Sheffield schools win cash to tackle ‘reading slump’

Schools across the city will be getting a share of funding to improve literacy
Schools across the city will be getting a share of funding to improve literacy

Schools across Sheffield have been celebrating their success in winning funding from the Government to improve pupils' literacy.

The project brings together 14 primary and nine secondary schools across the city, and is being co-ordinated by the Sheffield Teaching School Alliance, based at Silverdale School and part of Chorus Education Trust.

Silverdale School, the main school co-ordinating the project

Silverdale School, the main school co-ordinating the project

The £420,000 project, funded by the Strategic School Improvement Fund, aims to improve children’s ability to read for inference and understanding from an early age, and the nationally-identified problem of students regressing in their reading when they go through ‘transition’ – the move from primary to secondary school.

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A range of schools are involved, who will all receive the support and training from the project, as well as £75,000 of new books.

Director of the STSA, Gaynor Jones, whose background is as an English teacher, said: "“Literacy is key to their success in all subjects, not just English.

"They need to be able to read to learn, rather than continually learning to read.

“Then they’ll be able to get the full meaning and enjoyment from reading.

"And that’s not just about being able to read text books, but everything in life – from instruction manuals and job applications, to the joy that can come from a good book or a heart-felt love letter or message"

At the heart of the project is inference training, a way of training teachers to better support pupils, making them sensitive to the diverse problems pupils may experience in gaining full meaning and enjoyment from text.

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Lead trainer on the project, Theresa Heathcote, said: "Pupils with weak comprehension skills may find it hard to visualise stories or use their background knowledge to help them understand text.

"We will help them develop their skills to ‘build a gist’ of what is going on in a text by doing things like building a headline, visualising a story or generating their own questions."

The project will track pupils’ progress over five years, so that its impact can be accurately assessed.

The aim is to create a sustainable solution to the ‘reading slump’ problem, upskilling teachers and providing them with the right tools so pupils carry on making progress in literacy when they move from primary to secondary school.

Executive headteacher of Chorus Education Trust, Roisin Paul, said: "It’s great that so many schools, from both inside and outside of our trust, are working together for the good of Sheffield’s young people.

"It’s only by joining up the work in primary and secondary schools that we can ensure a sustainable solution to the ‘reading slump’ problem.

“Getting lost in books was a key part of my childhood and I want to ensure that all young people can experience the magic, wonder and excitement that stories can generate.

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"We may live in a digital age but reading is an essential ingredient to broadening your horizons that will never disappear. It’s every child’s right to be able to do it – and do it well."

The schools involved are Charnock Hall Primary, High Hazels Junior School, Birley Spa Primary, Woodthorpe Primary School, Birley Primary, Brook House Junior, Beighton Nursery Infant, Emmanuel Junior, Halfway Junior, Halfway Nursery Infant, Mosborough Primary, Reignhead Primary School, Shortbrook Primary School, Waterthorpe School, All Saints Catholic High School, Bents Green Special School, Fir Vale School, Meadowhead School, Sheffield Park Academy, Sheffield Springs Academy, Silverdale School, The Birley Academy and Westfield School.