3 October 2018

At the time of writing the Opportunity Area Evidence Based Fund has been able to allocate funding to 51 schools. This is excellent news for schools, and there is an ambitious drive to target all schools within the opportunity area to benefit from this funding.

In this blog post, Beth Morrish from the Morris TSA talks us through her project. It differs from our previous post in that it uses an existing evidence based programme across 2 secondaries and 5 primaries schools. These different uses of the fund show the positive way it can be used to address priorities within schools or clusters according to their specific priorities. The requirement to demonstrate an evidence base, gives schools the opportunity to use the evidence within their context to have the best chance of success.

Many thanks to Beth Morrish for sharing her bid with us;

What is your project?

Out project is a rapid reading intervention cross-phase programme that will work with 7 schools (2 secondaries and 5 primaries) from across the Witchford and Whittlesey clusters to improve the reading age of disadvantaged students in Years 5 – 11, by an average gain of 27 months. 

The programme uses Lexonik, a rapid and dramatic, evidence-based reading intervention, and provides all 7 schools with the training and resources so they can deliver this intervention to students throughout the year.

In addition to training identified members of staff to work with targeted students in Years 5-11, Lexonik will also provide whole school training to all 7 of our schools so that the teaching approaches and resources can be embedded as part of their whole school literacy strategy.

What led you to develop this idea?

I was talking with the Head of English at a local Secondary School about strategies they were using to help close the word gap for some of their most disadvantaged students and she began waxing lyrical about Lexonik.  I’d never heard of this programme before and when she told me her students were making up to 27 months gain in reading age in just 6 weeks, I didn’t quite believe my ears!  After ending the call with my colleague, I was straight on the phone to Lexonik to find out more.

Lexonik offered to organise a webinar with one of their trainers and I invited some schools from the Witchford and Whittlesey clusters who I thought might be interested. The trainer talked through the approaches that the Lexonik programme is built upon, including the explicit teaching of prefixes, suffixes and root words to support decoding and promote reading comprehension.  This really resonated for our schools who are keen to develop greater word consciousness in students.  They were also excited by a programme that straddled both primary and secondary school, offering the opportunity to develop a common language and set of strategies that could be used to support the teaching of reading during the KS2/3 transition.

The Lexonik programme clearly addressed a need within our schools.  With regards to student outcomes, our 5 primary schools particularly cited the success of phonics programmes that have been introduced at EYFS/ KS1, but identified a dip for students in KS1/2 as the focus moved from phonological decoding to reading for meaning.  Additionally, our 2 secondary schools flagged up the impact that limited reading comprehension was having on students’ academic attainment in EBacc. subjects, as well as their overall engagement with learning, and attendance at school.  Reading intervention programmes currently running were perceived by senior leaders to be lacking a rigorous evidence base, or not successfully engaging and motivating students to make progress.

What documents or articles did you read to support your bid?

We read carefully the research underpinning Lexonik’s programme that was carried out by Northumbria University in March 2015.  It involved 2,135 students with reading ages of 9 years and above and measured the impact on their reading ages after they had taken part in Lexonik’s 6 week intervention programme. 

The research confirmed a 27 month average reading age gain (measured using the nationally standardised WRAT test), across all abilities, after 6 hours of students engaging with the Lexonik programme. 

Lexonik’s approaches also chimed with what we knew from the EEF’s ‘Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2’ (2018).  In this report the explicit teaching of morphemes (prefixes, suffixes and root words) is identified as an evidence based approach that develops pupils’ language capability to support their reading and writing. 

Furthermore, in Ofsted’s 2013 report, ‘Improving literacy in secondary schools’, a number of principles of good practice were identified which we were pleased to see had been embedded within Lexonik’s programme design.  These included:

·         Setting literacy issues firmly within the teaching and learning debate – the whole school CPD twilight session, and access for all staff to Lexonik’s online teaching resources, actively supports a whole school approach to assuming a shared responsibility for developing students’ reading abilities.

·         No quick fix – whilst the intervention programme only lasts 6 weeks, the whole school CPD enables the Lexonik methodology to be adopted and embedded within classroom teaching practice by all staff, on a permanent basis.

·         The active support of headteacher and senior leaders for cross-curricular literacy learning – the allocation of directed time to allow Lexonik to deliver whole school CPD clearly indicates the commitment of each school’s senior leadership team to prioritising cross-curricular literacy learning.

·         Making the case for literacy in all subjects: showing ‘what’s in it for us?’ – the Lexonik programme is cross curricular in its approach and designed to enable students to decode unfamiliar vocabulary and develop comprehension in all subject areas. 

·         Use of specialist knowledge to support individual teachers and departments – the whole school CPD provides an invaluable opportunity for staff to develop their confidence and skills in supporting students’ reading comprehension.

What are you hoping to do following your project, how can you make it sustainable if it is a success?

Our project will work with a minimum of 264 students over 2018/19, and record the impact on each student’s reading age gain.  This data will be invaluable in supporting us to evaluate the programme, along with more qualitative outcomes measuring the improved confidence amongst staff to embed ‘reading for comprehension’ strategies within classroom practice, across all curriculum areas and phases.

We also intend to explore further the benefits of using a cross-phase reading intervention programme and want to use this project as a starting point to examine the impact on student experience and outcomes when greater consistency and continuity in teaching approaches exists between the primaries and their feeder secondaries.

If the project is successful, we will be keen to discuss with Lexonik a competitive price for cross-phase cluster based purchasing of the programme.

Schools interested in applying for the Evidence Based Fund should email briony.davies@cambridgeshire.gov.uk for further information on the next round of applications.

Posted on 3 October 2018
Posted in: Blog

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