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Our Star School for June is…

Theale Green School, Reading!

We spoke to Rebecca Wilson who is a Higher-Level Learning Mentor at the school and is responsible for running Lexia sessions. In her interview, she shares some fantastic success stories from her pupils and gives us some valuable advice on timetabling and staff training. Plus, we hear comments from the school’s Headteacher and Assistant Head SENCO.


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?

Rebecca: I have been working at Theale Green School in the Inclusion Department for 8 years. Last year, when I was promoted to HLTA and took over literacy support, I noticed that there was a bigger need than I first thought. As a small team, we were unable to cater for as many pupils as we would have liked, and it was a challenge to tailor support to the individual needs of the pupils to the extent that was needed. It was also very difficult for us to track progress of the students with data evidence. I started looking for an online platform that could help us with this.

Our executive SENCO had heard of Lexia, but did not know too much about it, so I looked online to find out more and thought it looked good. I was able to phone up and speak to a Lexia consultant who supported us in setting up a trial at the start of the academic year and we just absolutely loved it! It has really revolutionised the way that we work. We have been able to triple the number of students that we are able to support while still tailoring support to their individual needs.

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

Rebecca: We did trial another product to compare but it mainly focused on comprehension skills, and we felt it wasn’t covering all the skills that we needed. There was such a diverse range of skills that we needed to support the ‘COVID hangover’ we are experiencing, the gap has widened and the number of students needing support has increased.

We are seeing an increase in students starting secondary school who are needing support with their phonics. This is something that we have not previously had to deliver, so we needed to either create a whole new programme of learning ourselves or find a program that did it for us and Lexia was the one that met our needs. It had the scope to support our lowest ability students, but still was able to support our higher ability students, who perhaps needed a boost to their self-esteem and confidence. It can also support pupils who have difficulties engaging with their work, as opposed to those that have a big gap in knowledge, so it is something that works on both ends of the scale.

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.

Rebecca: My daily routine is extremely full and busy! I wish I could create many more Lexia groups but, because most of our pupils who are using Lexia are SEND and Pupil Premium, we are keeping the groups quite small. The maximum number of pupils we will have in one Lexia group is 6 students with 2 groups running at a time. We are lucky to have a small computer suite here in the Inclusion Department, so it is a nice, focused atmosphere. We take our students out of lessons twice a week, so they complete at least 2x 45-minutes sessions each week. Our goal for the future of our Lexia Implementation Plan is to offer a 3rd session to support pupils meeting their usage targets more often.

We have also started a partnership with parents so, in addition to the 2 sessions in school, we will encourage them to do one or two more 30-minute sessions at home over the course of the week. We have also been working with the English department this term who are looking at setting Lexia as one of the English homework activities for Lexia pupils. We are really taking a cross-departmental approach to boost their usage. We keep in close contact with the English team and the Literacy Lead in school.

Describe the impact that Lexia has had on your pupils. Have you noticed a positive change in their motivation to succeed in literacy? 

Rebecca: There has been a huge shift! When we first introduced the program our students were hesitant about being taken out of their lessons to do literacy. After a few sessions they really warmed to it. Now when I come to the classroom to take some students out to do Lexia, they all ask me if they can come too!

Students are now very positive about it. They really like consistent praise and reward and have thrived as a result.

Theale Green’s Headteacher and Assistant Head SENCO also provided the following comments in response to this question:

Claire Lloyd (Assistant Head SENCO): The Lexia programme has been a huge hit with students, parents and staff. We are seeing improvements not just in literacy but with higher self-esteem of students – they go into lessons feeling more positive, no longer seeing unfamiliar text as a barrier to their learning. The students enjoy the choice element, how it is delivered with IT alongside some taught sessions. The students have also loved the certificates and seeing their success as they complete a level.

Parents have been pleased with the flexibility it offers for accessing sessions at home as well as having a clear understanding of how their child is progressing in the three main literacy strands of Word study, Grammar and Comprehension.

Mrs Badarello (Headteacher): Lexia has been a seismic change in terms of how as a school we support students with literacy needs.  Students are very positive about it and it has now become the “normal” way of doing things which is incredible. The impact of Lexia was witnessed by the school governors on a recent visit.

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

Rebecca: When I was looking for examples of success stories, I found it very difficult to choose just one student which is a great position to be in! There were three that I think really deserve a mention. I’ll call them Student A, Student B, and Student C.

Student A is in Year 7 and was very disengaged in their learning and had high social needs. They were often out of lessons due to disruptive behaviour but would always engage with Lexia. They were our first student to complete the entire Word Study Strand. It was amazing to see that big green tick! This student is now on the advanced zone for the remaining 2 strands, so they are well on their way to completing the whole program!

We have another Year 7 pupil, Student B, who has very slow processing skills but really likes short snappy activities. PowerUp has really been able to keep their focus and they’ve been able to achieve 17 certificates since starting. This student started the program on the first level of the Comprehension strand and now they are working at Level 12! It is mind-blowing! This student works very hard and completes Lexia sessions at home too. It just goes to show that pupils who reach their usage and complete extra sessions at home are really making a positive difference to their progress.

Finally, Student C is in Year 9. They were really struggling with their self-confidence in their abilities. They use a laptop for extended writing in lessons, but even then, was struggling to write a lot and stay on task. With Lexia, this pupil has progressed amazingly. They have achieved 12 certificates so far and I have received feedback from their English teacher telling me that their confidence has sky-rocketed! They are now putting up their hand in lessons which they weren’t doing before. It has taken a few terms for them to get to this point.  Lexia is not an overnight fix but the sustained effort is really making a positive impact. This student has also recently won our streak competition with a streak of 424 and went on to receive a Headteacher’s Award for their effort!

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

Rebecca: The praise and rewards aspects of the program has been something that we have really wanted to focus on from the start. Having a robust reward system for Lexia has made a huge impact. I have been able to use a lot of the school reward systems, such as house points, and have also used the certificates. We print them off and the students love taking them home. They also receive Super House Points with a note home to parents, so that the parents can see how well they are doing.

I have discovered that there is no age limit to enjoying a prize box! We have downloaded the Lexia Loyalty Cards which they love stamping themselves as they progress through their Lexia sessions. They are always looking forward to when they have saved up enough stamps to get a prize! I have restocked the prize box over the Easter break, it is full of smelly pencils, bendy pencils and other stationary along with a few sweets and lollies. The most coveted prize, however, is the queue pass for the canteen! I write the date on it, so it’s a one-time use only! They really like choosing that prize which goes to show that prizes don’t need to cost very much at all. It works really well!

We have also created some additional resource sheets that allow students to track their progress term by term. Many of our students find it difficult to deal with a lot of information all at once so we have found that this smaller version of tracking progress has been helpful. They complete these at the start and the end of each term, and it asks them how confident they feel in Word Study, Grammar and Comprehension. At the bottom they can describe something they have been able to complete in a lesson that Lexia has helped with. For example, one student recently recognised that the work they have done in PowerUp meant that they could give an example of an adverb when asked in their English lesson. They were very pleased with themselves for remembering thanks to the catchy song in PowerUp!

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

Rebecca: They have been very helpful. The first term we used the reports, it took a bit of investigating to find out what everything did. LexiaUK’s training really helped us there too. We booked an additional training session, and it was useful to review the little ins and outs of the data information available. There is a lot that you may not think is there unless you click it, and then all this detailed information comes up!

The new Skills Check data has been very helpful. We look at what percentages students got and use this data to identify who may need a little additional boost with a Skill Builder. It’s helped us to use these resources much more efficiently. We use the data to choose who benefits most from a skill builder and it allows us to be much more focused on which skill builders to give the students. For example, if we see that a pupil has gotten less than 70% on their Skills Check, we will usually send the Skill Builder home for them to complete as a homework.

We have also found the Skills Status reports very useful. The visual bars showing the movement from the Foundational Zone to Intermediate and then on to Advanced has been life-changing for me in helping me evidence progression for our senior leadership. The Assistant Head SENCO will come to me and say, “I have a senior leadership meeting and need data on how the students’ literacy is progressing”, and I can produce this at the click of a button!

I download of hard copy of the reports each month to keep on record. It’s great to see the progression month on month.

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

Rebecca: We have found that timetabling has had the biggest impact to our Lexia implementation. We made sure to consider which lessons were appropriate to take pupils out of to complete Lexia avoiding their core subjects, PE, and PSHE. This has really helped to ensure that everyone gets a minimum of 2 sessions. We have also considered which pupils will benefit from one-to-one sessions, so we have been able to ensure that additional needs are met.

I would also say that training a good number of staff has a positive impact too. There are two of us HLTAs and a number of TAs trained on the program. This means that they can take Lexia sessions and support these students as well. It may only be an hour or two out of their week, but it adds up to make a big difference!

We have also added and trained the English team to use the myLexia reports so they can see their progress of their students. This has really helped with the communication between departments. It helps us get feedback and see the impact of Lexia elsewhere in the curriculum not just within their intervention sessions. English staff have been involved in Lexia training so they can use the program themselves and check in to see the progression of their students directly.

What feedback have you had from your Lexia pupils?

Rebecca: I would say 99% of them have said they really like the program and they find it easy to use. They love the streaks most of all, it really keeps them motivated. I think that the verbal encouragement they get from the program plays a part too. Being told they are ‘sensational’ and ‘awesome’ keeps them going. A lot of them are quite excited to be using it. In future, I would like to build on this and for Lexia to become part of their routine at home as week. Even if it is just once per week, it is a goal of mine that I think will make an even greater difference.

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

Rebecca: I think the main reason for our success with Lexia is because we have had support from the whole staff at all levels. From the top, the headteacher and governors, all the way to the TAs and support staff, everyone has been on board and working towards the same goal. I also think it’s been a success because we have worked hard to integrate it into school life. It’s become part of the way we do things, not just an add-on. Teachers now know that if they have a student in their class that is struggling due to literacy skills, that we have something in place to support them. It’s very much a team effort.

We have also been able to create some dedicated spaces to Lexia in school. In the Inclusion Department, we have small computer suite that acts as a Lexia classroom. We have a literacy display board in there and work to maintain a calm, quiet environment for pupils to learn and build their literacy skills. Even for pupils who may have been disruptive and sent out of lessons, they are very calm once they get into our Lexia space. It is a safe space for everyone.