'Tremendous impact' in Opportunity Area pilot

A new hub established with investment from Doncaster's Opportunity Area funding reports impressive teacher development as they aim for a 10% improvement in reading results in 2020.

Established in 2019, the Doncaster Hub grew  out of collaboration between three primary  school trusts with the united aim of driving school improvement in the borough, led by Beryce Nixon NLE (Exceed Learning Partnership), Sarah Cairns (Empowering Minds Trust) and Janis James (Inspiring Futures Trust).

We recognised that Challenge Partners could offer Doncaster an approach to moving forward to a sustainable future with high academic outcomes, not only for our primary learners but inclusive of all pupils in secondary and special schools, especially the most disadvantaged.

The hub’s goal was to create a school improvement model which can be adopted as an approach for all Doncaster schools. In order for leaders to understand the benefits of this collaborative approach, a pilot project was developed in early 2019 with investment from Doncaster’s Opportunity Area funding from the Government, to trial the approach for the first year. School Leaders were invited to an initial meeting in March to find out about the initiative from Challenge Partners leaders Dame Sue John and Laura Lewis-Williams. A total of 14 primary schools immediately expressed their interest in joining the hub in April,  with a 15th special school joining us from September. The initiative has been fully embraced by our schools’ leaders and teachers, with some excellent professional networking and feedback taking place at our hub meetings and training sessions.

Senior Partners stated that: ‘Within the hub, we have taken a layered approach to school improvement, ensuring that the priorities are cascaded on each level of leadership to secure maximum impact. We have reviewed and evaluated each stage of the action  plan to integrate the Challenge Partners approach of ‘What Went Well’ and ‘Even Better If’ to ensure that all partners feel that they are contributing to the agreed end goals. The feedback from the partners is that middle leaders are gaining excellent professional development and that the hub is supporting them  to cascade the training in all year groups.’

Our key priorities link directly to the Opportunity Area Plan, focused on the creation of a hub reading strategy to support and improve attainment in Reading at Key Stage 2. The hub strategy concentrated on improvement in reading subject knowledge, understanding of cognitive development in reading in all year groups and the progression in reading fluency and comprehension. The aim for the Doncaster Hub  is for teachers to become secure and confident in  the teaching of reading through hub training sessions,  a local network of best practice and the external Challenge Partners peer review process, all of which have been implemented with great success. We are striving for a 10% improvement in our 2020 results  in age-related and greater-depth reading in all year groups across our hub schools.

Doncaster Hub report tremendous impact from the pilot:

  • Leaders understand the strategies for teaching phonology, reading fluency and reading comprehension across the primary phase
  • A Cognitive Progression in Reading document has been produced by all the English Subject Leaders from the 15 hub schools
  • English Leaders are reporting that they feel more secure in their subject in all phases of primary and this is impacting not only on their own teaching but how they are leading and supporting staff in their professional learning within the hub schools
  • Reading training has been delivered for all teachers in the hub schools, in each year group from nursery to Year 6. This has been an integration of subject knowledge and strategies to secure cognitive development within year groups
  • Peer reviews have been undertaken by leaders  and the feedback has been that this is the best professional development they have undertaken
  • Peer reviews have been completed in five of the  hub schools, with all schools reporting the benefits  to undertaking the process as being reflective  and developmental.


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