Two years ago we launched a trust-wide approach to making sure that our young people have the reading skills to be able to access the curriculum. Too many students in our secondary schools were not reading at an age-appropriate level. We knew how limiting this would be for them and resolved to support those with the biggest gaps to catch up.
Thinking Reading is a 1:1 intervention programme specifically designed for secondary-age pupils who, for one reason or another, have not yet learned to read fluently and accurately. Three of our secondary schools were already using the scheme and reported positive impact data. We recruited the first wave of Reading Mentors in summer 2021 to work in our secondary schools and deliver the programme to pupils who were in some cases more than 5 years behind. Since then we’ve expanded the programme to be able to reach a wider cohort of pupils and have supported them to improve their reading skills so that they can read fluently and accurately.
Thinking Reading is a fast-paced, intensive programme and the training is in-depth and rigorous to ensure that Reading Mentors are both confident and competent in their delivery of the programme. The first round of training starts with a comprehensive introduction to reading: how we learn to read, why reading problems exist and a discussion on some of the myths about the causes of poor reading. The bulk of the time is spent practising the assessment of individual students’ reading and learning to analyse the results. There’s a deliberate gap between the first round of training and the second to allow Reading Mentors to practise what they have learned. The second round of training focusses on lesson delivery. Lessons are bespoke to each student’s individual learning history and must be planned carefully to build on prior learning.
"All pupils read regularly in school and teachers are trained in how to help pupils to read in their subjects. Pupils’ reading is successfully enhanced as a result."
- Wayland Academy Ofsted, 2023
A day in the life of a Reading Mentor
A Reading Mentor will have 12-16 students on their books at any one time. Each student has three 30-minute lessons across the week and it takes about 15 minutes to prepare each one. In a typical day, a Reading Mentor will spend an hour preparing the morning’s lessons and then see 4 students back to back, with a short break between the first two. After a half hour lunch break, the Reading Mentor has half an hour to prepare the remaining two lessons of the day. In the last hour of the day, the Reading Mentor assesses a student new to the school who has been referred for assessment. The Reading Mentor finishes the day by emailing the teachers of the students they have taught that day to fill them in on the progress made by the students and the current areas of focus.
"Supporting pupils who struggle with reading is a high priority. The school quickly identifies the specific barriers to reading. Expert teachers put help in place to support pupils. This helps pupils to catch up swiftly in developing their reading knowledge. Consequently, they rapidly become confident and fluent readers."
- Hewett Academy Ofsted, 2023
Want to be a Reading Mentor?
If you’ve got an eye for detail, the ability to multi-task and the warmth and patience that will get the best out of our students, then we want you! If you’ve got experience as a Teaching Assistant or working with secondary-age pupils in a teaching, tutoring or coaching capacity, then you’re well-placed to fulfil the role of Reading Mentor. There’s a lot to keep at the front of your mind when delivering the lessons and you’ll be working on your own for much of the time, so you’ll need to be confident in your own abilities and be able to use your initiative, especially when planning lessons for pupils. Being able to build positive, professional relationships with young people quickly is important, as this provides a foundation for successful learning. Students assessed as suitable for the programme are likely to have struggled with reading for many years and may have negative feelings about learning. We’re particularly keen to recruit a diverse staff body who will add-in, as opposed to fit-in. If you think you can add to our team, we’d love to hear from you.