SSIF Bid 2

BEP Strategic School Improvement Bid 2: Irresistibly Improving Reading Attainment

Making an impact: raising standards and inspiring a reading culture through effective school to school partnerships.

We are focusing on the rapid & sustained improvement of reading attainment, recognising the city’s legacy of poor performance but particularly in response to the new, demanding curriculum & its higher expectations. Reading must be tackled as the essence of the whole curriculum. We are focusing on 40 of the lowest performing schools, identified through data analysis, soft intelligence & commitment to taking part, with the particular emphasis on Y5/6 for improved outcomes in 2018 & 2019. There are two crucial elements to the Project: the partnering of schools for accelerated reading progress & the monitoring of impact by system leaders. Additionally we plan to build capacity for wider influence across the city by developing expert leaders of reading, evaluating and showcasing effective leadership & teaching strategies & drawing together a package of essential characteristics which will enable every school to be a centre for reading inspiration.

The Project is predicated on the school-led system, bringing together Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP), teaching schools, NLEs, MATs & schools with capacity & track record in a common approach to collaboration which has, at its heart, the desire for the optimum achievement of the city’s children, no matter which school they attend. We are fortunate in having resources to draw on: BEP’s infrastructure, city-wide data and relationships with schools will provide the base. The partnering of schools will be informed by good knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses, crucially through Families of Schools data which connect schools in similar contexts but with vastly different outcomes.

Research evidence will be a key feature, using EEF guidance, evidence from London Challenge & BEP’s own Reading Pilot in 2016/17 which identified as essential, strong, dynamic partnerships coupled with a sense of urgency. Adding to this several tight layers of monitoring and evaluation, we are confident of its successful impact.

Planned Start Date: 08.01.2018

Planned End Date: 29.03.2019

Details of the Bid Application

What improvement need is the bid going to address?

Birmingham underperforms in reading against national averages (-7%) KS2 reading outcomes have been below national for the past decade with a 2% gap in 2013 & 2015 being the closest it has achieved to national performance. At the higher standard it is below national 2016: -5% & 2016: -6% showing the gap is widening. Reading is the main factor in the gap between B’Ham & national RWM combined at -6%. Reading progress between KS 1-2 improved between 2016 (-1.1) & 2017 (-0.9). Deeper analysis of Families of Schools indicates that some schools are achieving above national averages but too many schools in similar contexts have very low reading attainment at KS2.

We are focussing on the schools with weak KS2 reading outcomes in 2016 & 2017 e.g. in 2017 are -21% at ARE & -15% at higher standard. Progress declined from -1.7 in 2016 to -3.0 in 2017. The impact of reading on RWM combined is also stark at -17% below national in 2016 & is currently -22% in 2017.

We recognised in 2016 that reading was a key issue for the city & in 2016-2017 we established a primary pilot reading project - 23 schools each partnered with an effective school. Action plans were created, independent midterm monitoring carried out, various CPD provided & additional funding used to support reading improvement. The pilot schools made 16% (2017) improvement on average (in both reading and RWM combined) double that of the city and nationally. Its success including feedback from schools provides the base for our project including lessons learned in terms of more rigorous monitoring along with EEF guidance. In this group we are targeting Y5 &6 for 2018 & 2019 outcomes to achieve national averages within 4 terms. The work will be targeted to ensure improvements in teaching, leadership & whole school reading provision.

As poor KS2 outcomes are impacting on KS3, a pilot linked secondary project targeting Y7 teachers is within the project giving secondary staff opportunity to work in primary triads.

What will actually be done to achieve the desired outcome? What evidence is there for principles behind the programme? 

40 primary schools with low KS2 reading attainment, (-21% national 2017) targeted to reach national standards 2019. The Project is predicated on effective pairing of schools based on BEP’s Families of Schools data (London Challenge) schools in similar contexts with vastly different outcomes. & BEP reading pilot 16/17 which successfully accelerated performance in 23 schools. (+18%pts) & EEF research on ways to raise attainment rapidly. A secondary reading pilot (10 schools) will be created to address low on entry reading outcomes with schools accessing all workshops & CPD as well as shadowing primary ‘pairs’ with a view to a wider roll out in Sept 2019.

Each school receives a core offer:

  • A reading partner school quality assured by an NLE with capacity & capability to work alongside the school until Spring 2019, creating & implementing a reading action plan with challenging targets established for Y6 2018 & 2019
  • Resource funds to take part in one initiative from a prescribed list which includes EEF research and local best practice.
  • Termly CPD in the form of workshops & training on reading pedagogy & best practice sharing
  • Coaching from a dedicated NLE providing support for both schools in each pairing & enabling joint practice development across schools
  • Monitoring the project: reading partners, NLEs and the Independent Scrutiny Committee (ISC) with termly impact scrutinised
  • A crucial aspect of the Project is the role of the NLE – to assess the capacity of the partner school; bring together 4 pairs of schools each half-term to share information & assess rapidity of progress; visit each school to monitor the action plan’s impact & progress of the partnership There will also be a termly menu of workshops and presentations for schools in the project to attend (e.g. parental involvement, use of Teaching assistants) these will be run by TSAs & will again be based on EEF research and local best practice.

The project will launch with a reading conference.

How will you ensure that embedded improvements resulting from the programme will be sustained by supported schools?

Reading will be kept high profile & best practice will be spread to other phases, primary and secondary. We intend to build a collective city-wide understanding of what can be done to raise standards in reading quickly.

We will evaluate the outcomes – KS2 SATs (reading/combined subjects) & moderated Y5 ARE. A full data analysis will identify the patterns & trends of each school & of the whole group, including comparison with national, other B’ham (non-Project) schools & 2016-19. The Project will be formally evaluated to include showcasing, full data analysis & effective partnership working. 40 schools (+ 40 partners) will know the strategies that work. Expert leaders will be in place to achieve SLE designation and offer wider support, providing a pool of talent in local clusters or across the city. Literacy packages will be shared to assist schools in making good investments in the right resources.

We will encourage the partnerships to continue & to widen to 3 or 4 schools. Although the level of external support might vary, the basic approach of partnering, external review, high expectations and internal capacity-building will help all schools to improve & can apply to other subjects. We will build on our city’s resources – the BEP infrastructure, ACTs, MATs - to ensure best practice is disseminated, using our improved connectivity & professional collaborative relationships. A summative conference will share best practice and every school will be encouraged to join a TSA. There has never been a better time for system leaders to work together. We will establish a network forum for NLEs and other systems leaders to further support citywide strategy. We are determined that the outcomes of this Project will impact on schools right across the city. Our knowledge of the city’s strengths will ensure that this happens.