Why we are a reading school – evidence informed research

According to the GL Assessment 2020 study ‘Read All About It’, the minimum age to access the KS3 curriculum is 9 years 3 months. The report specifies that “20% of all 15 year olds (370 000 participants) who took part in the study have a reading age of 11 or below and 10% have a reading age of 9 and below.” At HHS, 17% of KS4 students have a reading age of 11 or below and 7% have a reading age of 9 and below so we are broadly in line with the report’s findings.

EEF guidance stipulates that a “disciplinary” approach is the key to improving literacy in secondary schools because the emphasis “makes clear that every teacher communicates their
subject through academic language, and that reading, writing, speaking and listening are at the heart of knowing and doing science, art, history, and every other subject in secondary school.” The Foundation makes 7 recommendations and for this academic year, the HHS reading focus will prioritise recommendations 1-3:

◆ 1 – Prioritise ‘disciplinary literacy’ across the curriculum
◆ 2 – Provide targeted vocabulary instruction in every subject
◆ 3 – Develop students’ ability to read complex academic texts

In ‘Closing the Reading Gap’, Alex Quigley stipulates that “every teacher needs to know how academic reading mediates the sophisticated language of each subject in secondary school and what they can do about it.”

In ‘Disciplinary Literacy and Explicit Vocabulary Teaching’, Kathrine Mortimore champions the need for nuanced subject-specific strategies to explicitly teach talk, reading and writing – “By focusing on disciplinary literacy we offer teachers a crucial bridge between general knowledge of literacy and the practical implications for thinking, reading and writing like a subject expert in all subjects.”

Hollis Scarborough’s reading rope is an excellent representation of the elements of skilled reading ability. By secondary school, most will have mastered the ‘word recognition’ strands of the rope and, for many, it’s not that they don’t possess the individual strands but they aren’t at the point where they are woven together. These children need to build their stamina and fluency through regular practice of reading so, like any other skills, it becomes increasingly automatic. They will benefit from a school culture that gives regular opportunities to read. The EEF states that the factor that has the most impact on reading ability is being offered opportunities to read in all subjects where appropriate. It is the language comprehension strands of the Scarborough reading rope where strong focus is needed and this focus on language comprehension needs to be supported by a solid foundation of good teaching in all subjects.