School with focus on reading leaps up to top Ofsted ranking

READING Pupils Faith Powell, 11, Olivia Taylor, 10, Tom Waller, 11 and Ellie Carruthers, 11, get stuck in to the book War Horse.  Picture: Allan Hutchings (121537-973)
READING Pupils Faith Powell, 11, Olivia Taylor, 10, Tom Waller, 11 and Ellie Carruthers, 11, get stuck in to the book War Horse. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121537-973)
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A SCHOOL that has put reading at its heart is celebrating getting the best possible Ofsted grade – just four years after being put on the bottom rung.

Red Barn Primary in Portchester has shot up from ‘notice to improve’ to ‘outstanding’ – a feat which is all the more extraordinary against the backdrop of tougher inspection guidelines introduced in January.

Last year, every single school-leaver achieved their expected levels in reading and writing – up from 61 per cent in 2009 – and the school now counts itself as 42nd most-improved in the country from 2009 to 2011.

Headteacher Rena Randall, described as an ‘inspirational leader’ in the report, has signed up to The News campaign Read All About It to boost literacy.

She said: ‘Literacy is the key to our success. If a child can’t read, they can’t access the rest of the curriculum.

‘I want to turn out literate and numerate children, that’s what we’re here to do.

‘You only get one chance – and we’ve got to give them the best so they have choices later in life.’

She added: ‘I’m delighted with the report. Ofsted has recognised the journey we’ve been on and the incredibly hard work of everybody in the school.

‘We’re a great team and all our children are making at least expected progress. Now we will see that progress accelerate.’

Red Barn is a school that has succeeded against the odds.

Numbers of special needs children and those on free school meals are above national averages, and skill levels when they enter in reception are well below those expected for their age.

But by the end of Key Stage One, achievement is hitting national averages and school-leavers are exceeding expectation.

Inspectors heaped praise on outstanding teaching, attainment, behaviour, leadership and a ‘focus on teaching literacy’.

Every day children up to the age of eight have up to 40 minutes of phonics teaching – which breaks down words into sounds.

And children choose their own topics to translate their skill of reading into a love of reading.

Boys and girls are tiered into so-called ‘guided’ groups according to their ability across all subjects including literacy.

Their work is marked daily, so that any child who is ahead or behind the group can be moved into a more appropriate class.

Guided reading takes place every day, whether it is in the classroom or at the local library. And each class has a dedicated text which is read to the class so the children pick up the ‘musicality of the book’.

Ellie Carruthers, 11, is reaping the benefits of her guided reading lessons.

She said: ‘It is great fun reading with people who are at the same level as you are.

‘We’re reading War Horse by Michael Morpurgo at the moment which I can’t wait to finish. I love horses and I’m learning a lot of interesting facts about the war.’