Helping pupils catch up after lockdown with Premier League Reading Stars

23 Sep 2020
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Jim Sells, our Sport and Literacy Programme Manager, explores the ways football can motivate children who have fallen behind with their reading skills after such a significant period away from the classroom.

A back of the net moment?

Here’s some good news or a back of the net moment, if you want to put it into footballing terms… Research from the National Literacy Trust has shown that lots of children have been enjoying reading more throughout lockdown.

However, we know from EEF research that all the work that has been done in the past decade to close the attainment gap between those not meeting expected standards (largely from disadvantaged homes) and those who are, is lost. There are also the 700,000 disadvantaged pupils who have not been able to access online learning throughout the lockdown, and the 1 in 4 children who didn’t have access to physical books of their own or library books at this time.

As we return to school life, where does this leave us? Schools are welcoming pupils back who have fallen even further behind with their reading skills. And their motivation.

The half-time talk

This is looking a lot like 3-0 down at half-time for our disadvantaged pupils. None of us want to let these children down and we want to give them every chance in life. Strong literacy skills are the beating heart of opportunity and social mobility, so let’s get our heads up, get out there, and give them what they need. We go again!

An open goal

Happily we have a match winner. Please welcome on to the pitch: Premier League Reading Stars.

“I am using PLRS as the perfect catch-up programme for children who have fallen behind during the lockdown period. In fact, our sessions start next week!” Fiona Meer, Low Ash Primary School, Bradford.

For those that don’t know, this is a FREE 10 week reading intervention for pupils in Years 5 and 6 that improves reading skills and attitudes to reading. It has been developed in partnership with the Premier League and is part of the hugely popular Premier League Primary Stars programme. Let’s look at how this is going to help your pupils catch up.

“I am planning to use the excellent Premier League Reading Stars as it offers a real chance for children that have fallen behind during the lockdown to catch up and to engage them to add new skills. I know the children will progress their reading with a scheme that has a proven record with my reluctant readers, to help bring a joy to their reading with a winning team environment.” Robin Hiley, Sparkenhoe Primary School, Leicester.

How do we re-engage pupils?

We know that reading for pleasure is an integral part of the only three forwards you’ll ever need: reading skills, reading behaviours and reading attitudes. We can’t make someone enjoy reading, but we can work with what they already enjoy. Cheeky.

Reading Stars provides engaging and relevant activities and content, all linked to the beautiful game of football. Pupils can read about what they are interested in, in a range of formats that are still not always recognised reading (online, magazines, non-fiction and more) – although we know that all reading counts. By focusing on what they do enjoy, children won’t actually realise that they are enjoying reading until it’s too late and we have secured them as confident readers. It’s a little ‘literacy by deceit’ but we’ll take that.

How do we get their skills back up to scratch?

Drills. Reading Stars leads pupils through some key reading skills, including comprehension skills and looking at the difference between fact and opinion, as well as supporting them to select texts at the right level for them and more. All through fun and football-themed activities that support the national curriculum.

Does this approach work?

Evaluation of Premier League Reading Stars has shown that 3 out of 4 pupils make at least 6 months’ progress in reading in just 10 weeks, with 1 in 3 making a year’s progress or more. In terms of attitudes, 7 out of 10 pupils say they are now proud to be readers as a result of taking part.

How do I get it?

To find out more, including the opportunity to watch some short ‘training’ films, visit: https://plprimarystars.com/register/readingstars.

Here you can register as a Premier League Reading Stars teacher and download all of the content and activities – all for free.

Let’s get these pupils back in to school, happy, confident and quickly caught up, where we can. For those pupils that enjoy football (and even for those that don’t, we have found), but not so much reading, Reading Stars is a fun and effective tool to help you achieve this.

I'll leave the last word to one of our players: The Premier League project has changed my life because I NEVER used to read.”