve parents who wanted to help progress their children’s reading.

With the support of her head teacher, Rebecca initially checked that Grangemouth Public Library could accommodate class visits by her pupils. The next step was to set dates which suited the library and her children’s parents. Parents were invited to join in with monthly visits to the library to read with their children, help them select books and generally promote reading and the use of the library.

So far the visits have been well attended by parents and pupils have been very enthusiastic about this shared reading experience. Some parents have become members of the library as a result of this initiative. Pupils borrow a book from the library each time they visit, returning it the following time – they really enjoy having access to the huge range of books available in the public library.

Yvonne McBlain, curriculum support teacher with Falkirk Children’s Services joined the class visit on the morning of 29th May 2019, and spoke to the children, parents, carers and grandparents attending. She asked the children how they felt about the library visits:

Kayden said “Happy. I like going to the library, I’ve been every month since I started primary 2. I read more and I enjoy getting new books.”

Hannah likes the visits because “there’s lots of books close together and I can choose anything I want.”

Siobhan said “I feel good going to the library and I enjoy that you get new books every month. It helps with my reading and sounding out words. I like getting them (right) and if I’m not sure I can ask.”

One of the mums said “It’s really good for them to be able to come down to pick a book they can read in school – the visits help them become more independent.” Mr Finlayson joined his grandson to read, commenting that “He reads all the time and has been coming to the library since he was 18 months old – it definitely has paid dividends for his reading.” Mums Jennifer and Emma feel that the visits are a very valuable experience for the children who hadn’t been to the library before. They suggested that the visits really encourage reading as well as offering a valuable opportunity to walk from school, getting fresh air, exercise and learning safe routes around their town. This was dad James’ first time being part of the library visit, and he explained that his child “seems to be enjoying it – it’s nice to see them coming to the library.”

Rebecca has been liaising with Grant, the librarian to arrange the visits and as soon as he and his colleagues had completed the mammoth task of checking out the books, Yvonne also gathered his thoughts: “We love having the kids in the library – they are the future and it’s great that they are getting into reading and literature. We have our Summer Challenge coming up (click here for more information) and it’s great that we have such good relationships with the primary schools in Grangemouth.

The enjoyment of the children was obvious during their visit, with final selection and stamping of books being particularly exciting – as can be seen from the photos.

Rebecca has observed that combining her teaching of reading in the classroom with monthly visits to the public library with parents has helped her pupils’ reading in the following ways:

  • pupils willingly choose to read for pleasure during opportunities for free choice in class
  • they are eager to look at and read each others’ books (they have read more books!)
  • the number of pupils who read at home has increased
  • parents are reading with their children more frequently than before
  • pupils who previously struggled with fluency and comprehension have improved these skills – some of them have made very significant progress

Rebecca will continue to develop this work next session through an approach called practitioner inquiry where research and more formal data measures will help her evaluate just how much difference this reading intervention makes.

Graeme High School Pupils Value a Fresh Start Approach to Reading

Pupils offered the following comments about being in the Fresh Start reading class at Graeme High School:
At first I thought it was like being a primary pupil but now I am glad because now I can read like everyone else.
When I came here I was scared because I didn’t know how to read that much. So then I sound talk the word and then I know the word.
 I love reading.
I was scared because all my friends could read and I couldn’t. I thought I was dumb, stupid because I couldn’t read. I hated myself. People said I was born silly and it got to me. I didn’t want to come to high school because people would know BUT everyone liked me and I came to this class and now I can read. Don’t let people get you down because you are going to be amazing when you get older and the bullies are nothing.
What does it take to get pupils to talk about reading like this? Caroline Harper, faculty head of English at Graeme HS shares the process and impact in her report below.
PEF Literacy – Read Write Inc
We introduced Fresh Start at Graeme High School through finding out about strong results from colleagues in Dundee. We decided to introduce it to S1, S2 and S3 in the first year as the potential for this to transform pupils’ life chances was considerable. Pupils who had gaps in their learning which needed to be filled were selected for the scheme.
It was a highly structured course. All English, Support for Learning teachers and Support for Learning staff were trained in the methodology. There was substantial investment in resources. In addition, we benefited from two development days, when a trainer came in to observe us teaching and offer feedback about how effectively we were implementing the course.
Read Write Inc assessments
Pupils were assessed every six weeks using the Read Write Inc assessment. This involved recognising ‘speed sounds’ correctly and reading a short passage. There were seven passages and pupils had to read them with few errors and in a reasonable time (very slow reading makes comprehension unlikely).
All pupils made progress in these assessments. Records have been kept and every pupil has made some progress, many completing the 33 module course in fewer than 33 weeks.
Closing the Gap evidence
Although we could see from the assessments that pupils could now read passages that they could not read a few weeks ago, we did not know whether we had ‘closed the gap’ as their peers would also have been improving their reading skills in the course of the session. To check this, we used the Test of Word Reading Efficiency, an index based test (100 representing average performance) to allow us to see whether they had improved relative to their peers. For example, a score of 70 (poor) followed by one of 80 (below average) six months later, would show that they had improved relative to their peers.
We tested their progress over a six month interval using the Test of Word Reading Efficiency. It was in two parts – the Sight Word Efficiency test where pupils had to recognise and read words as quickly as they could and the Phonemic Decoding Efficiency test where pupils had to use their phonemic knowledge to read a list of non-words. The raw scores could then be correlated with their age, which would give a scaled score. This scaled score allowed us to see where they were in relation to their peers. This meant that any improvement was an improvement relative to their peers – which meant that we had made some progress in ‘closing the gap’.
 S2 group
According to the form a margin of difference in the two scaled scores of more than 10 meant that we could be 95% confident that the improvement was not down to chance. However, a difference of less than 5 could be attributed to chance. A difference of 6 gave a confidence measure of 70%. A difference of 5 gave a confidence measure of 60%.
For 8 out of 13 pupils in this group, the difference in the phonemics score was 5 or greater and for two it was over 10.
S3 group   
For two pupils, the results were positive with a gain of 6 and 7 points in the phonemic decoding test. This gives a confidence level of 80% and 85% respectively that this improvement was not due to chance but represented an improvement in their skills. Of the two pupils who showed significant improvement, one had made a year’s improvement and the other three year’s improvement in decoding skills.
S1 group
This was a large group of 23 pupils. For seven of these pupils there was a clear improvement in either their phonemics or their sight word recognition or both.
Reading Age improvements
The TOWRE-2 authors state that they are confident about the reliability of the scaled scores in proving improved performance but are less convinced about their reading age data. However, it is helpful to know that, for pupils at this stage, a difference of 6 in the scaled score usually equates to a year’s progress (in six months) and a 7 point difference usually equates to three year’s progress (in six months).
When asked to capture simple words which described their experience in the Fresh Start Class, pupils said:
‘never give up’, ‘it was fun’, ‘fascinated’, ‘excited’, ‘extraordinary’, ‘amazing’, ‘happy’,grateful,’ ‘awesome’

Raising Attainment – Sharing Good Practice Nationally

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Falkirk Council recently shared their approach to raising attainment in literacy at the National Literacy Network. Our Literacy Strategy was shared, with examples of good practice from each work stream. Colleagues from across sectors and from all over Scotland attended the session and feedback was extremely positive.

St. Bernadette’s pupils stunning rap demonstrating the 6 reading comprehension strategies was shared and was really well received. Colleagues really liked the way the pupils demonstrated their understanding in a very creative way.

Active Literacy work from Bonnybridge Primary School was also shared and colleagues were impressed with the range of active literacy strategies which were shared.

Colleagues were impressed with the work Falkirk is carrying out to support parents and carers. We shared some of our you tube animations for parents/ carers and parental leaflets. We also shared the you tube training videos which are available 24/7 for teachers to access to support the delivery of active literacy in the classroom and outwith.

Our key successes for this year so far have been populating the work streams of our Literacy Strategy, a consistent approach to teaching higher order reading skills and consistency of approach. Our next steps are to take the strategy forward even further to continue to raise attainment and close the gap.

It was a really enjoyable morning sharing good practice and engaging in professional dialogue with colleagues.

We are really excited to take this forward in the future.

Extremely Exciting Times!

CLD is excited to be part of a couple of ground breaking pieces of work currently taking place within Falkirk, aimed at providing literacies support for both adults and young people.

One of these is through an Early Years Consortium ‘Test of Change’.  This is where new or untried activities to increase literacies skills and opportunities are tried out and monitored to see if they work.  P4 pupils from the Denny area, as well as Adult literacies learners from across Falkirk are currently taking part in a Visual Stress Test to identify if they have visual difficulties, which wouldn’t be picked up by a regular eye test, but which may contribute to reading difficulties.  Those identified are taking part in further testing by the Caledonian University with the aim of identifying exercises or aids which could lessen the visual difficulty and so make the process of reading, or learning to read much easier.  Hopefully all the testing will be completed by Christmas.

The second new piece of work to Falkirk is the Education Scotland funded initiative ‘Closing the Gap’. This is one of 7 projects across Scotland that are involved in action research to identify ways of reducing the inequality gap in Education. In Falkirk this project is targeting P7 pupils and their families with extra support and opportunities to work with CLD & school staff on small group or family work. Within schools work will be on ‘High Five’ interventions, and within the community on activities to increase families’ confidence with, and motivation for learning.  This pilot is expected to take place until March 2015 but it is anticipated that funding will continue after this.

Both of these pieces of work will be evaluated on completion to identify if they make up a sustainable model for targeted and holistic intervention in literacy, with the objective that ‘no child is left behind.’

On top of this our core adult literacy classes (15 classes) and ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) classes (16 classes) continue to take place in local accommodation, Falkirk wide.   In these classes adults build on their skills in areas that are relevant to them, and in ways that they are comfortable with.  Qualifications are optional, although there are increasing opportunities for adults to gain their Communication and Numeracy SQA’s in other more mainstream CLD classes, for example work clubs and healthy cookery classes.

Find out about all of these opportunities and more in the what’s on where newsletter


Engaging with Families

Falkirk Council is proud to be featured on the Scottish Government’s website – ‘Engaging with Families’. It demonstrates one of the ways Falkirk are working with families (Work stream 4) in pursuit of  ‘zero tolerance to illiteracy’. We are delighted to be featured here with a good practice story from Kinneil Primary School and Nursery Class in Bo’ness.

The ‘engaging with families’ website contains lots of ideas and advice in relation to raising attainment and closing the inequity gap. It explores a range of ways in which families can support children to achieve their potential.  The ‘Learning at Home’ section demonstrates how Falkirk Council have developed our ‘Learning to Achieve’ policy to support learners in the community. Part of this strategy includes interactive literacy and numeracy workshops where parents are given practical suggestions for how they can support their child’s learning at home.

For further information, please contact your child’s school to see if they are hosting an active literacy and/ or active numeracy workshop.