Every week a team of Professional Support Services (PSS) colleagues from SEED use the University’s electric car to travel to two local primary schools to read with school children. Created and lead entirely by PSS staff, ‘Read with SEED’ came about in 2015 in response to requests from schools asking for trainee teachers to support reading. PGCE students do not have this capacity. Read with SEED originally partnered with Claremont Primary School in Moss Side which has a transient population with large groups of Somali, Pakistani and Arabic speakers. A high proportion receive the pupil premium. The team sought funding to purchase books from the Accelerated Reader Book list and produced stickers to be used on reading records.
Read with SEED were given guidance on supporting and evaluating reading comprehension by Claremont. On a weekly basis each colleague spends 30 minutes reading one-to-one with pupils. From October-December 2015, the 18 participant children from Claremont School showed an average increase in reading age of 6.5 months. The rest of the year group made on average 4.5 months’ progress. The Read with SEED team was Highly Commended for Inspiring Communities in the University of Manchester Making a Difference Awards, 2016.
Two years on, the scheme has gone from strength to strength and has been expanded to include Medlock School in Ardwick alongside Claremont Primary maintaining the weekly reading support and continuing to provide books. The current Read with SEED team is: Ruth Rawling, Jonathan Lillie, Kerry Mccann, Georgia Irving, Vesna Higginbotham, Phillippa Stirk, Emma Davies, Emma Moores, Emma Curran and Elaine Jones.
The 2018 data from Claremont School showed the incredibly positive impact of Read with SEED on the school learners, just from October to April, as measured through reading points:
The learners said:
“ I like it when I read with them, it made my minutes go really high (referring to her accelerated reading level). They really helped me”. – Fardowsa
“ It was good because they helped me understand how to do comprehension and read and they shared their thoughts about the books … I had fun reading”. – Emmanuel
Ruth Rawling, one of the original Read with SEED creators, successfully secured funding from the Faculty of Humanities Public Engagement competition 2018 to welcome learners from SEED partner schools onto campus. In July 2018 over 100 7-9 year old pupils alongside teachers and supportive parents from Claremont and Medlock Primary Schools were welcomed to the University of Manchester to get a sense of who we are and what we do. Some spent time in Martin Harris learning about sound and light production; some visited the Geography labs learning how to identify bugs in water to analyse its quality with Tom, JY and John; others used GIS to find battleships with Patrick.
Some learners worked with Jen to critically consider single use plastics, their use and impact on the environment. The learners created plastic awareness posters to enhance sustainability, a sample of which can be seen below:
Beyond the obvious and immense positive impact on the schools, the team also benefit from Read with SEED. Ruth Rawling explained that she first got involved as a way of getting experience in project management, budgeting and working with outside agencies on her CV. She evidenced that the project has taught her skills in all three which she wouldn’t ordinarily have the opportunity to achieve in her day to day role at the University. She said:
“I thoroughly enjoy being part of Read with SEED because of the many and varied opportunities it has brought me. Foremost, it’s a fab opportunity to be helping out the local community and to see the confidence of our pupils grow each week. It’s great to dive into a ‘word party’ poem or help to make sense of a book extract for an hour or so, and this seems to put the other day’s tasks into the shade somewhat! But I also enjoy the project as a way of getting to know other with PSS staff in the school where our roles don’t usually bring us in contact”.
SEED is immensely proud of the inspiring commitment and dedication of our colleagues which has made such a positive impact on the local community.
If any other PSS teams across the University, or indeed beyond, might be interested in setting up their own reading with school partners scheme, or would like to join Read with SEED, please feel free to contact Ruth: Ruth.firstname.lastname@example.org