Customer: John Smeaton Academy
Customer: John Smeaton Academy

“Some of our students have improved their reading age by 24 months!”

Bedrock Learning

We spoke to Ellie Ashton, Head of English at Leeds’ John Smeaton Academy (part of United Learning), about how she oversees Bedrock engagement and progress across Years 7 to 11.

How have you implemented Bedrock?

100% English homework, with a minimum of two Bedrock lessons a week. We focus on Bedrock in literacy lessons. Having a full set of computers in the library makes this manageable.

I asked one student what he loved about Bedrock and his response was: “I just love learning words!”

How do you introduce Bedrock to your incoming students each year?

We like to get the Year 6 accounts up and running before the summer holiday. I send their Bedrock login details with their induction information. Last year, a third of the year group did Bedrock over the summer holiday! We will do that again this year – it keeps them ticking over. The Alpha Test data [which shows a student’s current vocabulary level] was really useful, especially as we had no SATs data to go from. We were able to notice patterns and trends about students before they even entered the building and identified that over- half the year group had lower than their expected reading age.

We do the NGRT diagnostic test as well. I have collated students’ Bedrock blocks against the NGRT test results and they are accurately aligned. In the absence of KS2 data, we used this to set them.

The new Bedrock points system [which rewards usage with points] has been really useful to see what students are doing – i.e. which lessons they’re starting and passing and which words they’re learning – all their activity on Bedrock.

We notice you celebrate students’ successes on Bedrock via Twitter…

Everything that goes on Twitter also goes to the students in the daily reports they get in tutor time. They get texted home in the bulletin for parents. I also do YouTube videos in which I go over the leaderboard and share praise. I show these in form time and email to students every Friday – they remind students what the expectations are and get them engaged, talking about Bedrock, and celebrating ‘the top Bedrockers’ in their year groups. So Bedrock is everywhere!

Have you found the Bedrock Impact Analysis [which summarises progress of individuals, classes and cohorts such as PP and SEN] useful?

Yes, very. From that, I felt compelled to share Bedrock with our trust, United Learning, explaining what it is and why it is so amazing!

I have done a lot of analysis for United Learning. They became very interested in Bedrock and now use it quite heavily to support the improvement of reading ages. I did a detailed analysis of the impact of Bedrock lesson completion on NGRT reading ages. The correlation was clear cut – the more Bedrock lessons students completed, the more their reading age improved. We have boys, eligible for pupil premium funding, who complete over the expected amount of Bedrock lessons, who have improved their reading ages by 24 months!

How do you embed Bedrock into classroom T&L?

We are successfully embedding the words students are learning on Bedrock into lessons. We also use the words in ‘do nows’ – so it is the first task students complete at the start of English lessons. I have two NQTs (who were ITTs last year) and a range of staff members – so it is always a work in progress.

Does tracking Bedrock add to your workload?

No. Bedrock data is so easy to download. It is so clear and simple. It is just a little admin job for Monday morning. The impact that it has is very much worth it. Those leaderboards really impact engagement – we have students who are competing with each other. For example, Y9 boys, who aren’t really engaged in English, are performing really well on Bedrock. They want to ‘win’!

The data is so visual. I look at the pie charts throughout the week. We put up the lesson activity reports [with the traffic light smiley faces] in library lessons. Even our Y10s love that. They ask us, “Am I on green yet? Am I on green yet?” There are clear ‘next steps’.

Have you noticed any improvement in students’ writing?

Yes, looking through the work of students who complete the most Bedrock lessons, a girl in Y9 had written
“the sun accentuated the girls’ hair colour.” I asked her where she’d learned that word and she said, “I learnt it in my Bedrock.”

She is one of our students who has really improved her reading age over the past few years. She completes 12 lessons of Bedrock a week and sees how many Bedrock words she can get into her writing.

So, Bedrock has had an impact on students’ writing because they are upgrading their vocabulary. When we talk to them about upgrading their vocabulary, we say things like, “try to use some of your Bedrock words.”

Have you seen any of the Bedrock GCSE English lessons?

When I was putting together a presentation to show my team and our cluster how to use Bedrock, I did loads of Bedrock lessons. I think they are great. When students get going, they learn so much. The subject terminology they have learnt from Bedrock GCSE English is really helping them with their writing. From the very first unit on different types of verbs, they are now noticing the effect of them in their reading.

We have an alternative provision on site at school. They complete at least four Bedrock GCSE English lessons a week. They can tell me what a passive verb or active verb is and spot them in a sentence – and that’s because of those Bedrock lessons!

The fact that they get instant reward is really powerful. Our boys do better on Bedrock than our girls. This has always been something that I have been interested in – that “well done, you’ve got it right” and steering in the right direction works for them. They love to put their headphones on and get on with it completely independently.

I really like the variety of different texts Bedrock explores in this scheme of learning. There’s Dickens, alongside poetry. The exposure to unseen texts is great.

How have you found parent engagement with Bedrock?

When Bedrock first introduced parent accounts [free linked accounts for parents and guardians to see their child’s usage and progress] I was super excited because our parents love having an account on Hegartymaths. I made a ‘how to’ guide for Smeaton parents and half our parents are linked up to Bedrock now. They really like being able to see what their child has done.

As we are having fewer parents’ evenings, we are generating more reports. On those reports home, I always include individual students’ progress and attainment. Students also get RAG rated (whether they are doing the expected amount of Bedrock, under expected, significantly below or exceeding).

Have you seen the new Bedrock book covers on our app?

I saw the blog about them and sent it to our librarian. We got really excited about it. The kids love it! They really like the pictures.

What are your thoughts on Bedrock’s new developments, such as Bedrock Tier 3 Mapper, Bedrock Grammar and Bedrock Morphology?

We already love the Latin and Greek roots unit [37 Common Roots – free with Bedrock Vocabulary]. Our SEN department uses it with our lower-ability students. It helps them figure out for themselves what other words mean. Some of our students do four Bedrock lessons, incorporating two Latin and Greek roots lessons alongside Bedrock Vocabulary.

We’re excited about your upcoming features.

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