Freemantle C of E Community Academy

Nearly half of pupils at Freemantle C of E Community Academy speak English as an additional language (EAL), and almost all are new to English when they arrive. With a quarter also eligible for Pupil Premium, the school aims to open up opportunities for every child by getting them on track with their reading. Many children join the school part of the way through the year, and there is often quite limited information available about their previous education. To make sure that all pupils have the opportunity to fly high with their reading skills whatever their circumstances, Freemantle introduced Lexplore’s reading assessment programme.

Seeing beyond the barriers…

Almost all Freemantle’s EAL pupils are new to English when they arrive at the school, while others are practically bilingual. With varying levels of fluency all in one classroom, identifying able readers and spotting those who struggle can pose a challenge. It can also be hard to make a completely objective assessment of native English speakers’ reading as Adam Luxford, ICT lead at Freemantle Academy explains.

Often the most enthusiastic, verbally articulate story tellers in the class appear to be strong readers, but some of them may be held back by hidden difficulties which are harder to detect. We want to root out any reading difficulties as soon as we can so we can help pupils make progress. Lexplore provides us with a completely unbiased way to assess our children, regardless of their situation and background.

Assessment without preconception…

With this objective in mind, every pupil from Years 2 to 5 took the Lexplore reading assessment which uses eye tracking technology to monitor a child’s eye movements when they are reading from a screen. By monitoring how a child’s eyes move backwards and forwards across a passage of text, and measuring how long their eyes fixate on a word, Lexplore identifies differences in the cognitive processes behind a child’s reading. Lexplore’s machine learning technology completely removes the influence of external factors, providing an objective and reliable overview of reading. For Freemantle, the results presented an interesting picture.

Although we have a high proportion of EAL pupils, the tests showed that our school’s reading attainment is on par with nationally expected levels. But, what really helped is that the assessments pointed to specific problem areas in some pupil’s reading which we can easily address, such as issues with reading speed, difficulty with sounds and a lack of confidence reading aloud. ” 

The tests highlighted physical difficulties too. One pupil found it difficult to focus on the words with both eyes. This indicated that he might need glasses to correct his vision, so we spoke to his parents about arranging a sight test.

Uncovering new insights…

Lexplore’s eye tracking technology gives schools a fresh perspective on reading attainment which can’t always be achieved using traditional assessment methods alone.

You get a fascinating insight from actually seeing how a child reads – how their eyes move, where they get stuck and which words they may have to go back to re-read. One of the tests involved reading aloud and one reading silently. We found that those who read faster out loud tended to be children who do not read at home and often come from low-income backgrounds. Knowing this has given us an opportunity to work directly with these families and encourage more reading at home.

The next step for Freemantle is to work with Lexplore and put interventions in place to help all pupils build their reading skills.

Saving time for teachers…

With many children needing additional support, Freemantle’s teachers have a heavy workload.

One of the main reasons we chose Lexplore is because it frees up so much time. Previously it took teachers an entire term to do accurate assessments for their whole class, with most of this time being used to write up findings to a similar level of detail. This meant we ran the risk of not identifying a child that needed support until later in the term, missing valuable intervention time

By contrast, 200 children went through the assessment process over one week. Within five minutes of each assessment, we had accurate results of reading activity and attainment. Teachers can also log onto the online portal from home, so when completing their final year assessments, they can listen and watch past recordings to easily see how that child progressed over the year.

Collaborative working…

One of the key benefits of Lexplore is the analysis tool which presents assessment results clearly using visuals and graphics. This enables schools to easily share results with staff, governors, and Ofsted, and Freemantle plans to use the data at parents’ evenings to engage families in their child’s reading goals. The system’s flexibility allows schools to tailor their assessment programmes to the needs of their pupils, as Adam has found.

We can add our own notes to the system during the test, which give us the opportunity to record anything that might affect a child’s results or to add ideas of how we can help that child. The support from the team at Lexplore has been incredible. Their motivation is to provide the best service possible for pupils and schools. It feels like a two-way partnership.

As more schools like Freemantle Academy use Lexplore, their artificial intelligence (AI) technology continues to learn from new data. And the more the system is used, the more accurate the overview of reading it can give, to the benefit of schools and their pupils.

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