Beanstalk launches young leadership reading programme in secondary schools

A reading programme which partners students with their younger peers is being rolled out to secondary schools across England to help improve reading skills, confidence and enjoyment. National reading charity Beanstalk is aiming to train more than 3,500 students across the country to become Reading Leaders by the end of the next academic year. The Reading Leaders programme trains students in Years Nine and above to support and encourage younger pupils who are at serious risk of falling behind with their reading. The plan is to reach over 7,000 younger pupils who will benefit from this one-to-one reading support. 

This year, 25% of primary school children in England began secondary unable to read to the expected level. For these thousands of children, learning across the entire curriculum will be an uphill struggle and a serious impediment to their emotional and social well-being.  

Beanstalk has been working for over 45 years to recruit and train volunteers to support children on-to-one in primary schools who struggle with reading. The Reading programme has been developed to continue this vital one-to-one work through into secondary education. The programme not only supports the younger students with their reading but offers older students an excellent opportunity to develop their leadership skills. 

“At Beanstalk our core programmes typically support children in early years and primary school settings who Beanstalk launches young leadership reading programme in secondary schoolshave fallen behind with reading or are at risk of being left behind. However, we know that literacy problems extend beyond primary school and that children are entering secondary education without the key reading skills they need to become successful learners,” explains Ginny Lunn, Chief Executive Officer at Beanstalk. 

“Partnering these students with well trained, positive older mentors at the same school can really help boost their learning experiences, improve their love of reading, and ultimately transform their prospects of succeeding in the future. It’s very much a win-win situation; the younger pupils benefit from enhanced reading skills while the older students benefit from a leadership programme that they can use to enrich their own educational experiences.” 

Reading Leaders case study 

Longsands Academy in Cambridgeshire has trained a new group of Reading Leaders each year since 2014. The programme works brilliantly in the school and the results are inspiring, with reading ages improving, in some cases, by 5 or 6 years.  

Mark Seymour, the Assistant Head Teacher with a special responsibility for literacy and interventions, explains how the reading programme works at Longsands:   

“We select year 8 pupils who have been through other reading interventions during Year 7 but still require additional support,” he says. Reading Leaders is then used as the sole literacy intervention undertaken by these children in Year 8. The school selects volunteers from Year 12 to be the Reading Leaders and pairs them with Year 8 pupils who struggle with reading. Due to the school timetable, the reading sessions between the peer mentors and their partners take place once a week for around 45 minutes, from November through to Easter.  

Mark believes that the success of the Reading Leaders scheme is due to the ease of communication between peers and the bond which develops through working in a partnership.