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National award for Moorlands

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Each year since its launch in 2017, the award has shown the determination and passion of teachers to get kids reading, but the teachers who entered the 2021 awards showed inventiveness on a never-seen-before scale as they tackled multiple lockdowns. The past year has seen a drop in 5–10-year-olds choosing to read daily or nearly every day for pleasure meaning teachers had an even more vital role to play.

Two categories had joint winners, with Jon Biddle, of Moorlands Church of England Primary Academy, part of Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust (DNEAT) in Belton, Great Yarmouth and Laura Atkinson of Lapal Primary School (West Midlands) taking the top prize in the Whole School category.

Teachers also got inventive throughout school closures to get parents reading too. Jon Biddle of Moorlands Church of England Primary Academy, Great Yarmouth opened the school library twice a week during lockdown, creating a ‘Parents Book Box’ for parents to borrow books for themselves too and become reading role models for their children.

The winners were announced at a virtual awards ceremony on Thursday 21st October 2021 honouring some wonderful examples of reading for pleasure across five categories including Early Career Teacher, Experienced Teacher, School Reading Champion and Community Reading Champion and Whole School Award.

The leadership team at Moorlands Church of England Primary Academy created the reading for pleasure ethos in the school almost seven years ago.

Mr Jon Biddle, English and Reading Lead said: “The culture of reading is firmly within the ethos of the school and it continued successfully throughout lockdown.  We set the children reading challenges at home such as to recreate the cover of their favourite book and find as many places as you can to read in your house. We also ensured that our pupils were sent home with a selection of books from the school library so that they all had access to reading material.”  

Children enjoy texts by a wide range of diverse authors, current favourites include High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson, The Girl Who Stole An Elephant by Nizrana Farook and Ways To Be Me by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott.

Children are encouraged to read daily at home and in school and it has priority within the school timetable as we recognise its impact. Most children read one or two books every week.

 Last week the academy hosted author Nigel Lungenmuss-Ward.  After almost two years without any visitors, the students enjoyed his energy, enthusiasm and passion for reading which really inspired the children.

Isla from Year 6 said: “Reading is really important to me. Having time in class to read makes me happy. I love being a library helper and finding books for other children to enjoy. We’ve always loved reading at Moorlands. That’s kind of what we are really, a reading school.”

Mr Biddle, who won the ‘Reading for Pleasure Teacher Award’ in the Individual Winner category in 2018 said: “As a school, we understand the importance of children reading for pleasure. We are genuinely delighted to receive this award. Over the past few years, we’ve worked incredibly hard to build a whole school reading culture with our pupils, staff and families, and can’t wait to build even further on the foundations that we have put in place.”

Mr John Siddles, Deputy Headteacher said: “I’m thrilled that Moorlands have won the 2021 Reading for Pleasure award. Developing a love of reading is at the heart of everything we stand for and we are proud to see our achievements and efforts recognised.”

Mr Bruce Gordon, Chair of Governors said:As chair of governors at Moorlands Church of England Primary Academy, I’m delighted that the school has won the whole school reading for pleasure award for 2021. Inspiring children to read for pleasure plays a crucial part in developing their understanding and interests across a wide range of subjects, as well as its numerous other benefits to wellbeing and mental health.”

Oliver Burwood, CEO of Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust said: “Everyone at DNEAT is so proud of Moorlands and all that the academy has done to earn this amazing recognition. Reading for pleasure is at the heart of everything that Moorlands Academy does and it impacts in this academy and across the Trust. Many other teachers and leaders have visited to learn how to embed this type of culture, as we see it as vital to children’s success and happiness. A genuine love of reading will serve you well in terms of the pleasure it can give you and the impact it has on all of the other areas of learning that you are engaged in.”  

Being read to has been proven to be one of the most powerful ways to inspire reading for pleasure. For 8-13s, if they are read to daily or nearly every day they are twice as likely to read independently for pleasure than if they are read to just weekly.

Teresa Cremin, Professor of Education (Literacy) at The Open University, said: “These awards showcase the brilliant work that teachers are doing to build the habit of reading in childhood. The vibrant reading communities built within and beyond their schools help children sustain this important habit which, as the government’s Reading Framework (DfE, 2021) highlights, makes a real impact on their learning.”

This year’s esteemed judges included, Joy Court, Reviews Editor: The School Librarian Journal, Teresa Cremin, Professor of Education, The Open University, Alison David, Consumer Insight Director, Farshore, Fiona Evans, Head of Schools Programme, NLT, Jamila Gavin, Author of Coram Boy and The Wheel of Surya trilogy, Cally Poplak, Managing Director, Farshore and David Reedy, UK Literacy Association.