Since 2019 the Fischer Family Trust has supported the Apex project – a collaboration between Success for All (SFA), the trust and ten schools on improving literacy in Key Stage 1.
So far, we have been piloting two distinct projects. One is to use a cost-effective one-to-four computer aided tutoring method for children in Years One and Two, to see how it improves their reading. The other is an investigative project to find out why so many kids who need glasses don’t have them in class and whether this situation can be improved by using a commercially-available, free screening system in school. A third project – real time data integration using FFT Aspire – is to be launched in early 2021.
The tutoring programme, ‘Tutoring with the Lightning Squad’ is both peer-to-peer as matched pairs of children work together playing ‘reader’ and ‘coach’ in turn, but also adult-led. It therefore combines the graded structure of stories and exercises on the computer with both cooperative learning skills that are taught in SFA schools, and the requirement for an adult to implement structured pedagogy in early reading. As one tutor can support four children working in two pairs it is vastly more cost effective than individual tutoring making it a solution that can have a significant difference in schools with a large-scale learning deficit. The online part allows for real time data capture – progress is measured and standardized to reading ages as tutors assess kids at the end of each level, with nice features such as report cards for parents and whole ‘school district’ areas that could be used by Local Authorities or Multi-Academy Trusts.
The initial roll-out of tutoring was affected by the 2020 school closures. However early indications and huge enthusiasm from the schools resulted in a) the programme unexpectedly being used remotely during the shut down and b) the whole approach being applied to become a partner for the National Tutoring Programme in partnership with FFT education. This means that besides the roll out to the 150 to 200 children being funded by the Apex Project, now more than 450 schools and 14,000 children will experience the Success for All tutoring methodology in 2021 as part of NTP, and it’s increasingly being recognized as a powerful tool for improving foundational literacy skills.
The eye-sight pilot uses a free programme called School Screener EZ® from Specsavers. A school registers and the programme is operated by teachers, teaching assistants and even volunteers. The programme provides a three-minute preliminary test of each child’s eyes, which includes a test for colour vision. The software quickly calculates the results and immediately identifies any potential problems and generates a report for parents or carers. So far, we are finding that more than a third of children in Reception and KS1 may fail the screening, and on follow up, those that go on to be identified by a full eye-sight test as needing glasses can get them (full eye-tests and glasses are free for under 16s).