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Westfield to take part in £400K project to improve student literacy

We are delighted to announce that we will be taking part in a Sheffield-wide project to improve students' literacy. It is being co-ordinated by Chorus Education Trust's teaching school: the Sheffield Teaching School Alliance.

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

The £420,000 project, funded by the Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF), 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.

Pupils’ reading comprehension levels are often not sufficiently developed to cope with the change in reading challenges when they move on to secondary school, as evidenced in the recent Year 6 SATs results, when many pupils struggled with the new curriculum. They had been taught to read through recognition of words, rather than comprehension, and therefore didn’t gain the full meaning of the texts used. This is particularly true amongst disadvantaged pupils.

“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,” said Gaynor Jones, Director of the STSA, whose background is as an English teacher.

 “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 sits ‘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.

Theresa Heathcote, lead trainer on the project explains:

“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”.  

A range of schools are involved from across the city, who will all receive the support and training from the project, as well as £75,000 of new books for their school. 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 that pupils carry on making progress in literacy when they move from primary to secondary school.

Roisin Paul, Executive Headteacher of Chorus Education Trust 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. 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!”

To find out more about the project please contact our team at the Sheffield Teaching School Alliance on 0114 235 7980 or email them.