Over the academic year 2016/17, Greet TSA was commissioned by BEP (Birmingham Education Partnership) to lead on their Reading Partners Project which focused on raising attainment and progress in reading in schools with 'low' attainment figures in 2016, through sharing practice and data.  We were pleased to have the opportunity to work collaboratively with colleagues from BEP and other local and national organisations to lead on this very successful city-wide project.  As well as supporting identified schools, a key aim of the project was to share effective practice as widely as possible through the BEP newsletter and website: many useful resources, approaches and updates on improving reading are available there.

In summer 2016, in the wake of the KS2 SATs Reading results, Tracy Ruddle, BEP DCSI, contacted all Birmingham Primary Schools to ask who felt that they would benefit from some support - and which schools were willing to offer support - to improve attainment in reading.  Thirty nine schools responded, and were organised into nineteen partnerships, with schools where attainment in reading was particularly strong working with schools who had requested support to improve reading.  Then, in September 2016, Greet TSA was approached to lead, and this the BEP Reading Partners Project was born! 

After time spent preparing and planning to ensure a tight structure and clear accountability, the project was 'officially' launched at two very successful half day events held on Monday 14 November at Peters Books.  Each Launch event began with a thought-provoking keynote from Catherine Boulton from the National Literacy Trust (NLT).  She shared key questions that got everyone thinking and talking, as well as some really useful strategies and resources to take back and use immediately in school.  Participants then moved into a session of 'speed-dating', where colleagues form the schools offering support through the project shared effective texts, resources and approaches for improving reading.  There was a real buzz in the room!  It was fantastic to hear first-hand about some of the excellent practice taking place in schools across the city; time seemed to race b, and before anyone knew it, it was time to move on to the next 'date'!  Each session then finished with quality action planning time in school partnerships, scoping out the detail of the joint working over the rest of the academic year.

Then the hard work began in earnest, as partnerships of schools began or continued their joint working, as per their partnership discussions and action plans, and the role of the TSA shifted slightly to focus more fully on monitoring the progress and impact of the partnership working on raising attainment in reading. 

So, at the start of the spring term 2017, a 'team' of TSA Heads and Senior Leaders was put together, to work in pairs to carry out this monitoring role, taking responsibility for holding Process and Impact Review (PaIR) meetings with 5 or 6 partnerships of schools.  During March, TSA reviewers met with leaders from the schools who had requested supported to review the progress and impact to date of their work to improve attainment and progress in reading.

These meetings gave colleagues the opportunity to share what was working really well, as well as to highlight approaches and aspects of the project that had not proved as effective as hoped.  It was great to hear about the work that schools were doing, successes so far and resources that had proved beneficial, all of which was shared with colleagues involved in the project and more widely through BEP and TSA communications.  It was also useful to get feedback on the project for BEP, should they choose to use a similar model of partnership working in the future.

Summer term, of course, brought the SATs, and the SATs results.  Then, on Wednesday 12 July, colleagues from schools involved in the project reconvened at Peters Books for the final event of the academic year - the showcase celebration.  And it was indeed a celebration!  Provisional 2017 KS2 figures showed that the schools receiving support improved their attainment at expected in reading by 16% from 2016: more than double the Birmingham average improvement of 5%.  And six of the supported schools improved their attainment in reading by over 30%!  Furthermore, provisional 2017 KS2 figures showed that the schools who received their support also improved their combined R/W/M at expected levels by 16% from 2016: significantly higher than the Birmingham average improvement of 9% and national improvement of 8%.

The Showcase Celebration event provided an opportunity for colleagues to celebrate successes, share approaches, learning and innovations from collaborative working through the project and consider next steps to maintain links between schools and keep the momentum going.  The afternoon culminated with a thought-provoking key note from Neil Griffiths who spoke passionately about the importance of reading for pleasure: fanning the reading flame that exists in every child.  The enthusiasm in the room was palpable. 

It is clear that the project was successful in focussing attention on reading in both the supporting and the supported schools; a fantastic start to what we know is an ongoing journey to effect longer term, sustainable improvement year on year.  As a TSA, it has been terrific to work alongside BEP and colleagues from schools across the city on this project: a real testament to the power of collaborative working.  As one of the Headteachers commented: "Great to see our Birmingham schools getting together to share good practice and ideas which is definitely a two-way street".