News and views A school's story: working with Beanstalk has transformed our pupils By Janine Dodds, Deputy Head Teacher at The Oaks Primary School I first heard of Beanstalk when I attended training for looked after children in school, it was suggested that having one-to-one reading from a Beanstalk reader would help the looked after children we have in our school. What we have discovered is that working with Beanstalk has increased academic achievement, and helped build the children’s confidence, self-esteem and their love for reading. Our school has a high proportion of free school meals (82%) and is in the top fourteen schools nationally for deprivation; as a result our children enter school way below their age-related expectations. As a school we have had to think of ways of engaging children in their learning and using Beanstalk was just one of the ways to do this. The exceptional training means that Beanstalk reading helpers are well equipped to understand the needs of the children they are working with and developing a programme based on these needs. As a result our children have made exceptional progress. One child had little phonic knowledge on entry to Year 1, but by the end of Year 2 she achieved level 3 in her reading. Another child who joined our school in Year 6 was working at a low level 3 and with the support she achieved a level 4 in her SATs, which is a whole level of progress in seven months! Our final child was below national age-related expectations in Reception, his behaviour was a concern and he found it difficult to concentrate. To help overcome this, the reading helper mixed the sessions by playing games that were linked to his phonics. As a result, when he had his assessments for his review we were commended on his progress and told whatever we were doing with his reading we needed to continue as he had made exceptional progress. We were so pleased with the progress of all the children that we took on another Beanstalk reading helper to target other children who were disengaged with reading; these children are now making good progress and look forward to the time with their reading helper. The children see their reading helpers as part of the school community and they are invited to attend assemblies to celebrate and share the achievements of the children. Using Beanstalk reading helpers has been a positive experience and the impact has been amazing, it has helped children build positive relationships, grow in confidence, build their self-esteem and develop reading skills and a love for reading, I would certainly recommend Beanstalk to other schools.