Early Reading Project: findings from the pilot

    Published: 12 October 2018
    YR early reading project graphic test

    Project aims

    The aim of this pilot project was to improve outcomes in reading at the end of the Reception Year, effectively closing gaps in children’s early reading skills and knowledge. This would be quantified by the attainment of the Age Related Expectation (ARE) in Literacy, specifically in Reading, at the point of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile assessments at the end of the summer Term. 

    The autumn round of the project targeted a group of 6 Reception children, per school, who were working just below ARE at the time. The groups included children who had not begun to independently apply early reading behaviours, and were at the early stages of acquiring the simple code in phonics but not yet able to handle even early reading books. The practitioners were advised to include children from disadvantaged and vulnerable groups wherever possible.

    Participating schools ran the project with each group, in the first instance, for a 10 week period.

    Project design

    The aim of this twice-yearly project is to rapidly improve the reading competence of the children working below ARE, to set them on the path to achieve or exceed ARE by the end of the Reception Year. The schools who take part in the project will be committed to both the principles of Guided Reading and using finely-graded books that facilitate application of phonics. The Project Lead is required to be on the Senior Leadership Team in the school, or if that is not possible, an English subject leader. The Project Lead also needs to be present during the school visit of the TLA, for consistency and sustainability.

    The project comprises of two spaced days of CPD, beginning with a half day launch, which the Reception class teacher and Project Lead attend. This is followed by an in-school consultancy half day session and then, in the second term, there is a mid-point twilight cluster meeting for all practitioners. The final half day end-point session entails the gathering of information from the project, including a review of practice, sharing the findings and celebration of successes.

    The half day launch includes information on early reading strategies and behaviours and enable the teachers to effectively match books closely to the ability of the child.  Specific screening tools are introduced and teachers are coached to enable them to use these effectively. Teachers are introduced to high quality training materials including observational assessment tools. The delivery of guided reading is explored and teachers given information on specific strategies, including the organisation of leading a small focus group within the context of a large cohort of Reception children. 

    Another very specific strategy is the engagement of parents in their child’s home reading.  Ideas are shared for the parental partnerships and information that practitioners can share with parents to support their child’s reading progress.

    The consultancy visit is an information sharing point for the schools. The results of their initial assessments of the children, as detailed in the launch session, are completed and used as the baseline for the project, against which its success is measured. 

    The mid-point twilight session is an opportunity to share practice and experiences of the project to date and for the advisers to provide further training and share information to support the completion of the intervention. 

    The end-point session is designed to help schools to plan for the future, share good practice and revisit the principles of the project as well as to gather the final assessments and the experiences of the schools involved.

    Success criteria of the project

    Over the project timeframe, schools are challenged to aim for 5 out of the 6 focus pupils making accelerated – or more than expected – progress, and to close the gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged children. Some schools might have smaller cohorts and/or fewer focus children who fit the ‘on entry’ criteria for the project. By applying the consultancy advice and tailored strategies, it is anticipated that - by the end of the reception summer term - around 80% of the whole Reception cohort will attain ARE on the cohort reading tracker and have secured Phonic Phase 4 (for reading expectations). The tailored consultancy visit provides schools with the blueprint of a process for continuing the actions after the project has finished, and sustaining the gains themselves with future cohorts. It is expected that this success rate will increase in future years.

    Data set

    53 pupils from 9 schools in Hertfordshire took part in the pilot project that started in the autumn Term. The success of the project was measured quantitatively by use of norm- and criterion-referenced assessments, observational reading assessments and by the summative Early Years Foundation Stage Profile statutory assessments at the end of the Reception Year. These final assessments demonstrate the impact of the project, as measured against the children’s starting points in the autumn Term. The project is measured qualitatively through feedback from practitioners, parents/carers and pupils.

    Qualitative data

    The impact of the project so far has seen the children demonstrating an improved self-image as readers as they have a better understanding of the concepts of print and alphabetic knowledge, an improved understanding of meta-language and 1:1 correspondence. The children have been observed during Child Initiated Learning to be choosing to read independently, talking more about their reading including independently offering their views on the books. The children are also noted to be demonstrating more signs of early fluency as they are more readily able to decode, having embedded the principles of print concept knowledge. 

    The practitioners are now more effectively identifying a child’s early reading needs sooner and are adapting interventions according to the needs of the unique child more readily. The planning of independent guided reading activities is now more effective and purposeful and supporting adults are being deployed more efficiently, honing in on specific skill development as they work with the focus children and others. The practitioners are now reporting to be more confident when selecting books for the children, with their increased knowledge of matching books to the child’s next steps in learning. 

    For parents, the resources shared by practitioners are felt to be particularly useful, such as a print concepts cue card, and they reportedly feel more up-skilled on current reading strategies being taught in their children’s schools. 

    Quantitative data

    The data from these 9 schools (53 children) show:

    • participating schools’ ‘Good Level of Development’ (GLD) scores improving by on average 2.9 ppts compared to overall County change of +0.5.  The year on year change for those who did not participate in the ERP pilot was negative (-0.2). 
    • 78% of participating schools saw an increase in ELG reading between 2017 and 2018
    • participating schools’ ‘Early Learning Goal’ (ELG) data for reading improving by on average 4.6 ppts compared to overall County change of -1.0. The largest increase seen was +13.3 ppts, in a school with a high proportion of disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils.
    • children making on average double the usual rate of progress in the areas of print concepts and alphabetic knowledge, both during and after the project
    • children making on average double the usual rate of progress in text-reading
    • children make on average more than expected progress in phonics for reading
    • largest increase seen in any one measure is alphabetic knowledge, at a typical 60% increase between beginning of project and end of reception year
    • largest increase seen, for an individual child, is 94% increase in alphabetic knowledge and 87% increase in print concepts between beginning of project and end of reception year

    Teacher testimonials

    “Guided reading is now more fun.”

    Reception teacher, Warren Dell Primary School, Watford, Herts.

    “Children are more secure and KS1 ready. They see themselves as readers and are saying ‘I’m good at reading’ or ‘I love reading’.”

    EYFS Leader, Hobletts Manor Infants and Nursery School, Hemel Hempstead, Herts.

    Further reading

    • The HfL Early Reading Project page
    • Bodman, S. and Franklin, G. (2014). Which Book and Why. London, UK: University College London.
    • Saunders-Smith, G. (2015). The Ultimate Guided Reading How-to Book. California, USA: Corwin/Sage.
    • Rasinski, T. and Cheesman Smith, M. (2018). The Megabook of Fluency. New York, USA: Scholastic.
    • Clay, M.M. (2015). The Observational Survey of Early Literacy Achievement, 3rd edition. Oxfordshire, UK: Scholastic.

    With heartfelt thanks to the following pilot schools, to whom we are indebted for their passion, vision and commitment

    Hobletts Manor Infants and Nursery, Hemel Hempstead

    Icknield Infant and Nursery, Letchworth

    Kenilworth Primary, Borehamwood

    North Mymms St Mary’s CE VA, Hatfield

    Oak View Primary and Nursery, Hatfield

    Oxhey Wood Academy, Watford

    St Mary’s Infants, Baldock

    Warren Dell Primary, Watford

    Yewtree Primary, Hemel Hempstead

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