Megan Nee is a Literacy Coordinator and English teacher at St Anslem’s Catholic School, one of five secondary and 14 primary schools within Kent Catholic Schools’ Partnership, who she joined in February 2020. Since the start of the 2021-22 academic year, however, Megan has also taken on a Trust-wide role, working across all secondary schools to support the implementation of the Tutor Time Reading Programme. For 20 minutes at a time, every day of the week, the programme sees form tutors reading books aloud whilst each student follows along using a tracker in their own copy of the book.
Outlining her mission to “make reading a priority, raise its profile, and deliver excellent CPD to support teachers”, Megan hopes that this will “shortcut some of the answers to common questions across schools” and lead to more best-practice sharing within the Trust. “Literacy is the beating heart of any school improvement plan,” she explained. “We need to make it structured, habitual and routine, and develop a consciousness that culturally all teachers are responsible for improving literacy rates. In our secondary schools, we have pockets of students who are not at their chronological reading age, and in some cases years below where they should be. More and more Year 7 children are not secondary-ready having made the transition from primary, and Tutor Time Reading gives them extra reading support which is mutually enjoyable for both students and tutors.”
Under the Tutor Time Reading Programme, form tutors model fluent and expressive reading whilst highlighting difficult language to close the vocabulary gap and expose students to high-level words. “We found out about Tutor Time Reading after a teacher in one of our Dover schools read a case study on Greenshaw Learning Trust, and we got our follow-on inspiration from that,” Megan revealed. “We trialled it in one school last year and it has been in development in four other schools since September 2021. As yet we do not have enough data analysis, of course, to point to firm conclusions about the programme’s impact. But from a student perspective we know that Tutor Time Reading has acted as a really good settling-in activity and left them ready to learn in the first period. We also know students love being read to, it gives them purpose and consistency, every day.”
Through the Tutor Time Reading Programme, Megan added that staff have reported how “they know their tutees in a more structured way, and understand them on a different wave length. The texts, genres and ideas coming through – these have to be right for individual schools and their context – and they have not had before.”
Going forward, Megan said that as well as ‘hard’ measurement around having as many students as possible at, or above, their chronological reading age, her aspiration was for the Tutor Time Reading Programme to support a cultural shift within the Trust. “We want students to see themselves as readers, getting in the habit of it, and as part of that for Tutor Time Reading to improve footfall in libraries,” she explained. “By that, I mean we are doing a lot of reading of first texts of a book series within classroom settings, and we want students to seek out the second and third books on their own.”
She continued: “Teachers should clearly see their role in improving literacy rates and be developing their own displays of Tutor Time Reading in their classrooms to build awareness. Anecdotally we want them to spark conversations on book choices and inspire a love of reading, improving the reading for pleasure mindset in school. Developing competent and confident readers will lead to reading for pleasure.”
To deliver the Tutor Time Reading Programme, and a range of texts which can be used across five years of school, the Trust needed a partner. MBE Books has been supplying books to thousands of schools for over 30 years and offers an unrivalled service delivering all orders for stock titles the following day. All books come supplied and fitted with free plastic jackets, saving schools a lot of time and prolonging the life of the books. Megan said: “MBE Books have been absolutely amazing to work with. They were recommended by one of our schools and now we are using them in Tutor Time. The plastic jackets have been particularly popular with staff, and practically are very beneficial, but generally the team are just so responsive and quick to reply. If they do not have a book, they will find it for us. We get such a brilliant service.”
Case study developed: February 2022