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#931 Removing the literacy barrier to learning – Clacton County High School

Amanda Bassett

What did we do?

My project tried to tackle low reading ages and I focused on specific year 7 students who have gaps in their reading ability, due to Covid-19.

The students I selected have:

  • A 4-year gap in reading age against their chronological age.
  • Lack of Fluency gaps in their knowledge of vocabulary.
  • Students that are unable to read with understanding.
  • Evidence of difficulties with processing.


My school looked at different reading interventions and we decided that ‘Catch Up Literacy’ was a good Intervention to use as it has quick results and is really effective at improving reading ages.

We used a base line assessment called ‘Literacy online assessment’ giving us reading/comprehension and spelling ages for the students so we have a starting point.

We used a questionnaire in the Catch-up Literacy booklet to gage how they felt about reading. We looked at any barriers to learning and took these into consideration students with Dyslexia/ASD/ADHD/SEMH. The programme comes with booklets and requires trained staff. Staff are informed of the students involved in the catch Literacy programme by their one-page profile and emails. The programme is then completed 15min, twice a week, in order to be effective.

The goal was to ultimately improve their reading age to allow the students to access the curriculum by removing barriers to learning and by doing so, improve fluency of reading and have a good understanding of vocabulary and understanding of what they are reading. They will then go on to enjoy reading a wider range of texts with confidence.

Meetings were held with the Deputy Senco to discuss the intervention and how it would impact the school on the whole and how we administer the programme.

“The students that are partaking in the catch-up literacy intervention are visibly more confident with their reading, the clear guidelines for sessions make it clear to show progress made within the intervention”

Deputy SENDCo

Summary of impact

I was able to work with the students consistently for 15mins twice a week, out of lessons. This worked well due to the cooperation from teachers. The impact I saw was that students started to read more fluently after only a short period of time.

During sessions we looked at their behaviour and how it impacted them in lessons and how they could handle this differently – this has seen a dramatic reduction in their sanctions as well.

Teachers have seen students being able to read in lessons. The students then have been able to access the learning. I have seen students go from not reading in class to being able to have the confidence to read out loud in class.

Teachers and SENCo like the programme as it gives quick results.

Tracking the data showed improvement in the student’s engagement and learning behaviours. Meetings with parents when updating their one-page profile enabled us to give information on the progress of how their reading and how successful the programme is.

Steps taken

Completed a comprehensive training programme based on EEF guidance and the 5 pillars of “Leaning Behaviour” framework. Sessions included; Metacognition, Social emotional learning, improving behaviour in schools, SEND mainstream schools, Parent engagement, putting evidence to work, process evaluation and impact evaluation.

We identified the problem which in our school was low reading ages. I worked closely alongside English dept in which students we should work with. We tested students on LOA to find a baseline point and year 7 with RA of 7 or below were picked, as well as any student across year groups with a reading of age of 4yrs or more. I also looked at each student’s SEND needs were for example if a student needed an overlay the had the appropriate colour. If a student had ADHD, I provided them with a fiddle toy when reading.

After looking at the 5 pillars of learning. We selected the Catch-up Literacy Intervention each student has an initial diagnostic assessment to work out their catch-up reading level. Reading books were chosen accordingly to their level. Catch up Literacy programme looks at spelling understanding text and recalling information in the text read. Resources downloaded from Catch up Literacy site and guidance is always available from the website. The programme runs 15 mins, twice a week to be most effective. This is broken down as follows:

  • 3 mins pre-read to aid fluency
  • 6 minutes solo reading
  • 3 minutes writing section
  • Understanding inference verbal questioning where the students were able to articulate their ideas verbally, in writing and learning spelling strategies for miscued words.


Students are asked questions about their prior knowledge tapping into Metacognition.

We decided to run it for 20 mins to talk about their week and model behaviour for learning and this would build their self-esteem, self-resilience, understanding of self-regulation and social awareness modelling positive self-talk to help deal with intense emotions.

Teaching them to have good listening skills came under EFF’s improving social and emotional learning. During this time, we built positive relationships with the students incorporated in each session. The sessions ran for period of 6-12 weeks before testing for progress on the Literacy Online Assessment. The tests look at spelling and Reading and Comprehension.

Keeping staff informed of progress during the intervention is key and logged on Edu key after each session to track progress. This would also identify where students had been absent for their reading sessions and how the sessions impacted on the students. The meetings can also be used in parents’ meetings to show positive and negative during the reading sessions.

Catch up can only be delivered by staff that have been trained, I myself administered the sessions as I am fully trained in Catch up Literacy and achieved an accreditation Level 1 and Level 2.

In my action plan, I identified short, medium and long-term outcomes:

  • Short term – I expect students to engage and have the willingness to engage in reading by establishing regular reading routines. Improved confidence in trying different text and genre. Building trusted relationships with adults and building self esteem and self confidence and positive engagement with reading.
  • Medium term – I expect students will gain or have gained reading fluency and this will be evidenced through students’ perceptions of improved comprehension skills and their ability to talk about texts. Students will be able to decode with greater accuracy and their reading ages improved after 3 to 6 months. Showing intervals of improved reading ages and comprehension. Students can now show greater engagement in lessons.
  • Long term – I expect a reduction in the gap between chronological age and reading age. They may start to read for pleasure, be able to read for future employment. Be able to read applications for jobs and owning a house, banking forms. Accessing lessons for exam content understanding the text across the curriculum and reaching employment, University in the future.

What would we do differently

I needed more time to discuss my project, ideas, action plan with teachers and SENCO to work out how this would impact the wider school. I would have liked observation time with students in class to see if this impacted other lessons.

In the long term I would really like to invest in proper training for staff in the Catch-up Literacy programme so we can target more students to improve reading age.

Resources required

Photo copying resources of the Catch booklet for each student and having the appropriate reading books for the students to read from. If students needed overlays to provide them to assist with their reading. Access to laptop and internet connection to attend virtual training and network meetings. This involved overtime as not in school hours.

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Clacton County High School

Amanda Bassett

Coordinator of Cognition and Learning