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Hub expansion boost for Bradford’s literacy levels

More Bradford schools are set to benefit from the expertise of the Burley Woodhead English Hub from September 2021 in a further boost to literacy levels among Reception and Year 1 pupils.

A further five schools are set to become partner schools and receive intensive support from the English Hub, taking the number of participating schools in the district to 25 by the start of the new 2021 academic year.

Burley and Woodhead CE Primary School was designated as an English Hub by the DfE in Summer 2018, becoming part of a national network of 34 hubs.  Their remit is to support early language development, the teaching of phonics and developing a love of reading.

Teachers from across Bradford and West Yorkshire were appointed as Literacy Specialists in January 2019, due to their proven excellence in early years’ literacy teaching. These experts provide packages of tailored and fully-funded support to schools in need of help with any aspect of phonics, early reading and language development.

Joanne Siddall, Headteacher at Burley and Woodhead CE Primary school and English Hub Lead, explained: “The Literacy Specialists were chosen through a competitive process – all have a background of excellent phonics teaching and are distributed to benefit the areas that need it most.

“The schools we are tasked to work with are generally those that have a high level of disadvantage, below average phonics scores or a large number of hard-to-reach pupils. We also offer help to those that are either ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ in their Ofsted inspection judgement.”

Schools that reach out to the Hub for support are invited in the first instance to attend a showcase event before taking advantage of a free audit of their early language and phonics provision.

A detailed action plan is then drawn up for a two-year improvement journey led by a dedicated Literacy Specialist.

“Our real focus is to provide whatever assistance is required to ensure that children have the necessary phonics skills in place to enable them to begin to read as early as possible,” says Mrs Siddall.

“Due to the impact of the pandemic, however, we are also now providing a comprehensive package of Covid recovery support to help schools get into the strongest possible position for the return of pupils after lockdown.

“Despite the fact that the majority of schools have continued to teach phonics remotely – some with innovative interventions such as ‘doorstep’ session or telephone-based phonics lessons – the English Hub is on hand to provide early assessments for schools to understand any gaps caused by the need to rely on remote learning.”

In addition to the support Burley Woodhead English Hub provides to develop phonics teaching, the hub is working alongside national specialists such as Professor Teresa Cremin to develop a whole school Reading for Pleasure research project in 10 partner schools from September.

“Over the last two years, our support has focused on developing phonics and early reading,” says Mrs Siddall. “We are excited that we are now working with experts from across the country to develop our support for Reading for Pleasure and Early Language Development”. 

The Hub has put together a wealth of Covid-related resources on its website at

In addition, the team of Literary Specialists have been holding regular online ‘drop-in sessions’, where schools can ask questions and walk through detailed checklists of the things they need to think about when schools re-open.

Backed by £26.3 million of DfE funding, the focus on phonics delivered by the national English Hub network has contributed to 163,000 more six-year-olds being on track being fluent readers than in 2012.