Reading Culture at St Dunstan’s


Our Ambition for Reading

At St Dunstan’s, our ambition is for all students to be reading at or above their chronological age by the end of Year 9 so that they are able to access the Key Stage 4 curriculum and GCSE exams with confidence. 

Reading fluently allows access to cultural capital as well as developing imagination, vocabulary and general knowledge.  A good grounding in reading is essential for making links between subjects, understanding social and cultural codes and, of course, enhancing success in formal exams.  The average reading age required for GCSE texts is 15 years and 8 months and so developing the ‘reading muscle’ in the years leading up to GCSEs is a marathon rather than a sprint - after all, none of us would turn up to participate in an elite athletics event with no training!  Training to read well is as important as training for physical prowess.

In addition, we would want all students to enjoy reading for pleasure and to see reading as an essential part of life be that for leisure, for broadening horizons, understanding human nature, making links between the past, present and future or for developing their own vocabulary and writing skills.

Reading in the Curriculum at St Dunstan’s School

Literacy is embedded across all subjects at St Dunstan’s through key words for each subject being made explicit at the start of new topics and revisited regularly; subject specific spellings being highlighted as well as general spelling tips being shared across the school  and common misconceptions being corrected.  Reading is a common feature in the school with whole school, cross curricular celebrations of events such as World Book Day and World Poetry Day.  All staff recognise that reading is a vital part of every subject and work together to promote reading.

Reading Curriculum Booklet Click Here


One key way in which we promote reading for all students in our school is through our DEAR programme - Drop Everything and Read - every morning for the first ten minutes of the day, students read a book during tutor time. 

Key Stage 3 students can choose a book to read, which is in their ‘zone of proximal development’ so that they are reading at an appropriate level of challenge. Those students who are in Year 7 to 9 who are reading at the age 16 or above are encouraged to select a book from the ‘classics’ section in the library.

DEAR time at Key Stage 4 is used by tutors to enable students to recap and read their set texts for English Literature, or other non-fiction revision materials for other subjects.



Accelerated Reader is a formalised programme to foster fluency in, and enjoyment of, reading for pleasure.  It is used to ensure that students select books for DEAR time, which offer an appropriate challenge. The starting point is a self adapting reading assessment which is taken three times a year by Key Stage 3 students; the first assessment establishes a reading age and a range within which students are recommended to choose books; all the books in our library are linked to the system so students can clearly see which books are suggested for them.  As each book is finished, students take a quiz on the computer system and each quiz that is passed contributes to their overall word count.  Awards and prizes are given for achieving statuses such as ‘word millionaire’ and the quizzes allow students to recall knowledge of the books read thus building their ability to retain information and enhancing their progress. The regular tests measure progress in students’ reading ages.

Students in KS3 have one lesson a fortnight dedicated to Reading, which are held in the library wherever possible. These lessons are held by teachers who are all trained in the Accelerated Reading programme.  Students read silently to themselves for the first 20 minutes, where the teacher circulates to hear individuals read out loud.


Reciprocal Reading is a new strategy, which was launched at St Dunstan’s with Year 7 in January 2022.    Reciprocal Reading focuses on the ‘Fab Four’ skills of good readers - Summarising, Clarifying, Questioning and Predicting.  By using the technique of ‘name it to tame it’ we make clear which skills we can employ to help us read more fluently (a good analogy is learning to drive; when we first start we have to remind ourselves of every step - by the time we have been driving for a few years, the steps become automatic.  The same applies to reciprocal reading).   Reciprocal reading strategies are equally effective for fiction and nonfiction, so they are a great boost for comprehension and retention of knowledge.



Nessy is primarily aimed at students in Year 7 and 8 who struggle with reading. They have four,  twenty five minute sessions per fortnight run by the HLTAs and TAs.   It is often used for students who have dyslexic characteristics, have phonological issues, have English as an additional language or whose reading age is two years or more behind their chronological age.

Nessy is an educational, multimedia computer game which is designed to help students of all abilities learn to read, write, spell and type.  The aim is to allow students to access reading confidently and to enjoy reading for pleasure as well as information which, in turn, will allow them to retain and build on knowledge shared in the classroom.

After an initial baseline assessment, students are assigned personalised reading and spelling targets. Tailored for the specific needs of each individual, there are 10 levels which continually recap and review previous work. Multisensory activities are used to teach reading and spelling at the same time. It is a highly structured, sequential, cumulative and systematic phonics based learning programme which students can work on at their own speed and ability.

Students make their own avatar and collect Nessy nuggets as a reward for their efforts. The Nessy programme gives detailed reports on each student clearly identifying progress and areas for development.



Read, Write Inc is a literacy programme which builds on students’ knowledge and understanding of phonics, spelling, reading  and comprehension. It is suitable for students who have a reading age that is significantly below their chronological age.

STAR reading tests, taken during Reading Lessons in Key Stage 3, are used to identify those  students who might benefit from this type of intervention. Students are then given a second test which is a single word spelling test (WRAT).

Working in groups of three or four, students will complete five modules over ten weeks.They will usually have two fifty minute sessions per week under the supervision of an HLTA. Students are able to access this support as long as they require it. Read, Write Inc is another effective strategy for encouraging students to become fluent readers thus allowing them to become more confident, access texts and retain knowledge as well as developing their ‘reading for pleasure muscle’.


Reading for Pleasure at St Dunstan’s School


As a school, we celebrate World Book Day and World Poetry Day.  

World Book Day sees events such as a whole school assembly; staff and students dressing up as their favourite characters; literary treasure hunts around the school and ‘guess the mystery reader’ competitions.  On World Poetry Day, staff start lessons with lines from their favourite poems and staff’s much loved favourite poems are shared across the school via the briefing sheet in tutor time.



Another key focus for St Dunstan’s is to have visiting authors, many of whom are local, come and work with students.  Visits include discussion of the authors’ books, how they came to write them and writing workshops to help students develop their writing skills inspired by books they have enjoyed.  There is always, of course, an opportunity to buy signed books, too!