Reading at Cantell

‘Schools have no more fundamental responsibility than teaching children to read…Nothing is more important in education than ensuring every child can read well.’

Reading: The Next Steps, DfE 2015

Reading at Cantell School is an integral part of our student’s development as we recognise that strong literacy improves life chances. The ability to read is a fundamental skill to learning success and we aim to develop confident and enthusiastic readers, irrespective of what level of reading skill they have when they join us. 

Why is reading so important to us at Cantell?

  • Reading is fundamental to all subjects and life beyond Cantell. It builds knowledge and understanding of the world, supports wellbeing and lowers anxiety. 
  • We believe that understanding the vocabulary used in a lesson will unlock the learning so students know more, remember more and can apply their knowledge.
  • A wider vocabulary correlates with success, both academically (improving students’ ability to understand texts, more likely to apply knowledge across subjects and improves their writing) as well as improving their cultural capital.
  • Low reading ages can lead to low self-confidence and poor mental health; therefore, we need to intervene with students most in need and ensure their reading ages improve. 

It is vital you support us at home. This can be as simple as asking your child what they are reading and what they are enjoying about it; recommending books you have enjoyed; reading together; and visiting a library. The bookmark below gives you further details about how to ask about reading in a meaningful way.

Our aim is for all our students to leave Cantell being able to read at, or above, their age level.

How are we trying to achieve this?

We recognise that reading is the responsibility of everyone and we work as a team to ensure we are doing all we can to support our students’ reading.

Here are some of our current initiatives:  

Reading Aloud is one of our Teaching and Learning ingredients. It is an integral part of lessons and students are keen to participate. Readers who cannot read automatically need practice and, therefore, all teachers consider opportunities for reading aloud when planning.

Attack words are vital in lessons to unlock the learning and are another of our Teaching and Learning ingredients. All staff ensure that students learn the subject-specific vocabulary that they need to read, write and speak as subject experts, as well as exploring any other unfamiliar vocabulary to assist understanding.

Fortnightly Lesson A reading sessions (Year 7-9) use First News articles to engage students in current affairs and build cultural capital; give students an opportunity to read aloud and listen to modelled reading by their Lesson A tutors; and check their understanding of reading non-fiction through a range of interactive quizzes and activities.

Weekly oracy lessons (for the majority of students in Year 7-9) focus on a range of text types and students have time to concentrate on how to read them aloud; in particular, the focus is volume, pace, tone, expression and how punctuation affects meaning. This builds to a focus on discussion and debate as students progress through the curriculum. Students enjoy the practical element of these lessons and are building confidence in their ability to articulate their ideas, knowledge and opinions.

English lessons are planned around the reading of whole texts (for information on the texts, please see here: Every fortnight, students have a dedicated library lesson to allow teachers to focus on what students are reading at home and ensure it is appropriately challenging, as well as having a chance to change their library book.

We have a fantastic library that is open from 8.15am, at breaks, and until 4pm every day (except Fridays – 3.30pm close). Our expert librarians are happy to advise on books and take requests for new books too. Find out more here

English KS3 Interventions are run by English teachers to provide extra support to students. Both the class teacher and Intervention teacher work collaboratively with the whole school Intervention team to target those that need further support with the foundational skills of coherent and accurate writing, predominantly using an established programme called Expressive Writing. Through this, students are given carefully sequenced practice in very specific elements of writing such as tenses, avoiding run-on sentences, and using clauses accurately and meaningfully in their writing.

These sessions run during their normal timetabled English lesson as a way of ensuring the work carried out during Intervention directly helps with their English studies. Intervention teachers are assigned a small group which means they are able to intervene with targeted students during their normal timetabled English lesson. Teachers assigned to Intervention will also use the time to assess and evaluate student progress. We currently have capacity for up to 6 small groups across Key Stage 3.

In school, all students complete the Access Reading Test to determine their reading age. This is conducted in September for Year 7 and yearly for the rest of the school (usually early in the summer term) to track progress. Your child should know their reading age; if they do not, please ask them to speak to any teacher as this data is shared to ensure all students are supported to improve their reading age.

Reading Buddies is our wonderful program in collaboration with the University of Southampton, which invites our Pupil Premium and weaker readers into school to read with University students for half an hour twice a week. Last year the program helped 60% of students involved increase their reading age by two years, as well as 49% increasing their attitudes towards reading in a positive way. Students read up to two full books across the program, which helps them enhance their confidence in reading aloud, develop their vocabulary as well as improve their reading abilities. 

Reading Ambassadors is our own reading programme where older Cantell students read with younger students.  This has included reading with students in Year 7 and Year 8 as part of the Reading Buddies program and visits to Aspire Trust Primary Schools to read with KS1 and KS2.  

Phonics Interventions are run for students who have a large discrepancy between chronological and reading age and are identified for reading intervention. A further phonics diagnostic assessment is done one to one with the student, to pinpoint their individual gaps. 

At Cantell we use the Fresh Start programme. This is an extension of the Read Write Inc programme used by some primary schools. Fresh Start is a systematic, synthetic phonics programme for struggling readers. It is used for those who are identified as needing phonics support. Pupils are taught at their challenge point, so they learn to read accurately and fluently. Students are placed into a small group or 1:1 intervention. SEND is taken into account, or those who might take longer, need extra time for processing, less distractions, developing their English or just may benefit from smaller incremental steps carefully grouped for intervention.  As well as teaching phonics, we also look at different reading strategies and skills. For example, how to skim, scan and study a text. We look closely at what a question is asking us to do and discuss the different reading skills we need in order to answer it. For example, how you can retrieve, comprehend, predict, infer, summarise, synthesise and interpret a text.

All students, who are in phonics interventions, are assessed termly to ensure they are always being taught at their individual challenge points and making progress. 

Disciplinary literacy is demonstrated across the curriculum so that reading is a focus in all subject areas and is specific to that subject; for example, how you read like a geographer is very different to reading like a mathematician. Each faculty area has a nominated Reading Champion who supports their faculty to ensure reading is part of every lesson, students see the value in it and students are supported to read aloud. Every lesson is a lesson where reading is expected, encouraged, and rewarded.  

Reading days happen throughout the year and consist of author visits, book fairs, starters in lessons to demonstrate reading skills across the curriculum and much more. 

Staff training to ensure everyone identifies as expert readers, feel confident reading aloud and teaching reading skills. Through ongoing CPD, teachers are passionate about supporting readers, of all levels, to become more confident and independent readers.