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St Columba’s is a Catholic school with Christ’s teachings of love, peace and justice at the heart of all we do

St Columba’s Catholic Primary School is situated on the outskirts of Birmingham. The school serves a community which faces considerable social and economic challenges. It is within one of the most disadvantaged wards in the UK.  In spite of this children have good attitudes to learning and enjoy the involvement in school life. The school is slightly smaller than the average sized primary school and is above the national average in terms of Free School Meals.

The school has seen an upward trend in terms of children’s reading attainment over the past year, showing although many children arrive at the school below age appropriate, more are leaving at age appropriate and many making better than expected progress (2013 – 92% achieving level 4 with 59% Level 5, pre SAT testing as results will be out in July 2013)


We believe that children need to use a range of skills to become a competent reader. As a school we use Oxford Reading Tree books, which include phonically decodable books, as well as ‘real’ books, which are banded, using the book bands scheme.


The provision for children’s reading is meticulously organised, from when children start in reception through to becoming literate 11-year-olds. Teachers read good quality texts to children as part of literacy lessons and there is time just before lunch dedicated just to reading. All year groups have story time during the week where the children listen to a variety of stories read by the class teacher.


Each class has a reading area with a variety of non-fiction and fiction books. Curriculum targets for reading for each year group are identified on a half termly basis and are on display in each classroom.


Early Years and Key Stage 1

In Reception and Key Stage 1 there is a structured phonic scheme, Floppy Phonics, that is systematic in the way it allows the pupils to develop their reading skills. Pupils are taught at their levels across the three classes each day for 25 minutes. These groups are kept as small as possible to allow targeted work at the correct level and this process allows us to show good achievement in their decoding skills with above average levels of attainment shown in the 2012 phonics check.


They are also introduced to the related Oxford Reading Tree scheme which continues their reading development with books containing the familiar characters from the phonics scheme. Pupils are encouraged to use their phonic techniques to read the books and as they increase in difficulty as they go through the stage they develop an awareness of the construction of story lines and character development on a simple basis. These books form the resource materials for weekly guided reading sessions within the class. These sessions look at reading ability and also their comprehension of what they are reading.


This works well with our reading levels from the SAT testing at the end of Year 2 showing our pupils have achieved at least levels consistent with other schools nationally. From a base below national averages when they begin school, this shows the process is effective.


Key Stage 2

In Key Stage 2 (and for the better readers towards the end of Key Stage 1) we begin to move from the Oxford Reading Tree scheme into real books. Our books are banded according to the complexity involved in reading. Pupils are able to choose books from the different levels that will enhance their reading abilities.  There are Project X books which appeal to many children, but are designed to engage boys more in their reading than others.


Weekly guided reading sessions takes place with a range of good quality fiction or non-fiction group sets. Here the Project X scheme is used to stimulate an interest in reading for boys and other materials to form a carousal of activities is planned for the guided reading sessions which always include at least: guided teacher focus session, post activity session and pleasure for reading.


Daily reading sessions are designed to develop a love of reading and pupils are encouraged to bring in their own books or choose from their class libraries. Parental support is also prevalent within Key Stage 2 and they allow pupils to practice their reading and comprehension skills.


Years 5 & 6 begin to look at more complex texts and develop deeper reading skills by utilising extracts from classic books or other longer books broken into chapters.  Teachers plan lessons that allow them to question pupils about what they are reading and probe the children about what authors styles indicate about the characters and story lines.

All teachers have had training in developing children’s reading skills and assessing their progress using reading APP and level descriptors. There is a consistent planning format for guided reading sessions with an Introduction, Strategy check, independent reading/task and return/ respond to text.  Evaluations are made on the same planning grid.

The school has also been the lead school in a Comenius funded project on reading. The partnership between other schools in the UK, Italy and Sweden has led to a lot of exciting reading based activities. These activities have enhanced the pupils enthusiasm for reading. More information can be found at the following link.