Read Write Inc. Fresh Start won the Teach Secondary Award in the SEND category in 2021
Who is it for?
Fresh Start is for:
- students who have slipped through their primary school’s reading net
- students who have missed schooling
- late arrivals into the school: those who are new to the UK education system or whose first language is not English
- 11+ year-olds in pupil referral unit.
Students must be able to read accurately and at a sufficient pace to access the secondary school curriculum.
Those who read too slowly or struggle to read unfamiliar words make insufficient progress at school. It is the unfamiliar words that drive their learning across the curriculum: words such as catalyst, homogeneity, functional, imperative, geopolitical, effervescent, and egregious. It is their ability to read familiar words automatically that will allow them to draw the meaning from the page.
Fresh Start is a systematic synthetic phonics programme for older readers who are struggling. It teaches them to read unfamiliar words accurately and therefore read texts with understanding.
Students can make significant progress if they receive a few months of intensive individual or small-group teaching for 25 minutes every day.
Please note: Fresh start is not for students with significant learning difficulties: they will need to follow Read Write Inc. Phonics which uses a smaller-step approach and provides a greater amount of practice.
Direct teaching underpins Fresh Start. Every day, students learn new letter-sounds and review previous sounds and words. They apply what they have been taught by reading words containing the sounds they know in lively, age-appropriate stories and non-fiction texts that are closely matched to their increasing phonic knowledge. By the end of the programme, they will be able to read these accurately and fluently.
“I trotted up the hillside with my carload of wood, sniffing the crisp air and looking around me. From here, I could look down in two directions – over the sea, and inland towards the beautiful mountains. It was over these mountains that I noticed something strange – a massive dark cloud in the shape of a pine tree, with a trunk and branches. For some reason, it made me feel uncomfortable. Mountain weather was never predictable, but still … Paulus flicked the reins and I concentrated on the rocky path.”
– A paragraph from a final text
Students’ phonic knowledge is assessed before they start the programme, and then every half term. Regrouping them maximises their progress and allows reading tutors to provide extra practice for some students and whisk others through the programme.
The free online assessment and guidance identify which students need Fresh Start, and where they should start on the programme. This will help you decide how many students need the programme and guide you in how to group them.
We recommend that those who are learning at the early stages of the programme (Modules 1 to 14) receive one-to-one tuition and those who start after the halfway mark work in groups at the same phonic level.
If students are at different starting points, they cannot be taught together.
Time required for teaching
Students are taught either individually or in a small ‘progress’ group for 25 minutes each day. This means they learn at their ‘challenge’ level for over two hours a week.
The number of weeks students spend on the programme will depend on each student’s starting place. Some students might need only a few weeks’ tutoring; others may need two or three terms.
Students make rapid progress when they have individual support from an enthusiastic and well-trained tutor. This may be a teacher or teaching assistant.
Some schools choose two or three tutors who work with all the students who need extra support.
Above all, tutors must be committed to teaching students to read – the student must know that the tutor is on their side and will stick with them until they succeed.
The reading leader
If the school has high numbers of students following Fresh Start, a reading leader will be needed to coordinate the teaching. This might be a senior leader, the head of learning support or the SENCo.
The reading leader provides support for the reading tutors, organises practice sessions for them, assesses students’ phonic progress every half term, and ensures tutors’ time is protected so tutoring can take place every day.
Pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities
Students with significant cognitive delay will be better taught using Read Write Inc. Phonics Fast Track Tutoring. Although designed for younger pupils, the programme provides significantly more reading practice than Fresh Start.