Saturday 16th December 2017

Our Road to Reading Success

This term we are celebrating our significant progress in encouraging reading for pleasure amongst our boys.

When Ofsted visited us in January 2016, although we were praised for doing many things very well, concern was raised about the provision of opportunities to read, in particular for pleasure. We were already aware of our difficulties in this area: we had  enjoyed the resource of a well-managed library in our old school building, but now, in our smaller new building, every inch of space was required for teaching; also, as all our students are boys, one reluctant reader could sometimes influence another.

The challenge of turning everything around fell to our Literacy co-ordinator, Miss Sarah Griffiths. Sarah quickly realised that our first step had to be the sacrifice of a large teaching space to be given over to reading. Then we had to fill it with lots and lots of glorious books. We accepted fiction and non-fiction donated from departments and individuals. More importantly, Sarah also set about doing her research. What would our boys like to read? What were their interests? She asked them, and, through the information gleaned, built up our library. A few soft chairs and an attractive display of blurbs about and quotations from popular children’s books, pictures of authors and their characters, made a voluntary reading experience look like a comfortable and inviting idea for pupils at breaks and lunchtimes. They came in to read in their droves.

Each Department then developed their own ‘Great Read’ wall, on a large partition in their central hub areas, meaning that pupils and teachers alike found their eyes drawn to subject-related readers. Photographs of staff and children reading their favourite books adorned the walls and windows, with sometimes a humorous caption such as ‘Guess the member of staff’ hiding behind the covers of a book in which s/he was immersed. Teachers also shared a picture of the cover of their ‘favourite’ or ‘current’ read on doors of offices and classrooms.

On a more formal basis, reading was made part of the curriculum, with one session per week being given over specifically to Year 7s to read suitably adapted pre-twentieth century classics. ‘Dracula’, ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘The Three Musketeers’ proved very popular here.

Literacy co-ordinators in each department received training in different reading skills, in particular some of the higher order reading skills that we needed to develop in our pupils. Sarah set up very regular DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) days, and she also developed a Year 7 Reading booklet. This booklet contained passages for reading from all subject areas in the Year 7 curriculum, and tasks designed to challenge a range of types of reading skills. The idea was that each subject area would have these booklets for a short period of time with their Year 7 classes and then they would be passed on to another subject area.

In June 2016 90 pupils took part in the Guinness World Record for reading, and in July Liverpool School Improvement awarded Cardinal Heenan a silver Reading Quality mark for improvement in reading. We were thrilled with this.

Looking ahead, Sarah feels that many subjects are now more confident about producing their own reading materials and resources for developing and testing reading skills in a new Year 8 Reading Booklet, which she will be compiling soon. DEAR days are continuing, and school display areas continue to fill with not just teacher-generated resources, but more and more of our pupils’ own reflections on their reading experiences. The future of reading at Cardinal Heenan is looking good.

Year 11 pupil helps Year 7 boys with their reading


“Love your neighbour as yourself.”
Matthew 22:39


Philanthropist (noun)

"A person who seeks to promote the welfare of others, especially by the generous donation of money to good causes."


The First Christmas (Advent)

"She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."