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With literacy being such an important issue for children of all ages, we hear from Tom Donohoe who decided to devote a year to encourage pupils at his school to read as often as possible


nton Junior is a two-form entry school in Andover. In terms of the socio-economic make up of our pupil population, we sit halfway among Hampshire’s 450 primary schools. We attain

good standards in key stage 2 SATs results in English and maths and even better attainment in sport, drama, ICT and art, and, in my opinion, pupils at Anton make outstanding progress in their personal and social development. I have had the pleasure and privilege to be headteacher at Anton for eight years. Last year during my summer holiday in Spain with my family, I was

trying to encourage my fairly able 14-year-old son to lie down in the sun and enjoy one of the books I had bought for him. He was not particularly keen to do either. To my shame I ended up bribing him. Happily, he enjoyed the books I had selected and his reading became more of a regular habit. It made me consider the reading habits of the 256

pupils at Anton and I vowed to have a year where we did all we could to encourage children to read as often as possible. We made reading a staff meeting agenda item early in September and brainstormed ways in which we could promote and push this vitally important lifeskill.

Outcomes Fast forward 12 months and the outcomes we achieved are to my mind impressive. At our school last year children made, what we consider to be, phenomenal progress in their reading. The chart here provides a summary of the impact of our work, but it is only that. It does not show the change in children’s attitudes, it does not show how parents have shifted their views to now make time to read regularly with their children, and it does not show how teachers feel they know much more now than they did 12 months ago. As we were having a concerted attempt to push reading last year, we

wanted to collect some initial baseline data so that we were able to gauge pupil progress during that period. With this in mind, children were given a reading age test at the outset of our initiative at the start of October 2010, four months later at the mid-point in February 2011, and eight months after we had started the initiative at the end of May. As you can see from the chart, each of the three tests is represented by a different colour bar. We are a two-form entry junior school so the graph shows all eight classes. Obviously there is no need for me to go through the progress class-by-class, but I will pick out a few to highlight some key points. The class where the children made the least progress in eight months was

class 4A. The average reading age in that class before we had our push was eight years, seven months. This rose to nine years, two months in February and to nine years, four months at the end of the eight month period. The average increase in class 4A’s reading age was therefore nine months.

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