Saturday, 24 March 2012

Moving English Forward and more

I really enjoyed giving a course at Heath Books earlier this week on ways to promote reading through the secondary school library. The timing was perfect, in light of the new Ofsted publication Moving English Forward. One of the report’s chief recommendations is that schools do more to promote reading enjoyment, the main topic of our day. Lots of brilliant ideas emerged. I especially admire one librarian’s practice of taking a laden book trolley to year 7-10 tutor groups, a great strategy for reaching students who don’t come to the library. We heard about lovely inter-actions between students and authors. Samantha MacIntosh brought a quiz to enable students to find out which of her book characters they are most like, and even more impressively, produced themed cupcakes for everyone. A girl at one school had such a long and impassioned email correspondence with Robert Muchamore that he is naming one of the characters in his next book after her. The photo shows author Tanya Landsman at King Edward VI School Lichfield.

Another key theme in the report is the importance of reading across the curriculum, something I strongly believe in. Many students who are not attracted to reading in English may well get the bug through their interest in some other subject. It’s a topic we tackled on Wednesday, and one that continues to preoccupy me, as I am preparing inset for a secondary school in Brent on ways to support reading skills and enjoyment through every subject area. My research has included extremely useful discussions with a maths teacher, a citizenship teacher and a head of humanities from a diversity of schools, who have given me lots of wonderful ideas.

The new report highlights the need for more support for students at the transition from key stage 2 to 3, another area we discussed on the course. One of the delegates works in Southwark, where a ground-breaking book award scheme brings together years 6 and 7.

I am delighted that Ofsted is at last taking reading enjoyment seriously and will be looking at whole school reading culture. The new report does not sufficiently address the key role of school libraries and librarians, but at least inspectors in the future will have less excuse for missing the library out. A Swedish teacher who attended Wednesday’s course told me that Sweden has just made school libraries compulsory. If only attitudes were as enlightened here.

The secondary school library course is being repeated on 17 May.