When we began delivering the KS3 Phonics programme we focused on our Pupil Premium students whose reading ages were below their chronological ages. Our highest priority was Band A PP students followed by Bands B and C, and then students on the SEN register with low reading ages. We also worked with teacher and LSA referrals. Some of these students had already been identified to work on the online Dyslexia Gold programme and we have also invested in the Rapid Plus reading recovery programme.
We currently work with Years 7, 8 and 9 with one EHCP exception in Year 10. We have a designated large working area which is part of our library with PCs, whiteboard, and flexible furniture. This creates a private space in a communal room.
Our reading ages come from the NGRT online assessment which students take twice a year.
As soon as we have identified our cohort, we ensure that copies of the workbooks are produced in several dyslexia friendly colours. It would be helpful if these were available to order.
After rolling out the diagnostic test, we put our students into groups whereby their diagnostic test results are similar. Ideally, they will be with other students in their year group and where possible there is commonality with their reading ages.
Applying the training to the teaching
The groups vary between 3 and 4 students. However, we do provide one to one tuition for those students who may not cope with a group dynamic at the moment. Following the training recommendations, we do not put students into groups if they would struggle to read independently or feel uncomfortable reading in a group situation.
Further to the online training we have embedded the training philosophy of pushing the students using the ‘I do, You do’ or ‘You do’ model and this has encouraged independence. Going forward, as we build confidence with these students, we would expect them to become part of a group at the end of a workbook.
Over time we have adopted a more active model of how we deliver the programme. We are more likely to interact with each group member by physically moving around the group, but we also encourage active learning by allowing them to use a whiteboard to differentiate the different spellings for the sounds for example ‘ear’ and ‘ere.’ We also use individual whiteboards to apply the theory of the training which suggests that the correct spelling is modelled after students attempt an unfamiliar word. If a word is spelt incorrectly, we encourage the students to rewrite the correct spelling in its entirety to aid long term memory.
We have also begun to include more recall and retrieval sessions in our practice to aid long term memory, especially when there are several lessons which use the same sound but different spellings. This has been very effective, and the students enjoy the interactive elements of these sessions.
An important part of our work is to liaise with our SENCO so she can communicate with her team the skills and support we think would help our students in the classroom. Where we identify handwriting or issues with phonic sounds/spellings, we can raise awareness with Learning Support to follow through on our suggestions to support the child by encouraging practise in the classroom. We email tutors and College Leaders when progress is made and conversely when we feel that higher expectations should be in place. We also regularly contact parents to share the aims of the course and to celebrate success alongside practical help they may be able to offer in relation to reading. We agree with Abigail’s suggestion that some students may need longer than a year and we will be taking forward three students who for a variety of reasons need longer to embed knowledge.
We currently work as a team of two and focus on evaluating our teaching alongside student performance always looking at ways of building on previous learning.
Timings and Group size
Since September 2022 we have been taking students out of lessons for 20-30 minutes twice a week. We make sure we spread our impact across the timetable. Two of us can be teaching two groups simultaneously. The aim is to complete three KS3 Phonics lessons in each session but that must be flexible. One student has very slow processing skills and we would attempt no more than two lessons.
As mentioned earlier, the NGRT, PP and SEN information we currently hold is important in tracking progress. We use this alongside the diagnostic and end of Workbook testing. Using an excel document we have a live tracker of progress which can be used in other contexts in school.
This is one of our current live documents which shows those students who have exited the programme showing the differential between entry and exit which is also attached. This information is used when discussing PP and SEN intervention alongside raising awareness of the necessity of this phonics programme for many of our students who, as Abigail refers to at the beginning of the training, need ongoing phonics teaching to enable them to access the curriculum. This is in line with Government data which has highlighted post-Covid deficiencies in the expected standard of reading and writing.
Developing the programme
Going into the next academic year we are fortunate to be able to expand the programme from 2-5 days. This has been predicated on the success of the programme and the data driven evidence we have of progress.
As part of the programme, we are introducing a Book Club for those students who have ‘graduated’ from the programme but still need to practise their skills and to build and maintain the confidence they have derived from the programme.
We are curating our own selection of accessible readers which we will encourage students to choose from to read at home.
This term we have designed and produced a series of three certificates which are presented to each student on completion of each workbook. The students have been positive in their response to the certificates:
To summarise we have found this to be an excellent and successful resource for our KS3 students. The format is clear and concise which helps students to access the material and build on their skills. We have enjoyed the interaction with the students and sharing their success with the wider school community.
This is a programme we recommend without reservation.
Rachael Eddy and Jannine Spencer
English teaching department
Robert Smyth Academy, Market Harborough, Leicester, LE16 7JG
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