Charnock Hall Primary School

Small steps mean big gains in just two terms – and not only for the pupils.

The Context

Charnock Hall is a primary school in Sheffield, with capacity for 420 pupils aged 4 to 11. In January 2015, the school joined Achievement for All's Achieving Early Firm Foundation pilot, linking it with the 'Making It REAL' programme (Raising Early Achievement in Literacy). The school decided to focus on improving outcomes and progress, narrowing the gap for children in need of additional support with learning – and literacy in particular.

Five children from one reception class were selected to form the focus group. All children in the focus group entered the programme at below age-related expectations in reading and writing.

The Impact of Achieving Early Firm Foundation

Key staff were trained in the 'Taking Time for Talk' method of conducting conversations with parents and carers. In addition to this extra focused support, the teacher also undertook additional one-to-one reading sessions with the focus group of children, and organised fortnightly trips to the school library to choose new books.

After just one term of the Achieving Early Firm Foundation linked to the ‘Making It REAL’ project, 100% of the focus group had made at least expected progress in reading and writing, although some of them had still not reached age expected levels.

In terms of attainment by the end of the autumn term 2015, 60% of the focus children were assessed as having met national expectations. The other 40% were rapidly closing the gap and making accelerated progress.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Leader at Charnock Hall said: “We have noticed the difference in the confidence in children’s reading skills and their interests in reading books. We have created a greater parent partnership and developed friendships within the group... The children have all enjoyed the reading sessions and have made great progress in their confidence with reading. The children are all making progress with their literacy skills and are more confident to access books in the book corner”.

In a very short space of time, the programme also had a dramatic impact on the school's senior leadership team (SLT). As the leader reported, they now “have a more informed understanding of EYFS [Early Years Foundation Stage], the curriculum, settings, and our aims and achievements... By highlighting the group of children we have had the opportunity to work with SLT who have supported me and the EYFS team with data collection for the group and also the cohort.”