Reading is key to learning for students at South Shields school

South Shields School students enjoying their reading.
South Shields School students enjoying their reading.

The writing is on the wall for students striving to improve their literacy skills at a South Tyneside school.

Thanks to a complete overhaul of the special educational needs provision at South Shields School, it is now supporting almost a quarter of students with a range of measures designed to boost reading and writing.

It’s about helping them develop a love of reading

Jackie Mitchell

Special educational needs co-ordinator Jackie Mitchell is being backed by three full-time support staff, a deputy, three teaching class support workers and a cover supervisor helping children with special needs in a mainstream setting.

This team works with around 130 students with a high range of needs.

Initiatives include a staged reading programme to help them reach their chronological reading ages.

The on-line reading programmes Lexia and Accelerated Reader are also being accessed as part of the school’s premier aim to improve literacy.

A new tiered approach, monitored throughout the year, sees students reading for a minimum of 20 minutes at the beginning of every day.

In-class support is supplemented by one-to-one help involving reading and phonics, and hand-writing skills intervention is also helping some students qualify for a scribe to help them with written work.

Parents of SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) students are being encouraged to take an interest through the introduction of special coffee mornings where they can talk to each other and staff about provision.

Mrs Mitchell said: “Literacy is one of our major focuses as we support students in accessing their GCSEs by helping them attain a reading age of at least 14.

“It’s about helping them develop a love of reading which stops them from being disaffected because they can understand what is going on.”

Alongside a lot of in-class support, literacy and numeracy intervention, the school also supports students with self-esteem, anxiety issues and social skill development, and tries to enable students to thrive within the classroom.

In some cases, students have improved their reading age by three years in just four months, with many reading out in class for the first time, which has boosted their confidence.

Mrs Mitchell said: “The department is willing to work so hard to make sure we get it right for the students.”