Literacy support bringing schools together across our community

This year, we are continuing to look at new ways to actively join up our local community to provide the best support for young people growing up here. As part of this work, we have launched a community reading project in collaboration with local Independent Schools.

The need for additional literacy support has never been clearer. Research by the Education Endowment Foundation shows that young pupils’ achievement in reading and maths is significantly lower than before the pandemic, and there is a substantial attainment gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils - amounting to around a 7 month gap for children in age 6. In addition to attainment levels, the link between reading and wellbeing is significant. A 2018 report by The National Literacy Trust showed that children who enjoy reading are three times more likely to have good mental wellbeing than children who don’t enjoy it.

We already provide a range of literacy support for young people on the West London Zone programme with our partners Bookmark Reading, Coram Beanstalk, Team Up, Doorstep Library, Children’s Literacy Charity and Catch Up Literacy (which we currently deliver ourselves in five primary schools, growing to 11 in January).

And as part of this wider literacy strategy, this Autumn Term we launched our first reading projects in collaboration with two local independent schools. 16 and 17 year old students in Year 12 from St Paul’s Girls and Queen’s Gate schools have each dedicated 10 weeks of Friday afternoons to read with children at two West London Zone primary schools.

Family situations can often impact on children’s ability to practice reading at home. This reading project aims to help with this by providing children with the opportunity to practise reading with an older student in their community who will support them to engage positively with books. We want to encourage an enjoyment of reading and motivation to read, and to build confidence in reading through this project. The 30 minute 1:1 session also allow each child to build a relationship with another young person in their community, build their social skills and use their imagination to have fun with stories.

St Paul’s Girls and Queen’s Gate schools both have fantastic community outreach programmes for their students to take part in. By reading with primary age children on the WLZ programme as part of their outreach, we hope to provide a way for the students to further connect with their community. Each Link Worker’s understanding of each child’s needs and aims means that they are able to put forward those who would most benefit from this kind of support - ensuring that the efforts of the students have the greatest impact possible.

To ensure the students from St Paul’s Girls and Queen’s Gate are best positioned to engage with young people, they each attended a 2-hour training session, including safeguarding training and tips and approaches to engage and motivate the young people they are supporting. To monitor the impact of this project for WLZ children in combination with other literacy interventions, we measure reading levels at the midpoint and endpoint of each programme. We are also keen to hear from the students providing the reading support on their perceived impact for the children they have worked with, the techniques and approaches that have worked best to engage with the pupils - as well as feedback on what they have got out of the programme.

“I thought that my sessions with [WLZ young people] were a success; she became much more talkative as time went on, eager to engage with me and the book we were reading [...] I also found that bringing multiple books and allowing her to choose which one she wanted to read made her more engaged and interested in the story.” Ella, St Paul’s Girls School

Working with St Paul’s Girls and Queen’s Gate to develop a meaningful partnership that benefits the young people we work with, as well as fostering connection in our shared community has been so rewarding. Following the initial success of these projects, we will be continuing and extending the programme in more schools in the Spring Term and beyond.

Isy Miller, Development Manager (Community and Events)

together, every child and young person can flourish.