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Article published 27th July 2012

Leighton Primary School, Crewe has high levels of deprivation but low levels of SEN. Their aim is not just 'every child a reader' but to help all children discover the joy of reading and develop a life-long love of the written word.

'In reception, phonics work begins in earnest. Phonological awareness and language proficiency are needed to develop decoding and phonics skills but a child will struggle to develop phonological awareness skills if language has not developed...'

As part of her work helping The Good Schools Guide support Dyslexia Action, Sandra Hutchinson visited Leighton Primary School to uncover the secrets of its success.

Case Study - Leighton Primary School, Crewe, CW1 3PP

With grateful thanks to Glyn Turner (headteacher) and staff and pupils at Leighton Primary School. 

'The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.' Dr Seuss


In 2005, 'Higher Standards, Better Schools For All' reported that, 'Leighton Primary School's Ofsted inspection in 1999 emphasised issues with reading, writing, and low national curriculum test results in English'.

Five years later, the school helped all pupils reach their potential in English and was praised by Ofsted in 2004 for its 'excellent, innovative approaches to overcoming difficulties in learning'.

The school has been graded 'Outstanding' in all subsequent inspections. The school uses RAISEonline to analyse school and pupil performance data. Five current Cheshire headteachers (3 in Cheshire East) have worked with the headteacher as young teachers or NQT's – three of their schools have been graded as outstanding by Ofsted (the other two as good).

School profile

  • Between 16% and 20% of pupils entering Foundation 2 are identified as 'At risk of lower achievement.'
  • The school is in the 80th centile for deprivation, the 50th centile for free school meals but only the10th centile for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The school believes the SEND figure is significantly reduced because of strategies employed to ensure every child is not just a reader but has a passion for reading.
  • The majority of children enter nursery with skills below those typical for their age but leave Foundation 2 working above age-related expectations.
  • The achievement of the vast majority of children is very good by the end of KS2 with 98% working at or above average (poorer performance tends to relate to children new to the school). 
  • In all areas children work at a significantly higher level than at similar schools.

Early intervention

Approximately 15 children (from a 2 form entry) are identified with a range of language and speech difficulties on entry to the school. Staff at the school believe inspection regimes should recognise there are children for whom the education journey will be longer and tougher.

Since 2006 the governors have sustained funding for a range of initiatives from the school budget to support learning interventions and to broaden the curriculum:

  • A speech therapist employed by the school for 2.5 days per week
  • A teaching assistant with expertise in speaking and listening group interventions
  • 4 trained Reading Recovery teachers as part of Every Child a Reader.

Accolades and awards include: Family Learning (2005 renewed in 2009); Quality in Study Support (emerging 2007 and established 2009); ICAN 2008 and Elklan Training School (2009); Dyslexia Friendly 2006 renewed 2009); Basic Skills (2003, 2006 renewed 2009 and 2012); Science Gold Quality Mark (2011); Effective Early Learning (2006); Family Support Co-ordinator - national reading hero; Peer Mentors recipients of the Diana award 2012.

Leighton Primary Statistical Information 2011





Boys Level 4




Girls Level 4




Boys Level 5




Girls Level 5









At KS2 Cheshire East is ranked alongside 10 other LAs (Solihull; Cheshire West & Chester; Hants; Herts; Warrington; Warwickshire; W Berks; N Yorks; Worcs; Bedfordshire Central). In all areas Cheshire East was ranked 1st with Leighton Primary School out-performing Cheshire East averages in all areas for English (KS1 and KS2).

The school identifies several key strands for success:

  1. Leadership. Staff identify strong, informed leadership as the key to the school's success in supporting learners. They say vision, a supportive, professional attitude to staff CPD needs and a keen understanding of children with SEND are paramount.
  2. Accountability. The school is accountable for every child in its care, for timely targeted intervention and for supporting children to achieve. Regular self-evaluation forms part of the accountability process.
  3. Training. Training is embedded, ongoing, continual and cascaded. All staff work with a child in similar ways, 'If we feel there is a gap, that we are not capable of addressing, then it is our responsibility to fill that gap, not the child's.' Continual professional development (CPD) is primarily driven by the child's needs. Past investment in expertise means they can now deliver and accredit training, this helps reduce costs. On one occasion in-house training involved videoing TAs working with a child. Feedback was given on how to modify and improve the spoken element of communication with the child, including waiting and pausing, giving the child time to think. Training benefits all children, not just those identified with learning needs. Training is fundamental to sustaining, developing and promoting best practice and sharing expertise – within and across schools. CPD spending is high but met from the budget.
  4. Screening. All children are assessed in the nursery and in reception (or on subsequent entry to the school, if later). Screening and early intervention have reduced the number of children identified with learning differences and difficulties.
  5. Assessment. Regular, detailed assessment is fundamental to the identification of children with learning differences and is used to develop and to inform teaching programmes for the child. The assessment system picks-up every nuance of the child. If a child is not progressing (or not making sufficient progress) educational and professional discussions take place to identify what targeted input will work. "We know there is a problem so we ask, 'who has the operational skills to put it right?' That is where real knowledge and work begins and staff CPD needs may be identified."

Specialist input includes: 

  • Four reading recovery teachers
  • A dyslexia specialist 
  • A speech and language therapist
  • A Family Support Coordinator
  • Teaching Assistants (TAs). 

Together they ensure children, who might have difficulties because of nature, nurture, environmental or family issues, have their early learning needs (educational, social and emotional) met. Speech and language therapy is viewed very much as a teaching medium with 2.5 days of therapy per week funded by the school. The work of the family support officer is fundamental to the well-being of the children and families and to their emotional and educational health.

Timely intervention. No child has to wait to receive appropriate help. The immediacy of intervention is invaluable in helping children make good progress.

Reading and targeted interventions delivered by professionals.

'We do not expect someone who has spent a day learning a musical instrument to perform in a professional ensemble.' 

What happens as a result of the screening, who delivers the interventions, the way interventions are targeted, progress monitored (including by gender) and refined are seen as key. And add that, for effective intervention and remediation, it is important to build a relationship with the child. 

'Only by knowing a child can staff recognise nuances with that child's communication. It is the attention to detail that makes the difference'. 

Programmes and interventions such as 'Every Child A Reader' and 'Reading Recovery' are used extensively throughout the school, interspersed with other programmes, such as Talking Partners and Narrative Therapy, as required. 'Interventions in speaking/ listening using GAPS provides overwhelming evidence of the efficacy of speech therapy intervention

'The specialist speech and language therapist is well-placed to improvise and adapt programmes to suit a child's continually evolving learning needs. Integrated speech therapy time is primarily shared between nursery and reception/KS1. Work with older children is concentrated on those with dyslexic type difficulties, or physical difficulties such as cerebral palsy. In many schools children with difficulties work with a Teaching Assistant who may have limited, if any, training. Here specialists work with those who have greatest need. Staff trained in reading recovery identify a 'Window of Opportunity for acquisition of language' which typically closes between the ages of five and seven, after which language learning can be tricky, laborious and rely on skills akin to learning a second language.

More about reading at Leighton Primary School


In reception phonics work begins in earnest. Phonological awareness and language proficiency are needed to develop decoding and phonics skills. If language has not developed beyond a certain a point , a child will struggle to develop phonological awareness skills so the therapist works closely with those children whose language is not sufficiently developed or where language may be problematic.

Year 1

In Y1 the focus switches from language to speech. Children who are not accessing language will have difficulty accessing the curriculum. In KS1 the focus is on verbal reasoning skills: how language is used to think, reason and predict.

All years - home and school

The impact of reading shows in all class work, not just language. Being able to decode and to read does not mean a child will enjoy reading. Children have reading journals, which are seen daily; staff have high-expectations and constantly ask children to consider 'What will improve your reading?'

They facilitate developing the joy of reading through a wide-range of initiatives:

Role models. Reading champions - authors, footballers and firemen - are invited to the school, to inspire the children, share their own love of reading and capture and captivate imaginations.

Intervention. Tailored interventions are in place for short and identified long term needs. Specialist dyslexia support is delivered by the school's own AMBDA trained and qualified staff who work closely with all, including the speech and language therapist (SALT), to ensure the child's needs are met across the curriculum.

Training and support. Staff are given the skills to support language development and parents are trained in supporting their children at home. One to one reading work continues into Y6 as necessary. The school is a dyslexia friendly school and a 'Communication Friendly School'.

Family programmes. Families are welcomed into school (it has a family learning quality mark). Parents are offered training and guidance to support their children at home and deliver a consistent approach to both reading and learning. Additional communication with parents and leaflets on reading are identified in the school's self-evaluation framework (SEF).

Peer support. Peer mentoring is used as a tool to reducing bullying (very low incidence) and to develop confidence, aspiration and good relations between children throughout the school.

June 2012

Higher standards, better schools for all.' White paper October 2005

Reading Recovery is the foundation intervention for Every Child a Reader (ECaR). Reading Recovery is a school-based, short-term intervention designed for children aged between five and six, who are the lowest literacy achievers after their first year of school. The intervention involves intensive one-to-one lessons daily with a trained Reading Recovery teacher for an average of 20 weeks (about two terms). The programme is different for every child, assessing what the child knows and what he/she needs to learn next. The aim of each lesson is to comprehend messages in reading and to construct messages in writing, learning how to attend to detail, without losing focus on meaning. (Source After Reading Recovery 81% of children are able to read and write within the appropriate band for their age. Following a programme of Reading Recovery any child who does not make great strides is referred for long-term support and additional assistance as required. 

Self-evaluation summary 2011-12



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