in Gullane Primary School
Literacy and the Reading Experience in Gullane Primary School
In a recent Parent Carer Council Meeting we held a discussion on the reading
experience in our school. This came up as a result of some comments shared between
parents out of school or in the playground.
Comments such as:
A smaller group of parents met in school to talk through some of these comments and
we agreed it may be useful to discuss/answer the comments as a set of FAQs
frequently asked questions. These appear towards the end of this booklet.
The main focus of the comments was about the apparent pace and level of challenge.
It was also felt that it may be useful to set this leaflet within a context of what has
Reading is key to learning. Accessing and understanding text in its various forms are
important skills. These skills take time to build and develop.
A variety of assessment strategies are employed in order to plan for learning.
Assessments used are:
diagnostic where the results give guidance on next steps for pupils
standardised where the results show where pupils in one school are in relation
to the whole of Scotland
formative where staff keep details on skills across a range of subjects and
guide next steps in learning and teaching
We dont bother much
about the school books
because they are too
My other children
were much further
on at the same
age but their
What my child is reading
at school does not
match what they are
capable of reading at
"my child can read the school books fluently, with
expression and he/she
understands what they are
reading so why are they not
being more challenged","
My child says
book with all the
same words as
Other schools seem to
take a different
East Lothian Council ask that each school carry out PIPS assessments in P1, 3, 5 and
7. PIPS stands for Performance in Primary Schools and is a set of standardised
assessments set by Durham University. The assessments are carried out in school and
are marked by Durham University. This has been a feature in East Lothian primary
schools for about 6 years now.
We use a standardised spelling assessment in each stage from P3-7. A standardised
assessment in reading and maths was introduced in session 2011-2012 to allow us to
gather more information on progress. This will be used again and we will review how
and if this is useful for us.
Using the results of these assessments we found that although pupils made sound
progress at an early age the level of attainment and skill tapered away by the middle
of the school. Pupils were able to read fairly challenging texts but understanding was
limited. In other words the pupils were very good decoders but the understanding
was superficial. There are weak comprehenders and strong comprehenders and they
read in different ways. Weak comprehenders are focusing on decoding text.
(decoding is reading without understanding). Strong comprehenders are able to
activate their background knowledge and build an understanding of the piece and able
to make inferences.
We have spent a good deal of time in past years examining research into the
development of reading from the pre reader to the accomplished and skilled reader.
We have based our approaches on the research. The research has been taken from
recognised and approved sources. This research has shown us that children make
more sound and sustained progress if they are given depth and breadth in reading. It
is important that children are functionally literate.
Research indicates that the skills that contribute most to childrens success in
becoming literate are:
Communication - Mastery of key knowledge and skills and how fluently and
automatically they are applied. Reads a wide range of text confidently
Reads aloud with accuracy, assurance and fluency
Identifies key ideas in independent reading concepts, plots, characters, causes & can
infer, summarise, apply, evaluate & analyse
Is confident to navigate through different kinds of text (including multi-modal and digital
texts), using organisational structures and retrieval devices to locate information
Has developed strategies for understanding the meaning of unfamiliar words
Is confident to initiate and sustain discussion about specific books with adults and peers
in an informed and reasoned way
Engagement and creativity - Willingness to engage wholeheartedly in formal and
informal literacy opportunities, and does so frequently; displays enjoyment, a have a
go attitude, persistence and ability to link and draw on different areas of
experience; enjoys talking about literacy endeavours. Can engage in sustained reading for a reasonable length of time (30 mins)
Can engage with a range of fiction genre and with a variety of non-fiction texts
Engages with ideas in texts imaginatively, and can discuss concepts, plots, characters,
causes and consequences that arise in independent reading
Speculates about characters and outcomes
Is taking control of own reading what, when and how to read
Identity, Reflection and Confidence -View of self as a literate person; aspirations;
confidence; personal/social networks; willingness to review and explain work. Has developed preferences in reading and uses social networks to feed and extend these.
Regards him/herself as a competent reader
Monitors comprehension in independent reading
Reflects purposefully on reading, testing what has been read against other information,
ideas, assumptions, and viewpoints
The research indicated above mainly relates to pupils in P5-7 but the journey starts
at home with you and travels all the way through nursery and into early years and
We spent time examining the level of skill in spelling, handwriting, research reading
and use of non-fiction, story writing, writing of factual reports, writing of personal
reflections, vocabulary knowledge, grammar, punctuation in other words, the full
range of skills and competencies.
We decided that, in order to address all of the key elements in the literacy
outcomes, we are required to give the pupils more depth and challenge within the
literacy agenda. To this end we revised the learning and teaching in the area of
literacy. The new P1 intake parents have been given clear information on our plans and
there is a hand out which supports this- start of sessions 2011 and 2012- also this
current session. A copy of this is available on request.
Question: What is the purpose of my child's school reading book?
The reading books that come home with your child provide a link between home and
school. The work in class is often linked to the familiarity of this book and is used as
a springboard to develop and teach skills e.g. spelling, grammar, punctuation,
comprehension, handwriting, vocabulary knowledge, common and tricky words and so
on. Reading books are one of a range of tools employed to teach some of the complex
reading skills. It is helpful if your child practises reading the school book with you at
home. The school texts are set within a wider range of reading material that is used
Question: Which reading scheme does Gullane PS use?
The key scheme that we work within is called Oxford Reading Tree. The scheme
offers a core trunk of reading material and branches to ensure depth, breadth and
exposure to a range of texts and styles (genres). We use other materials in addition
to the main scheme to support and develop reading skills. As the children move on
through school there is a wide range of varied texts used in order to develop their
reading skills. The texts are age/content appropriate.
A reading scheme will not be able to address all of the areas we are required to cover
and develop but it does offer some structure and it is a recognised and widely used
Question: What is the structure of the reading scheme?
The Oxford Reading Tree scheme is structured to ensure that we are able to
offer/cover the skills that a reader requires to be taught at key stages. These skills
are outlined in an earlier paragraph. A booklet will be provided on request or see
school website for further information.
Question: Does Gullane Primary take a different approach to reading
compared to other schools?
Gullane Primary structures reading very much the same as other schools and we
follow national and local guidance.
Question: What if I feel that my child is not being challenged by the
content of the school texts?
The purpose of the school text is not just about your child being able to read the
words but also to ensure that your child has a sound understanding of the content
and develop fluency, expression, spelling and grammar. It may be worth considering a
variety of extension activities rather than just reading the text. It may be
appropriate that a reading book is used to encourage practise of a specific skill e.g.
reading with expression/fluency/accuracy, extend the story with your child e.g.
prediction, change the outcome, focus on learning specific key words.
If you wish further explanation or guidance you should discuss the matter with your
If your child is an interested reader at home and is reading other texts that have a
more challenging content then that is to be encouraged. A love and enjoyment of
reading is what we aim for.
Why do the books appear to repetitive in terms of language?
The books do repeat language, particularly in the early years, to consolidate learning.
How are reading groups arranged - is it by age or ability?
There are a wide variety of ways to manage learning in a class. It may be mixed
ability, similar ability, focus, interest or any number of other reasons.
Do teachers try to keep children at certain levels to manage the
whole class more easily?
My child can now read should I stop reading aloud to him/her?
Reading aloud to children is one of the best ways to help them discover the joy of
reading. All children, even teenagers, benefit from listening to you reading aloud. By
reading aloud with your child you are helping him/her to become better readers and
better listeners. You are also helping to build vocabulary and language skills.
Supporting your child at home
Occasionally, it may appear to parents that the texts we send home are not as
challenging as a child or a parent would like them to be. It may seem to some that the
texts are too easy. Please trust that we do challenge and develop the childs abilities
using not only the reading book but a variety of other resources to develop security
There may be things parents would like to work on at home and are unsure about
appropriateness. If a parent is an interested and engaged participant in their childs
reading then it is a win/win situation all round.
Please feel free to consider some of the following ideas to enhance and encourage
If a book is on a particular subject find another book on the same subject on a trip to
the library or bookshop, visit a museum, make a model, draw a detailed picture, make
a poster, add a chapter to the story, find tricky words in other texts or in the
general environment, ask what if.. questions, write a review, retell the story in your
own words, turn part of the story into a newspaper report, develop a character
profile, alternative ending, use the characters in a story of your own, make a game
using key words
Again, speaking to the childs class teacher may offer parents some other ideas.
We hope that the information in this leaflet is useful and supportive.
GPS (MT/JD/KMcG) April 2013
Sue Ellis. B.A. (Honours) Class 1, Linguistics and Language Pathology, University of Essex
M.Sc. Human Communication (Medical Research Council funded), Guy's Hospital Medical
P.G.C.E. Primary/Middle School Education (3-14) years specialising in Literacy, Science and
Mathematics, University of Sussex
Curriculum for Excellence Scottish Government
Oxford Reading Tree