Named ‘The City of Research’, Bradford is at the forefront of many exciting developments. In this post, Cecile De Cat, the Speech and Language Action Project Group leader within the Centre for Applied Education Research (CAER, www.caer.org.uk/speech-and-language), writes about an important project taking place within the city – and how Bradford Secondary Schools can help.

Reading is one of the strongest predictors of academic success and later life opportunities. Whilst poor reading skills are a major barrier to learning at any age, this is especially true for children entering secondary school where they are required to read more complex texts to inform their learning.

It is likely that the pandemic will have disproportionately affected poor readers, given the prevalence of reading in online learning. The gap between struggling and more proficient readers may have widened during the UK’s successive lockdowns as a result.

How can we help struggling readers?

Many schools already use standardised tests to assess reading comprehension. As a first step towards better identifying and supporting poor readers across the city, it is important to know what assessment information is already available to schools, and what schools currently do with that information (e.g., determine pupils’ reading age).

What are we doing to help?

Our team within the Centre for Applied Education Research (CAER) in Bradford is currently conducting a 3-minute survey of reading assessment practices across Bradford secondary schools. Questions will ask about the methods schools use to assess pupils’ reading ability, how decisions are made of who is assessed, the frequency of assessment, and how the output of the measures are used.

The data will be shared anonymously with schools as part of an effort to document existing practices across the City. We will also provide schools with information about the scores provided by each test and how to interpret them.  Finally, the information we collect in this survey will inform a larger language assessment project within CAER that aims to develop a complementary battery of language tests to identify the source of language difficulties experienced by poor readers.

The link to the online survey has already been emailed directly to schools by local representatives of the Department for Education but we will be contacting schools directly over the next few weeks to address any queries schools may have about this exciting project.

If you have any questions about this project, please contact Lydia Gunning, the Research Fellow on the project (l.e.gunning@leeds.ac.uk).