Understanding true need – with NGRT
Committed to achieving that uniformity in reading assessment and teaching, the NET opted to use GL Assessment’s New Group Reading Test (NGRT). This standardised, termly, adaptive assessment allowed them to truly understand the picture of reading comprehension across all of the Trust’s schools.
Alexandra says, “We thought that NGRT was likely to identify significant need across certain age groups, and that a large number of children would require some kind of reading intervention. We had some students scoring well, but as the NGRT results are standardised, it became much clearer that there was more we could, and should, be doing to assist the reading development of those in the primary age groups in particular.”
An effective intervention
Armed with the knowledge, after using NGRT, that around 46% of Trust students, aged between 11 and 14, were performing below their age expectation, it was clear that an intervention programme was needed. The Trust wasted no time in finding one.
“Our values are all about serving the needs of our students in the most effective way possible, and sometimes that means implementing change which may once have seemed radical,” continues Alexandra.
“We began investigating Lexonik, and the capability of their learning systems seemed exactly what we needed, in order to improve our literacy outlook. Our senior leadership team developed a clear reading intervention programme for any child who fell below functional literacy, and we were measuring this against the reading age scores from NGRT. Lexonik has various literacy and vocabulary products but, for us, it was Leap and Advance which were the standout solutions.
“We could incorporate these very well into our intervention programme and we would – most importantly – be able to get a clear and evolving picture of what improvement was taking place among the students who had initially been struggling the most.”
Lexonik’s Advance programme is suitable for students with a standardised reading score of 85 – 115 and supports reading, spelling, vocabulary and comprehension. Their Leap programme is for students scoring 85 and below who find reading particularly challenging, as well as for EAL students.
Alexandra said: “The results have been quite phenomenal, and the confidence and resilience this has built in our students is something we could never have expected.”
Northern Education Trust North Shore Academy is a case in point. After testing with NGRT, students were placed in three intervention groups who followed the Advance programme from September-December 2021. Over this relatively short period, the average reading age increased by 37-60 months across the three groups and the average standardised score increased by 15-28 points.
Alexandra’s positive verdict is shared by her colleagues. She says the approach absolutely confirms the idea that when learning capacity is improved, so does the personal level of self-esteem and self-belief in that child.
She continues, “We were blown away by how quickly Lexonik Advance showed us the success across the Trust. We had high expectations but we were new to the concept of a reading intervention, and were not sure of the results we might expect. It unmistakably builds confidence and makes students feel more resilient. They’re working out ways to decode words for themselves which produces a level of assertiveness and pride.
“What we then see with that increased confidence is children managing their behaviour better, and coping with other aspects of the curriculum. What more could a teacher want for their students?”
Everyone on board
Of equal importance to Northern Education Trust has been ensuring that the use of the intervention approach is perceived as fitting and favourable, not only with students but with their parents and, naturally, staff across the academies.
Alexandra accepts that there was some initial nervousness: “As it’s an intervention, students are being withdrawn from lessons so teachers were initially a little resistant – but then they see the results when the children return and they couldn’t be more happy to champion what we’re doing.
“Parents too are very happy with the outcomes. They see how they benefit their child more holistically – beyond an enhancement to reading by itself. As we move forward, we’ll be doing more whole-school training, rather than just training a few teachers in each academy, but it’s absolutely clear to us that we’ve formed a great partnership in using NGRT and Lexonik’s undeniably successful solution.”