Case Study
· UK · Schools & Colleges

Varndean School

Infographic of Varndean School.

Speedy but Sustainable Success

In this frequent series, we share the insights, opinions and experiences of teachers and educational leaders who have turned to Lexonik to aid the development of their students.

Here, we chat to Dawn Gillam, Head of English at Varndean School in East Sussex.

Average reading age gain across Varndean School.
28 months
Completed Lexonik Advance, with more on the way.
121 Students

Tell us about you and your school:

I’m Dawn Gillam, and I’ve been a teacher for 12 years. I’m Head of English at Varndean School, which is a wonderfully supportive school, based in Brighton, East Sussex.

We have a great pastoral approach, and have been recently commended in our Ofsted report for having teachers who are ‘experts in their field’, and for pupils who show ‘unwaveringly strong respect for others’.

How did you come to learn about Lexonik?

We were fortunate in that our headteacher saw it in action at another school, and was very impressed. At the time, we were looking into reading interventions, so we were keen to explore who could provide the best solution for our needs.

What had necessitated the exploration into reading interventions? Was it to do with falling attainment, and in particular, was that associated with Covid?

Certainly we recognised that Covid and the disruption throughout the pandemic had had an impact on a proportion of our school community.

In particular, we were concerned about students who were ‘not secondary ready’ and we felt they would need a degree of accelerated support when it came to their reading and vocabulary.

How did you go about assessing the contribution Lexonik could bring, and forming the decision that it was the right path for Varndean School?

In the knowledge that our headteacher was already amazed with what she had seen and heard via her connection to the other school, we were keen to set up a chat with the Lexonik team.

From the outset, we felt they really understood what our concerns were for our students, and, perhaps as importantly, they really ‘got’ the issues we face around availability of time and resource.

This is a comment lots of schools refer to, in terms of their first impression of the Lexonik team. Clearly it speaks to the fact that the products are created by teachers, for teachers?

Yes, that really comes across. It was obvious that these were experts in their field who had not only become evangelical about their product offering, but had actually been where we are – in a classroom, faced with trying to meet targets with limited staff and time.

Just incredible. We could see the progress very quickly and that first data report was amazing – it showed something like two years of progress in just the six weeks of once-weekly sessions.

Dawn Gillam, Head of English, Varndean School

What else was it that really struck you about Lexonik, and made you want to sign up to access the tools?

We loved that it was a very short term approach to achieving a significant and sustainable change.

It was hard to believe that such gains might be seen with only six sessions – but there’s no way you’re going to ignore the prospect of that. We wanted exactly that speedy delivery of tangible results.

And so you committed to proceed? How did you go about it?

Yes, we were absolutely certain this was the right company and right approach for us.

We knew we would only get out what we put in, so we made sure that the staff we allocated for the Lexonik training, would then have ‘protected’ timetabled time each week.

You want to ensure that you’re going to get the most out of it, and that means having the support of your SLT and then ringfencing time for trained staff to put it to good use.

How many staff were trained?

Initially, three of us. We were all teachers in the year 7 group, and were able to see a dozen children who we recognised were very much ‘not secondary ready’.

When you refer to them not being ready, do you mean merely in terms of reading and vocabulary, or is there a wider consequence to their overall learning capacity?

It’s much broader than reading and vocabulary when a child of that age group is falling behind. It meant that their shortfall in that specific area was holding them back across the whole of the curriculum. There’s no way they could have been getting the best level of education on any subject matter, if this aspect of their learning wasn’t speedily addressed.

Were parents told about their child’s selection for the programme?

Yes. Because of GDPR it was important that we approached parents and explained why their child had been identified.

All feedback from parents was positive – they wanted the additional help for their child, so we were able to explain that the sessions would take place once a week over six weeks.

Across Vardean School (3 English teachers, one history teacher and a HLTA)
5 Staff trained
Have had Lexonik programmes implemented to ensure future pupils are secondary ready.
4 Feeder Schools

You began with your first cohort in the Autumn of 2021. What was the initial data like, after those early sessions?

Just incredible.

We could see the progress very quickly and that first data report was amazing – it showed something like two years of progress in just the six weeks of once-weekly sessions.

That must have given all teaching staff a great boost, and a real sense of acknowledgment that you’d picked the right intervention?

Definitely. There’s no denying that those of us who were trained in it weren’t a little daunted at first, worrying about how quickly we would grasp the Lexonik methodology – but it quickly sunk in.

The resources were amazing, and the Lexonik team themselves were always there to reinforce anything or help with issues.

As a result of the initial uptake and success, have you rolled it out further?

We have. We made the decision we wanted something for a greater number of students, so we instructed training for more teachers across more age groups.

In total, we now have five teachers trained and at one point we had one member of staff whose main job it was to run the Lexonik groups. Sadly we don’t have the luxury of that this year, but there is still a thorough school-wide commitment.

You’re so convinced by the Lexonik approach and the importance of the training, that you’ve actually rolled it out with feeder schools, rather than wait until pupils are part of your community?

Yes. We contacted feeder schools because we felt it would provide a boost to some of the children who would be coming up to us.

We did that with four schools and 16 children that were all going to be starting in autumn 2022.

We saw good results, and while initially they had been flagged as not secondary ready, that wasn’t the case by the time they arrived with us for their Autumn term. These were pupils for whom we no longer had any concern.

Let’s talk cost. With things so tight and so many areas schools might need to spend money, was it a dilemma to go with an intervention like this?

Initially it was a dilemma as it is a significant cost.

It came out of the pupil premium early on, and it has certainly proven itself many times over.

What’s the plan now?

We will need to get two more teachers trained, and this will allow us to cover more ages. We’re pleased that it was acknowledged as our intervention of choice in the Ofsted report, and there’s a clear commitment to maintaining the relationship with Lexonik.

Other teachers in the school – even those not directly teaching it – are welcoming the impact it has had and say they see a real difference in how much more engaged the recipient pupils are and what better learners they have become.

We would ideally like more staff to get to witness the sessions, so they can see how it works.

If you're in need of a literacy intervention programme that works for the whole school and across the curriculum, then Contact Us here to talk to one of our account managers about what programmes fit your schools needs. Or check out our literacy programmes here.