We first met The District CE Primary school at The Education Show in Birmingham earlier this year. We were blown away by their positive attitude and innovative strategies to inspire a love of reading amongst the young people they teach. We visited them to hear more about the great things happening at the TES Award-nominated school.
Q: When we saw you at the Education Show you told us about the school’s Year of Reading – what is it all about and where did it start for you?
At school, we believe District Reader Lifetime Achiever. We know that a long-lasting love of reading has the power to raise outcomes for our young people and broaden their opportunities later in life. Though we’ve always made the teaching of reading a focus, and our curriculum is designed to develop confident readers, we decided to have a drive on reading for pleasure and for students to take a pride in books. That’s why, in September 2014, we launched our Year of Reading – a concerted effort to put reading at the heart of everything we do.
Q: How did you get families involved in the school’s initiative?
The launch event for our Year of Reading was the Big Bedtime Story. We invited parents to join us in school – pyjamas, hot chocolate and all – to read a bedtime story with their children. At first we were a little worried that number would be low, but we were amazed by the huge turnout we had from families, including older and younger siblings getting involved too!
Since then we’ve held several similar events, including themed events around Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland. Attendance at school book fairs has skyrocketed, and it’s great to see so many students and their families sharing in our love of reading.
Q: Have you noticed any big changes in the staff and students?
The biggest difference would have to be in the students’ attitudes – if you ask any of our children about reading they’ll tell you that “Reading Rocks” at The District CE. Our reading motto is “District Reader, Lifetime Achiever!”, which the students love testing us on – it’s great to hear them taking ownership and believing in the power of reading. Our last year 6 cohort saw more children than ever leaving with a reading ability beyond expected levels, and we think that the Year of Reading was a huge part of that.
Our members of staff are amazing too. World Book Day is such an event in school, with everyone getting into the spirit. We believe that reading belongs to everyone, so all our staff get involved, from our lunchtime staff, to teaching assistants, our head teacher and our office team.
I think a big factor in the success of our Year of Reading has been the whole school profile of reading. Books are a massive part of displays and corridors, we have two libraries and a dedicated area outside where students are taken for stories and reading activities. It’s one of my favourite places in school!
Q: The staff and school are really active on social media, particularly Twitter. Why do you think this has been so successful at The District?
At first, like a lot of schools, I think there was a bit of scepticism towards the power of social media. However, over time we saw that it was a great way for teachers to share the amazing things that are happening in their classroom, and an instant way to update parents and the wider community.
We’re now at a point where about 80% of staff use professional twitter accounts for their class, which are linked to the main school account. Some of our classroom teachers have thousands of followers! It’s been a great way to share success and ideas across the school and with the parent community, and it allows each member of staff to promote their own areas of the school. We have class blogs and a school Facebook page too, which are linked to our twitter, so it’s easier than ever to find out what’s going on in school and classrooms.
Q: It sounds like it’s been a really exciting journey at The District CE. What’s next for the school?
It has – we’ve had lots of attention for the work that’s gone on, both locally and nationally. On Saturday 1st October, we’re thrilled to be holding our inaugural Reading Rocks conference. We’ll be hosting 150 delegates here in St Helen’s to share our story and talk about why reading really does rock!
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