Lexplore’s reading assessment programme with eye tracking technology. Mersey Vale Primary School
Every pupil should be able to reach for the stars without their reading difficulties holding them back. But how can teachers be sure they have identified exactly which children in their classrooms need extra support with reading? And what about those children who are just about managing but who could make so much more progress if their reading improved?
These were the questions that the outstanding Mersey Vale Primary school set out to answer when they introduced Lexplore’s reading assessment programme.
A sharper focus on reading
Reading is fundamental to a child’s education; Mersey Vale was determined to make sure every pupil with a reading difficulty could be identified and provided with targeted support as early as possible, so that everyone could be given the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
But the reading assessments the school used to evaluate its pupils only told part of the story, as Jayne Mullane, headteacher, explains. “What we needed was an approach that could offer us a greater degree of focus so that we could set interventions for the individual child, meaning that no one gets left behind.”
So over a period of two days, every child from Year 2 to Year 5 took the Lexplore reading assessment.
A revolutionary approach
Lexplore’s assessment uses the latest in eye tracking technology to monitor a child’s eye movements while they are reading.
Eye movements can give a startling insight into the cognitive processes behind a child’s individual reading method. By looking at how long their eyes fixate upon words, and how they move throughout the passage we can pick up on minor differences in how their brain processes text on lexical, syntactic, semantic and structural levels.
Based upon this information Lexplore can determine a child’s reading attainment in just a few minutes across five levels from low to high; and thanks to objectivity of machine learning, they can precisely identify pupils who might be struggling with reading difficulties, such as Dyslexia, much earlier in their development – even before children have developed their full communication skills.
While the concept is highly technical and based on over 30 years of research, the tests themselves are fun for pupils to do, as Jayne explains. “The children read a short paragraph from a computer screen and no writing is involved, so the assessment is focused purely on reading. The great thing is that it’s fun and the content is interesting so the children really enjoyed completing the test.”
“The screening process takes just a few minutes for each pupil. It is quick, straightforward and easy to manage within the day-to-day routine of the school,” explains Jayne.
"It's amazing to see such detail and it's very clear from Lexplore's results how you can give targeted support"
Jayne Mullane, Headteacher, Mersey Vale Primary School
The insight to make a difference
Mersey Vale had secure online access to the results of the tests, and a meeting was arranged with Lexplore to discuss the findings.
“The results are visual and Lexplore provided us with an overall picture of how our children performed in the tests compared with other schools.
“You can drill down into an individual pupil’s results and understand from their eye movements how that child is reading so you can give targeted support.”
“I found it more enjoyable than other tests that we do because it was fun, short and less tiring. The stories were interesting and I wanted to read them to find out what happened.”
KS2 confident reader
Making an impact on performance
The results from the Lexplore assessment are already making a positive impact on Mersey Vale School.
“Our special educational needs coordinator has been using the results to build into pupils’ individual plans and to set interventions that we can monitor over time. The assessments are helping us give pupils the boost they need to learn more effectively.”
But one of the most astonishing outcomes of the Lexplore screening was that it has helped the school to uncover examples of children who were not previously identified as having reading difficulties.
“The tests showed that one of our KS2 girls was finding reading difficult, but this was something we hadn’t spotted before,” says Jayne. “Because she had developed effective coping strategies to manage those difficulties, we hadn’t realised that she needed support.
“This pupil is very capable, so now we make sure we give her reading material with a high interest level but a simpler text that she can follow more easily.
“The interventions are clearly working, and the tests revealed that the pupil has progressed from a 'low' banding, through 'below average' to 'average' in the space of just 7 months, and in that time she has also made a significant improvement in reading speed.”
“It was a better reading test for me as it was on a computer screen and I prefer this. It didn’t seem like doing a test.”
KS2 reluctant reader
The assessments are most effective if used on an ongoing basis to monitor the progress of pupils, and Jayne plans to build Lexplore into the school’s regular assessment programme.
“We have already started to re-test the pupils who are at risk of reading difficulties to check the progress of specific interventions that we put in place.
“We are also planning to share the results of the assessment in transition meetings where class teachers discuss pupils’ progress before they move up a year,” Jayne continues.
“I am hoping to build the results into our discussions with parents, so they can see the specific difficulties their child is having with reading, and we can start conversations about how parents can support their child at home.
“Lexplore gives us a powerful tool to help pupils of all reading attainment levels make the most of their learning and prepare them for the next stage of the education journey.”
Mersey Vale Primary School is rated outstanding by Ofsted
Around half of Mersey Vale’s pupils speak English as an additional language
11% of pupils have been identified as having special educational needs