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Our Star School for February is…

Bury CE High School, Greater Manchester!

We spoke to Kevin Blood (English and Literacy Learning Mentor) and Natalie Davies (SpLD Teacher/Exam Access Arrangements Assessor), who use the Lexia program with a broad range of students between Year 7 and 11.



Read the full interview below.

How did you first come across the Lexia program and what led to the school’s final decision to purchase?

Natalie: It was me that initially found the program online and was given the task of researching different products. From my research, I found it to be the best in terms of the features it offered and how it could help children at our school. The research was passed on to the previous Head of English who then went on to submit a bid to the Headteacher and Lexia was purchased. We have had the programme around 3 years now. We really rate it!

What do you feel makes Lexia stand apart from other reading skills software products on the market?

Natalie: It’s very targeted. The targeted learning pathways mean that each pupil is doing work that is exactly targeted to them at their level so it’s not too hard. It gives them exactly what they need to know. I think it is also better than other programs out there because it caters to such a wide range of ages and abilities. Having Core5 aimed at primary level and PowerUp aimed at secondary is a great bonus. Other programs don’t seem to offer that; its usually one program for everyone with sometimes quite ‘babyish’ graphics which aren’t suitable for high school pupils. PowerUp offers the same level of support for our pupil’s but the graphics are more appropriate.

Kevin: Another thing we discussed that really made the Lexia program stand out is that it was originally developed in 1984 so it is both long-standing and has updated with the development of new technology. Lexia has set the trend but has also kept right up to date. What I really like about it is that the pupils make progress quickly. We know that practice makes permanence, and Lexia doesn’t let a student move on with an ingrained error. It will always take them back to the skill and enable them to practice it until they get it right.

One of the challenges we have at the secondary level is that, for whatever reason, certain issues can become ingrained. So having Lexia to find those gaps they have and not letting them go until they are corrected is great. The Lexia Lessons are pre-prepared for us to deliver so it is really handy to address needs as and when they arise. This really supports teacher workload especially with all the stresses within the education system at the moment. The Skill Builders are really helpful as well. They consolidate knowledge and ground their learning really well.

As Natalie said, it’s age appropriate. The content is right for each year group and having a separate program, dedicated to secondary-age pupils really stood out for us. We do have some of our learners that use Core5 as well if they come to us at a lower level and then we can prepare them to access PowerUp when they are ready. We have found Core5 particularly helpful for our pupils with EAL.

One other thing that really makes it stand out is that it is looking for learner feedback all the time. We really like to focus on learner engagement as well as it being aligned to the college and career-ready standards. This is especially good for our Year 10s and 11s.

How is Lexia used in your school? Please provide details of your daily routine and how you ensure that you reach recommended usage as well as which pupils use the program in school.

Natalie: We currently have 71 pupils on the program across Years 7 and 11. They access Lexia during form time and they also have a dedicated one-hour session per week with either Kevin or myself.

So the way this works is that there are two 20-minute morning sessions a week per year group. Instead of going to their form class, they come to the library where we can facilitate two groups at a time because it is quite a large space.

For pupils that have been assessed and have been placed in our Urgent Intervention category, they also get an additional hour session a week, on top of the 20 minutes, so they get plenty of time to catch up.

We also send Lexia home as homework which the parents really appreciate and the pupils like to do as well. It’s been really good to email parents termly reports as it helps to bring up the usage they get at home. If parents get access to the reports, it really helps to get them on board as they are more involved with their child’s learning. It is all about communicating with parents. We have one pupil who has almost finished the program because they have been so engaged with it at home and because we have a good relationship with parents we can pass on that information.

We have found that Lexia can cover a lot of needs in school. We use it for SEN pupils and, as a dyslexia specialist, I have found it helpful to use Lexia to support these interventions too. We have a large cohort of EAL pupils that it has helped and it has also covered the disadvantage gap too, supporting our pupil premium and Free School Meals students. It covers a wide range of needs and every pupil is getting the support they need.

Describe the impact that Lexia has had on your pupils. Have you noticed a positive change in their motivation to succeed in literacy? Can you give an example of a Lexia success that sticks out to you?

Kevin: Yes, we have. There are a lot of pupils who are currently accessing Lexia that now attend the library during social times and some are now even librarians! We have received positive feedback from teachers, saying pupils are engaging and performing better in lessons, with some pupils volunteering to read aloud who would never have previously. I think that has been a real positive.

Natalie: That is a massive achievement! Having pupils come to our sessions and telling us how they have read out loud in class, I couldn’t believe it! You can really see how it has affected their confidence.

Kevin: The engagement with the library has been really apparent this year, it has recently been improved and as soon as it opened again a lot of our Lexia students were straight in as they now have that confidence to use it.

Natalie: It is great. Having those basic literacy skills has really brought the students confidence up across the school.

Can you give an example of a Lexia success that sticks out to you?

Natalie: We have had a few that we can think of! One pupil, which we will call A is now in Year 9. When they were in year 7, A’s reading age was 7 years and 9 months. A has been accessing the programme since Y7 and their reading age is now 11 years. They never read aloud when starting at Bury Church and during last year’s school Christmas Carol service, they read out a passage in front of the whole school and staff. A is also now a librarian and, because they have improved their confidence when speaking as well, they regularly volunteer to be a tour guide on Opening Evenings for prospective Y7 pupils and their parents.

Kevin: We have another pupil in Year 9, who we will call M. M came on the radar for intervention after a spring STAR reading assessment this year which gave her a result of 7 years and 7 months. M has been accessing the programme for 7 months during form time twice a week along with a 1-hour lesson per week with me. We recently retested them and their reading age is now 11 years and 5 months. M is now ‘At Benchmark’ and no longer needs to access Lexia. That is such a huge leap in such a short time. I was blown away when I saw the result! They stand a good chance of accessing the whole curriculum now. One thing I noticed that helped this pupil in particular was the work they did on Greek and Latin roots. Having this knowledge has really opened up a lot of the science curriculum as well as the social sciences. Talking with the student about these concrete examples of where it can be applied to the curriculum really made the student understand the benefit of the work they had done.

How have you used rewards to motivate and celebrate success on the Lexia program?

Natalie: We use the Lexia certificates, they are printed off monthly, so pupils’ achievements on the programme are continually reinforced. During the form time sessions, we hand out raffle tickets for pupils who are making good progress and engaging well with the program. On the second session of the week, we do a raffle for each year group and 5 pupils get picked to get a prize! For small group 1-hour sessions, each student has their own bespoke literacy reward chart and receives stickers for working well which equate to prizes. This works really well. They go mad for it! They always want to show us how many stickers that have gotten each day. It has been a real motivator for them.

How useful have you found the myLexia reports in terms of demonstrating progression and informing planning?

Kevin: The Lexia Parent Reports are very useful for me for informing parents on where their child is up to, and it opens a channel to frequently communicate with parents without adding to teacher workload. I don’t have to go and compose an in-depth report myself, it is all there. They are clear and well broken down and, if there are any questions, parents can get in touch and we can discuss it further.

The Parent Reports also provide an good opportunity to promote home usage in a targeted and focused way. When a report goes back home, it encourages parents to keep their child using Lexia at home because they can see what it is the students need to work on exactly.

The Student Skill Reports are made available to teachers as they come off the programme, so, at that point, quality-first teaching can take place based on the information given which allows for differentiation. It is really reinforcing good practice across the whole school.

We log on to myLexia up to 3-4 times a week to check on pupils’ progress and establish if any require further support with Lexia lessons. Lessons are completed during form and small group sessions with specific members of staff. We have found the lessons really helpful in informing planning across the school. They are nice and quick to deliver which is particularly helpful during our form group sessions.

Natalie: It is good that the system also provides the answers to the Lessons and Skill Builders as well, especially when you are marking a lot of them at once. It’s a real time-saver!

What main piece of advice would you give to a school that was just getting started with Lexia?

Natalie: I think we both agree that there must be a structured approach to delivering this online intervention. It can’t just be a case of purchasing Lexia and putting pupils in front of a computer. That’s how we have been so successful at this school. You need to make sure that you set specific times, dates, constant monitoring for pupil engagement and the communication with home to promote home access.

The use of prizes alongside the certificates is a big thing that we would recommend. It really helps to motivate the pupils.

We also recommend staff that are using Lexia should complete the training offered by LexiaUK. We found that very helpful at the start to support us navigating through the different systems and finding out about all the features that make life so much easier, like the log in cards. Lexia provides the tools for the structure, you just need to know how to access it and apply it. That’s why the training is so important.

Having consistent staff delivering Lexia is also very important. For example, Kevin and I run the interventions and that works really well because we understand the pupils needs and we know how to deliver Lexia effectively. It also helps in building that relationship with your Lexia pupils, because having reading difficulties can make students feel vulnerable and having that rapport can really help them succeed. Parents appreciate having a specific person to go to as well.

Kevin: I agree, it all comes down to the structure of it. With limited time, a somewhat rigid structure is what makes it work well. Everything is there, you just need to build a structure and a routine around it.

What feedback have you had from your Lexia pupils?

Natalie: They love it! They are so enthusiastic about it. Quite a few of the pupils have said they like the videos and find them funny. They also really like the streaks, a lot of our kids call them strikes! They get really excited when they get a strike! They also like the way they can track their own progress from their Student Dashboard and, of course, they love the certificates!

Do you have any additional comments on why you feel Lexia has been successful in your school?

Natalie: Lexia has had such a massive impact on our pupils and, in a recent Ofsted inspection, we were told that our pupils, from accessing the program and the support we deliver at school that ‘the school has improved its systems to identify the specific barriers that cause some pupils to have insecure reading knowledge. The support that these pupils receive is effective in helping them to become confident and fluent readers.’ (Ofsted, September 2023) It just shows how much it has actually helped the pupils and, for Ofsted to pick that up, we were really impressed!

Kevin: Just to add a personal note as well; when I was in school, I struggled with reading as well. Reading intervention back then was much more basic but it changed my life. It has inspired me to keep going in my role as I know the impact it has on students’ lives. Us as a staff and Lexia are able to help these kids access a better quality of life. Particularly for pupils that have come from a disadvantaged background, that can make a world of difference. I really appreciate the value that Lexia has brought to our pupils. If I had Lexia when I was a kid, I would have made progress much quicker and may not have felt as self-conscious about reading too!


Thank you to Natalie and Kevin for taking the time to speak with us!