New Year, New Blog!

I love the autumn. New school year, new energy, new stationery and this year- new blog !

I’m a Centre Manager for the literacy charity Springboard for Children and this is my dream job. I’ve been working in education for many years in a variety of teaching and management roles but this really is the most rewarding job I’ve ever done. It is a privilege and a joy to spend half an hour, twice a week with a child and really get to grips with why they are finding learning to read and write more difficult than their classmates. This is a luxury that class teachers don’t have and why Springboard tuition is so vital in preventing underachievement.

The aim of this monthly blog will be to give readers an insight into the work we do: the daily triumphs and set-backs, the dedication of our team members, the support from our school staff and most of all the experiences of the children.

This time of year we are busy assessing new students.  So how do we choose the pupils who make up the fifteen that we support each week?  The priority at my school is early intervention so we target Year 1 and 2 children (5, 6 and 7 year olds). We need to work with children before low self esteem really takes hold and hampers progress.

At the beginning of term, we meet with the school’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) who uses the school’s assessment data to highlight which children are causing concern. This time there were about double the number we had places for so we decided to assess all these children’s letter/sound knowledge. We had seven children continuing from last year so we had only eight places to fill. We chose children who had delayed speech and language combined with low scores for letter/sound knowledge. We also prioritised children who had good oral language but not the expected progress in phonics, reading and writing.

The first few weeks with our new students are a vital time. We soon get to know each child’s gaps in knowledge and strengths to build on. Gradually their personalities emerge. At first they can be really shy and reluctant to make mistakes like Aaron* with the beautiful smile and the constant refrain “I don’t know”.  Josh* wriggles in his seat, fiddles with everything on the table and asks “have I finished now?” every few minutes. These five year olds need short tasks with plenty of encouragement and opportunities for success.  We can’t take anything for granted: Josh doesn’t always remember that words and sentences must be tackled from left to right. Amy* doesn’t understand the words first and last when asked questions about what happened in a story. Last year I worked with a child who didn’t know the difference between a letter and a number at the beginning of the year.

Our returning children remind us of how much progress can be made in a school year. Cameron* had a reading age of less than 4 years 6 months when he started Springboard aged 6 last September, by June he had improved to 6 years 3 months. He used to be very stressed by reading; becoming tearful easily if he was faced with a new task which he decided was too difficult. Cameron still needs work on reading and spelling to help him catch up with his classmates but his new-found confidence and enthusiasm will make all the difference in his progress towards this goal. His dad said today

“I can’t say enough about what Springboard has done for my son. I can see him at home using his phonics when he is doing his homework, when we are on the bus looking at signs, everywhere we go he is reading now. I’m so proud of him”

That’s what Springboard is all about and a good note to end on. Look out for the next blog and in the meantime please comment or ask questions below. To find out more about Springboard for Children follow the links.

*All children’s names have been changed.

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