Here’s an update from our lead trainer, Alison Rounce (@ali_rounce) on the many changes she has been managing since joining us. By the way, we’re recruiting . . .

There is no denying that this has been one of the the strangest and most challenging times that I have encountered in my lifetime. I am lucky: I have not been touched personally by the tragedy brought to so many by COVID-19. We’ve had our challenges; both of my parents have been hospitalised for a short time, during the height of the COVID ‘waves’ and we’ve had to sit, phone in pocket, waiting for calls, waiting for details, waiting for confirmation, waiting to be told that we can collect and bring them home where we can keep them safe.

For many of us, ‘home learning’ with our own children has been something to contend with. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed the time with my kids: overall, we’ve had a blast. But I now have a full understanding of why parents often sigh when their kid’s teacher calls on them for backup. Was teaching my own easy? No, give me other people’s kids and school routines any day. My kids’ school reports and the report I would write for them don’t quite match up.

Of course, during all of this, many of us have had our day jobs to balance with everything else. It has been a challenge for us all, but what I’ve seen as I have gone around the country (virtually, of course… thank goodness for technology) is nothing short of heroic. Now, I know, you are not heroes: you are just doing your jobs, but that is exactly why you are heroic and exactly why I thought I’d give a brief flavour of what I’ve seen and done, in schools, in the last 5 or 6 months.

Training to pick up an intervention that contains many components is challenging. Rewarding when it all comes together and you feel like you have something new and effective to implement, but daunting to begin with. Schools are facing questions about how they will deliver normal classes, let alone one-to-one lessons for their weakest readers; yet we are seeing schools who continue to have a phenomenal focus and drive to make a difference for young people who are struggling. They are seeing these challenging times as an opportunity to change children’s lives. Teachers and TAs around the country have been logging in on Monday mornings and committing themselves over several days to learning how to enable young people to catch up on their reading quickly and completely.

Seeing the determination and commitment of school staff is a fantastic part of my job: I come away from every round of training feeling that I have enabled Thinking Reading tutors to teach the skill that so many of us take for granted, yet is so fundamental to our success as human beings. The biggest change to my job this year has been brought about by COVID-19: we have moved to an online training format, using digital resources, that will enable teachers to keep this vital agenda moving forward — regardless of whether pupils are at home or at school.

As a Thinking Reading trainer, that means I no longer travel to train school staff. I can be in a different school every week, without leaving my family to do it. I can support schools to give the best teaching to their weakest readers, without compromising my own family, because I can do it from my home office between school runs. I’ve met delegates’ families in some of the sessions and many have met mine: let’s face it, the need for a snack is far more important than a parent or carer’s working commitments!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFTJFULpb0U?start=1&w=560&h=315]

My experience as an English teacher and school leader has never been more important. Schools want to give the young people in their care the absolute best teaching; supporting schools to achieve their reading goals is my personal version of ‘living the dream’. This is change that benefits everyone: there is no downside to enabling everyone to read.

COVID-19 has brought, and will continue to bring significant challenges, but where there is focus and determination to do the right thing for young people, there is hope.

We are currently recruiting trainers. You would be paid on a contract basis to train for the role, with a salaried position to follow on qualification. If you are interested in becoming a Thinking Reading trainer, have experience as a leader in secondary school or FE, and have a background in English and/or language, we would be keen to hear from you. Email us for an information pack via ‘fran dot webb at thinkingreading dot com’.