Ensuring every child has the best start in cracking the phonics code and developing good early reading skills. Supporting Phonics/Reading leaders to make a significant impact in their school regardless of the children’s starting points.
Share Big Idea:
Head Teachers / School Leaders, School Teachers, Trusts
Language Development, Literacy
Why was the project needed?
Peterborough’s phonics outcomes have historically been low due to the complexity of the city. There are 121 languages spoken in the city’s Primary Schools. Some schools are 99% EAL and have an unprecedented, high level of churn. By bringing together reading leaders to have a specific focus on early reading we have tried to share good practice within and beyond the city. The project has aimed to support schools with purchasing a systematic, synthetic phonics programme. The schools have then been supported by expert ‘Phonics Champions’ to implement the programme and ensure full fidelity to the scheme. They have met regularly to share good practice, looked at schools achieving high outcomes, developed effective links with feeder pre-schools and supported parents to engage their own children in effective reading routines and habits.
We hope to increase the proportion of children achieving the pass mark in the Phonics Screening Check, but more importantly give children the skills to access good quality texts at their reading level, improve their vocabulary and nurture a love of reading.
What happened and what was the impact?
6 schools were co-funded to buy the resources and access CPD provided by the LA. 3 schools, who had previously purchased the scheme, were funded to access the CPD. In total, 9 schools engaged with the programme and started using the systematic, synthetic phonics programme. Most schools were teaching the new programme at the beginning of the spring term, 2022. The full impact will be seen when the PSC data is released but all schools have reported positively on the impact of the programme: children are more engaged with the learning; the pace is faster and consolidates understanding on a daily basis; intervention teaching is swift and children ‘keep-up’ rather than ‘catch-up’; reading sessions are focused on a range of skills and children are exposed and understanding a much wider range of ambitious vocabulary.
What did and didn't work?
By providing the schools with the same systematic, synthetic phonics programme they could share their highs and lows. Some schools emerged as exceptionally good adaptors, others needed more time to adjust. By using the expertise across the schools and training 7 Phonics Champions to deliver the programme there was a wealth of support and coaching to be found.
Some schools were slower in implementing the programme due to Ofsted priorities and sickness due to the pandemic, but they then had the advantage of being guided by schools who were further along the journey.
At times, delays in resourcing the programme and the organisation of resources in larger schools became a stumbling block but perseverance and good communication helped to overcome these problems.
How did you measure success?
Success has been measured by regular visits to the schools from the project coordinator and the Phonics Champions. Data is in the process of being compiled to measure progress. Schools have attended half termly meetings to share good practice and seek school-to-school support.
Ingredients For Success
Non-negotiables on the part of the participating schools was that they appointed a leader to implement the programme and lead the school in improving phonics outcomes. This was a high level of commitment n the form of a human resource. The project looked to support the schools with this by building in supply cover costs.
The OA was pivotal in providing the funds for the schools to buy the SSP programme and funding for staff to be released to work within the group.
The project management of the group was important to ensure that the right people were in place to support the right schools when they faced difficulties. It was also key to enable the schools to come together to rejoice in their successes. Opportunities to work alongside neighbouring schools to engage the pre-school sector to develop early phonemic awareness proved to be a great success and should hopefully pave the way for ensuring all children start school ready to learn the reading skills.
Is the Project Complete or Ongoing
The project is ongoing.
How is the Project Sustainable
The project will be sustainable as the burdensome initial costs have been co-funded by the OA. Schools can now budget to pay the fairly low annual subscription costs to the SSP programme which will provide them with comprehensive lesson plans and an on-line portal of training for any new staff.
The LA CPD programme has been funded for a second year so schools will still receive a high level of support. The LA fully intends to offer the programme beyond the initial two years.
What are the Long Term Impacts
The longer-term impact will be that teachers are more skilled in developing early reading skills. Schools will have a bank of in-house training videos to support any teachers who are new to teaching phonics or the SSP programme. Over the 2 year project schools will have developed their own team of ‘phonics experts’. Children who are currently in their reception year will have had 2 years of quality phonics teaching when they take their PSC in 2023. We hope to see a significant improvement in outcomes.
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