Once a teacher has identified that a child is experiencing difficulty with reading, the next step is often to approach the SENCO for an assessment of the child

Support for SENCOs Reading 2: Interventions

It’s worth reminding teachers that there may be sensory problems coming into play for a child who isn’t making good progress with reading. Could there be a visual impairment, or hearing loss? Glue ear affects a large number of children in the Foundation Stage and KS1 − and can mean that they miss out on a lot of learning. Phonics in particular, can be a mystery for a child who had poor hearing for a few weeks, while certain letter sounds were introduced to the class.

The ‘whisper test’ can give a good indication of whether a child has less than perfect hearing (stand behind him and use a quiet voice to say his name or ask a question − if there is no response, encourage parents to take him for a proper hearing check). Encourage teachers to talk to children about whether they can see print clearly − is a large format easier than a smaller one? A child who squints when trying to read, rubs her eyes a lot or holds the book very close may need glasses.

Once a teacher has identified that a child is experiencing difficulty with reading and not making satisfactory progress, the next step is often to approach the SENCO for an assessment of the child.

For young children, this will involve key word recognition, phonic knowledge and book handling skills; for older pupils, a standardised test can be useful − especially if it is diagnostic. (Make sure that tests you use are up to date though, eg the New Neale, the Suffolk.) With appropriate training, some TAs can take on the task of individual assessments and this often leads to them having more ownership of ensuing programmes of work, and a better understanding of what they are trying to achieve. Time spent in this sort of training can ultimately save a lot of ‘SENCO time’ throughout the year. Once you have a baseline for a child, individual/small group work can be used to consolidate the knowledge she has and slowly build up from there, making sure that s/he experiences success in every session. A common mistake in working with developing readers, is to try to do too much too quickly, causing frustration to the child and disappointment for the teacher/TA.

In the early stages, making a book with the child can be a good starting point. Use a digital camera to photograph the child in different areas of the school − even if she can recognise only her name, a simple story can be devised with clear cues provided by the pictures: ‘Kylie is in the playground; Kylie is on the slide’ etc. This will help the child to recognise and remember some key words in a meaningful way (and they love reading about themselves). The phrases/sentences can then be printed out onto strips of card and cut up into individual words for the child to practise re-making the sentences.

Alongside this, the child will be doing some phonics practice − following whatever scheme the school uses. Just one word of caution here: phonics is about hearing a sound and matching it to a letter/cluster of letters. Paper and pencil exercises may not be useful, if the child doesn’t actually link the sound with the appropriate letter.

When pupils reach KS2/3 and have difficulties with reading, the main issue can be one of motivation. They have experienced a lot of failure with reading and may have low self-esteem. It’s important to have good quality, age-appropriate books to work with, as well as newspapers and magazines. Short stories and plays are popular for reading aloud; consider reading silently together, then talking about the passage/chapter to check understanding − highlight and explain tricky words before they start reading.

(Look at the Download series from Rising Stars, www.risingstars-uk.com and the Rex Jones stories from Badger Publishing – www.badger-publishing.co.uk)

Remember that reading ‘on screen’ can be considered less onerous, and the huge amount of software for supporting literacy development can be used to good effect with older learners. (www.semerc.com)

There are various published intervention programmes available and the 2002 report on the effectiveness of different approaches is due to be updated later this year. They include:

* Acceleread * Accelewrite * ARROW * Catch-up Literacy * Direct Phonics * ENABLE * Multisensory Teaching System for Reading (MTSR) * Phono-graphixTM * Reading Recover * Ruth Miskin Literacy/Read Write inc * Sounds-Write * Toe by Toe * THRASS.

For secondary pupils, programmes such as:

* Academy of Reading * Corrective Reading * ENABLE PLUS * Toe by Toe * THRASS If you’re looking for new intervention material, get along to the Education Show at the NEC in Birmingham next month where exhibitors will be happy to talk you through their programmes and demonstrate software etc.


Next week we’ll consider how working with parents and harnessing their help and support can make a big difference to developing readers.


SEN News The National Strategies have developed a cross-phase special educational needs/learning difficulties (SEN/LDD) focus area on their website. The area will continue to develop during 2008, building up a range of key resources, publications and guidance including: newsletters, IDP materials, hubs of effective practice, case studies and self-evaluation materials.

The site contains a framework to support local authorities in reviewing and evaluating strategy, services and provision for children and young people with special educational needs /learning difficulties and disabilities. The framework contextualises SEN/LDD issues within the five outcomes of Every Child Matters and has been designed so that LAs can benchmark and evaluate their own progress and performance, and use this information to identify areas for further development.


Find out more: > Articles on special educational needs
> Special educational needs publications
> Back to SENCO Week index page

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2008

About the author: Linda Evans is the author of SENCO Week. She was a teacher/SENCO/adviser/inspector, before joining the publishing world. She now works as a freelance writer, editor and part-time college tutor.