Children in Daventry are about to benefit from a £1 million fund which is being distributed to schools in Northamptonshire to spend on projects that will help to raise young people’s aspirations.
The cash has been made available as part of Northamptonshire County Council’s Race To The Top strategy, which aims to make Northamptonshire one of the highest-performing counties for education by 2020.
One of the schools to be awarded a grant is The Grange School, which has been given £41,000 to fund a project designed to ensure pupils can read fluently and confidently by the time they leave primary school.
The Grange will share its findings and best practice identified by the scheme with other local schools - Falconers Hill Junior School, Falconers Hill Infant School, St James Infant School, The Abbey Junior School and Ashby Fields Primary School - so they too can benefit.
Jo Sanchez, the school’s director of achievement, said: “We are focusing on reading because a recent report identified that the levels of reading attainment among children in Daventry was below average.
“Our outcomes as a school have been very good but we are always working to make them better.
“Reading is a vital life skill, a cornerstone of children’s education and a bedrock of future learning. Over the next year we will be introducing several programmes to help raise children’s literacy levels.
“We will identify what programmes work best and why, and what programmes do not work and why. We will then share this knowledge and information with the other schools so they can apply it to improve their own children’s reading skills.”
Last November, Save the Children published a report, entitled Reading England’s Future, which showed that reading disadvantage varies markedly across the country and that in many places there is a long climb ahead to ensure all 11-year-olds are able to read well.
In the study, Daventry and Calder Valley were identified as being similar rural constituencies – yet, while in Calder Valley 83 per cent of 11 year-olds read well, in Daventry the figure is just 58 per cent.
The Grange is recruiting a specially trained teacher to deliver a programme known as Reading Recovery and which originates from New Zealand. This involves daily one-to-one lessons for children experiencing reading difficulties.
The school in Staverton Road is also introducing schemes, paid for with its Race To The Top grant, aimed at enabling children to develop other important life skills and improve their life chances.
Ms Sanchez added: “We will also be hiring a drama teacher to help children develop their speaking skills and build their self-confidence so they are not afraid to express their feelings.
“Classes on what we call mindfulness will strengthen the mental resilience of children, so they are better able to cope with the stresses of life and remain good learners.
“In the holidays we will be running Summer Fun Time, a sort of summer school which will help children to get back into the swing of learning in the week before they go back to school.
“We are also encouraging parents to take a greater interest in their children’s education by giving them opportunities to come into the classroom.
“Another thing we have been doing is working with the University of Northampton and Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership to show parents the career opportunities that are available for their children and the potential they have in life.”
Daventry’s Parker E-Act Academy and Guilsborough School are involved in a Race To The Top project being steered by Sponne School. Its goal is to improve the proportion of pupils achieving top grades in English and maths by sharing good practice, as well as improving pastoral support and supporting pupils’ post-16 choices.
Parker E-Act Academy is participating in a second scheme targeted at young people with autistic spectrum disorder who either do not attend school or attend part-time due to extreme social anxiety and need support to help them adjust back into education.
The school will collaborate with Hospital and Outreach Education, a pupil referral unit, Northampton College, University of Northampton, Autism Concern, National Autistic Society and others.