Skip to content ↓


"Reading is the key to every door in your future."

At Hitchin Girls' School our ambition is for all students to enjoy reading for pleasure and to support their lifelong learning, and to be reading at or above their chronological age by the end of Year 9. This will allow them to confidently access the Key Stage 4 curriculum and GCSE exams. Furthermore, confidence in reading will lead to students reading regularly, which will increase their cultural capital, enhance their vocabulary and develop their imagination.

A good grounding in reading is essential for students’ acquisition of knowledge and their ability to develop schema (making connections between the things they know, both within and across their subjects). The average reading age required to access GCSE level texts and examination papers is 15 years and 8 months. We therefore have a comprehensive and rigorous approach to reading, to ensure that our students develop the vocabulary, fluency, comprehension skills and accuracy needed to access the curriculum and their exams.

We want every young person to leave school with a love of reading and the necessary reading skills for future learning and employment. We ensure that our students read widely and constructively, and their reading supplements the curriculum so that they leave us secure in their knowledge and cultural capital to succeed in life.

How we ensure children become good readers

"Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of their deep and continuous needs, is good for them." - Maya Angelou

Reading as part of the curriculum

In all year groups, reading is a key aspect of lessons and the wider curriculum. Students are regularly encouraged to read, either independently or in assisted groups, and to read aloud where appropriate. Reading work is regularly shared via Google Classroom to support learning.

Here is an example of the many books that are read and studied during KS3:

Katharine Rundell’s Rooftoppers; Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother; Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful; Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow; Julian Sedgewick’s Tsunami Girl; Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; Ruta Sepetys’ Salt to the Sea; Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Our priority is to identify and support any students whose reading ability may be preventing them from fully accessing the curriculum. To enhance our understanding of the most recent/relevant research in this area, we work with the Herts for Learning Reading Fluency Team to deliver their research-led eight-week programme. This focuses on core reading, comprehension and literacy skills aimed at increasing students’ confidence in and love of reading, thereby enabling them to better access their full curriculum. This is currently available to specific students in Year 7 and Year 10 based on their annual NGRT (New Group Reading Test) data, with the aim of Years 8 and 9 students participating later in the 2023-24 academic year.

Knowing the reading ages/abilities of all of our students is absolutely crucial for us and we have a rigorous and robust programme to ensure that there is relevant, specialist and swift support in place for any students who have ‘fallen behind’. Our approach is based on strong reading assessment data from the New Group Reading Test by GL Assessment, taken in September every year by all Year 7 - 11 students. This allows us to identify any students whose reading age is significantly below their chronological age. (We use the benchmark of 2 or more years below their expected reading age, whilst taking into account their English attainment and feedback from their English teachers, who have the most relevant context for their current progress).

Individual students identified through our Options process are allocated to an English Skills group, where they can focus on reading, comprehension and literacy skills through small-group work with specialist teachers. In Year 10 this group also participate in the Reading Fluency Programme as well as using Lexia, read/write technology on Chromebooks, and targeted resources to help build their confidence and reading skills. Teachers who lead this group seek out appropriate, and otherwise challenging, material in other subjects such as Geography and History, in order to support the students with pre-reading ahead of the lessons where the text will be key to their curriculum content and progress, thereby enabling them to better access their learning.

For all students whose reading age is 2 or more years below the expected level for their age, targeted and timely Thrive and Fly intervention is put in place, provided by specialist English/Literacy teachers and tutors. Students receive six sessions (one per fortnight) initially, where they will work on core reading, comprehension and literacy skills to help them progress and thereby better access the curriculum. After these initial six sessions, teacher/tutor feedback will indicate whether they require a further six. Students are rewarded for their engagement using our BfL reward system and parents/carers receive feedback after the initial six sessions and then again after 12 (when required).

Across both KS3 and KS4 there is a focus on vocabulary in every lesson, with key words displayed and referred to, in line with the whole-school teaching and learning policy. Developing reading ability and vocabulary is seen as the responsibility of all teaching staff.

Reading in tutor time

Within the tutor time programme there are regular reading sessions for all students in Years 7 - 11. During these sessions students read independently or in small groups, or may work with their tutors to demonstrate comprehension.

Further reading tasks are incorporated into the tutor time programme. Elements such as the theme of the week or Headstrong will involve reading extracts or other materials as a group and discussing the texts.

Reading on a daily basis

All students are encouraged to have reading books of an appropriate level with them at all times.

The school Library is available for reading before school, at breaktime, at lunchtime and after school every day. Students are strongly encouraged to use this resource, and are motivated by reading competitions and certificates.

Extracurricular activities, clubs and societies also give opportunities for reading wherever possible.

GL Assessment’s New Group Reading Tests

Each September, we use GL Assessment’s New Group Reading Test (NGRT) to assess all students’ reading ages. This is a standardised assessment which measures reading skills against national averages. It is adaptive, which means that it responds to the ability of the child and adapts the questions accordingly, so that stronger readers are challenged and less-strong readers remain engaged. The test takes around 30 minutes to complete and students take it on a computer. There are two sections: sentence completion and comprehension of a passage.

Students who score below age-related expectations take a further paper-based test to confirm whether they require reading intervention.

Students with a reading age 2 or more years lower than their chronological age take part in our Thrive and Fly intervention programme. Sessions are targeted through a Reading Fluency programme or individualised support with a specialist Literacy tutor. Students then sit the NGRT again at two further points in the academic year to determine whether progress has been made and further intervention is required.

Reading age results for September 2023*:

Y7       95.7% are at or above their age-related expectation for reading

Y8       95.3% are at or above their age-related expectation for reading

Y9       93.6% are at or above their age-related expectation for reading

Y10     92.7% are at or above their age-related expectation for reading

*using a smoothed average from past 2 assessments where available.

How we foster a love of reading

"The library is the beating heart of any school." - Anthony Horowitz

Our Library is a wonderful space for our students to visit and read for pleasure. The shelves are always fully stocked and updated on a regular basis to ensure that students have access to a wide variety of texts, from popular fiction to classics, from graphic novels to manga. There are books and magazines available for all abilities, but students are encouraged to read in their ZPD (zone of proximal development) so that they are always developing their reading skills. We love to receive book recommendations from our students.

The students describe our Library as a bright, welcoming space where the staff are always happy to help. There are displays highlighting particular themes, genres or book events, as well as reviews and recommendations from staff and students. These are updated on a regular basis and publicised via the school newsletter and social media.

Activities run throughout the year and students can get involved by attending Reading Group, otherwise known as Library Goblins, or by becoming a Student Librarian. Members of Reading Group shadow various book awards, including the Carnegie Medal, attend a meeting of our evening Book Club, help choose new books for the Library and make friends across year groups.

The Library is open before school, at breaktime, at lunchtime and after school so that students always have a safe and quiet space to read during their free time. Many students choose to read outside on the field during the summer months.

When the Library is not available, students have access to our online library system called Accessit. Anyone is welcome to check it out and browse the books and resources on offer at Students and staff can log in to their Library accounts to see what they have on loan, and reserve and renew books. The dashboard is regularly updated with new book carousels, news items and information on how to use Accessit.

Students also have access to Encyclopaedia Britannica, an excellent online resource for the whole school. It can be found on the Accessit dashboard and some Google Classrooms. Britannica School is a safe, up-to-date and age-appropriate information resource for Primary and Secondary Schools. Students can search at Foundation, Intermediate or Advanced level for articles, games and other learning resources.

Students in Years 7 and 8 have a Library lesson once a fortnight led by an English teacher and assisted by the librarian. They follow a Reading Challenge in order to achieve Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum awards. All books read are listed in a Reading Log, with different genres being encouraged, and various activities completed for each award. In addition the librarian leads library-related sessions including how to use Accessit and Britannica, skimming and scanning, and author research.

Year 7 students take part in Bookbuzz, where they are able to choose a free book from a range of titles selected by the Book Trust charity. This scheme is funded jointly by Hitchin Girls’ School and the Book Trust.

We enjoy welcoming authors to give talks and lead workshops for different year groups. Members of the Reading Group also attend author events at other local schools. Competitions linked to authors, books and reading are held, and we celebrate World Book Day every March. Students are given the opportunity to browse and buy new books at an in-school Book Fair run by a local independent bookshop. 

The North Herts Schools Book Award event has been held since 2014, and involves ten local secondary schools and their reading groups. Hitchin Girls’ School has hosted the event three times and enjoyed welcoming past winners Nicole Sheehan, Frances Hardinge and Yasmin Rahman as speakers.

Intended impact of our reading strategy

Our intended impact is that students develop a love of reading, the skills, fluency, vocabulary and knowledge to access the full curriculum, and the cultural capital to be fully prepared for the next stage of their education.

We are aiming for:

  • all of our students to be reading at or above their chronological age by the end of Year 9 (KS3);
  • Year 11 students to achieve a good set of GCSE results that allows them to progress to their intended destination, with over 90% achieving a Grade 4 or above in English;
  • students to develop a love of reading and routinely read for pleasure;
  • our school to have a culture where reading is encouraged, developed and celebrated.

Supporting reading at home

Here is some useful advice for how parents/carers can support their child’s reading at home in a time-efficient and consistent way.

The government has also provided these tips on encouraging your child, while anyone with a free Hertfordshire library card can also access this free app.

We also encourage audiobooks and podcasts as a really good way to get reluctant readers interested in reading and developing their confidence around literacy and comprehension.

Having the subtitles on the screen when watching TV is also a useful way to encourage reading and awareness of vocabulary.