Higher Openshaw Community School

Reading Award Case Study

Higher Openshaw Community School is a flagship school for the One Education Reading Award.

This recognition is for the way in which they have embedded reading into daily life at school so that it becomes natural and second nature to all. What strikes me, when visiting the school, is the way in which children and adults alike discuss books from the moment that the children set foot on the school grounds. Adults ask the children, “What book are you reading today?” and children automatically do the same to each other and to members of staff. It is not forced: it is embedded; part of their culture.

Achieve Higher through Reading

The school set about to really grow a love of reading for pleasure because they knew, through consulting research, that children who read for pleasure achieve higher. They also understood that reading for pleasure enables children to write with stamina and a natural flow and with this in mind, the passionate and inspirational staff team ensured that reading was placed at the heart of their curriculum. Whenever possible, books are used for teaching lessons, in the school grounds, within continuous provision, displays and throughout the school environment.

Kath Mort Assistant Head & Literacy Lead - Higher Openshaw Community School

“We decided to work with One Education to complete the Reading Award in order to celebrate our successes!”

Through the Reading Award, Kath was able to focus on all three essential areas of reading (‘Reading for Decoding’, ‘Reading for Understanding’ and ‘Reading for Pleasure’) and really drill down into what the school was doing exceptionally well and what could be improved even further.

To help with improving further, the school used resources from the One Education resource area, such as pupil voice questionnaires. For their daily phonics sessions, to help with reading for decoding, Kath explained, “Pupil Voice is gathered and acted upon. At the beginning of the year pupils said they enjoyed phonic lessons outside so we deliver the sessions actively outdoors where possible. They also said they like to learn in different ways so we also use interactive games on iPads and whiteboards to ensure the sessions are fast paced and hold the children’s attention, especially for children who still need phonics in KS2.”

Parental Involvement

The school ensure that parents are involved and understand what is happening at all times, they hold regular meetings and workshops to help parents to support their children at home. A year one parent explained, “The workshops help me to talk to my son about what he’s been doing at school. I can then help him with his new sounds.” And it is evident, not just in phonics, that parents really do get involved with reading within the school.

The school have a well-established and effective approach to teaching ‘Reading for Understanding’ with many lessons across the curriculum being taught through books. Guided Reading occurs for 20 minutes a day throughout the school using a carousel approach. The school are confident in developing skills in reading and have recently taken part in a project for Reciprocal Reading this year which saw an increase in confidence from children when answering inference questions.In order to develop a love of reading in every aspect of the curriculum, the school do not use a banded scheme for Guided Reading. The sessions come from many different sources

In order to develop a love of reading in every aspect of the curriculum, the school do not use a banded scheme for Guided Reading. The sessions come from many different sources including:  extracts from novels, picture books, images, video clips, unusual items, comics, newspapers, iPads, song lyrics and more.

Here's an example timetable for Guided Reading at Higher Openshaw Community School:

Group 1 - Pre read

Group 2 - Reciprocal Reading Mixed Ability

Group 3 - Follow up read

Group 4 - Reading Trail (KS1) / Reading with grammar and vocab focus (KS2)

Group 5 - Reading around the topic


The school is passionate about reading, Kath explains, “We love reading! We encourage parents, children and staff to read in a variety of different ways and we never say it’s not possible where reading is concerned!”

The headteacher, John Dent, values reading and puts it as one of his highest school priorities, he is extremely supportive of Kath and the whole team, who have ensured that the whole school can get involved with reading; from designing and painting book benches, to taking out the year two toilets and creating a fantastic school library. Ensuring each room has a book area, to support all children to independently choose the books that they want to read. From the healthy in-school competitive spirit (encouraged by the million minute read competition) to collaborative work with other year groups. The school have worked so hard to ensure that there are so many opportunities for children, and adults, to fall in love with books.

Falling in love with books

And falling in love with books is what the school does best. The school library is run by children within the school and, whilst I was in the school, children voluntarily came in to help organise the books and ensure that everything was kept up to date. On the walls are recommended reads from all members of staff and large pieces of paper for children to ask for specific books. There are also waiting lists on classroom doors for books that are in demand.

The school, however, recognise that a true reading school is one that never stands still -  Kath explained, “By signing up to the One Education Reading Award we were able to access a wide range of resources in order to support our evidence. Through working with the professionals from One Education we were given the opportunity to close our gaps in reading and identify future areas for development. It’s been a real collaborative process.” 

This summer saw Kath’s plan of having an outdoor reading shack turned into a reality, and she won't stop there. Along with her team at Higher Openshaw Community School, they are a force to be reckoned with.


The One Education Reading Award provides resources for the classroom, CPD materials and leadership support. The award can be purchased and completed online, with the option of purchasing school support to complement this.

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