Spellzone gets KS2 SATS students up to speed

Millthorpe School, York"For pupils in Years 5 and 6 spelling is especially crucial, due to the big part it plays in Key Stage 2 SATs."

Pauline Guinan, Year 5 and 6 teacher and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator, Sheering Church of England Primary School

At the beginning of 2016, Pauline Guinan, Year 5 and 6 teacher and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator at Sheering Church of England Primary School, was tasked with seeking out a quality spelling resource.A small, family school at the heart of village life in Sheering, Essex, the school’s motto is ‘Everyone Matters’, an ethos that was reflected in its recent pledge to give all 100+ students the best chance possible to get their spelling up to speed.

The school had never used an online spelling resource before, and teachers were aware that spelling throughout the whole school was an area they wanted to improve. For pupils in Years 5 and 6 spelling is especially crucial, due to the big part it plays in Key Stage 2 SATs. Pauline and the rest of the teachers at Sheering knew that students’ spelling ages would need to improve if they were to achieve the desired results.

Hoping that the key to helping the students succeed lay in finding a spelling resource that would challenge them while also being enjoyable to use, Pauline began her search. Upon discovering Spellzone’s Starter Course, with its multi-sensory activities and pre-loaded word lists, she wasted no time in booking a trial. A successful introduction to the programme was enough to prompt Sheering’s headteacher, Lorna Brittaine, to give approval for the resource to be rolled out throughout the school.

During the past two years, Sheering students have studied spellings for 20 minutes every day in ability-based phonics groups. The range in ability across the school made for a large number of different groups and this has shown good results. However, they wanted to build on this even more. Today, because Spellzone is customisable to fit the ability of each individual student, an entire class can now also study together regardless of the spelling abilities of individuals.

"The programme really can be tailored to suit individual needs, which means at the moment we have whole classes using Spellzone at the same time with no need to be split up," Pauline confirms, continuing: "The resource allows every student to work at a level that has been set according to their individual strengths and needs. This means children whose spelling ability is strong don’t have to slow down and those with weaker spelling don’t struggle to keep up. They are all learning at the same time, at their own unique pace. Everyone is equal."

At the moment, every student apart from the very youngest in the school is set Spellzone homework to complete, while Years 5 and 6 have a daily 20-minute session during class time.
Sheering’s computer suite currently has enough machines with headphones to allow each child to work individually and allow them to use Spellzone’s helpful ‘read out loud’ feature. This means the resource really is accessible to all. The school is so keen to make the resource even more easily accessible to all students that it is about to begin rolling out Spellzone sessions using newly purchased tablets.

Having used Spellzone for over a year now, teachers have reported fantastic overall improvements in students’ spelling ages. Pauline notes that it really is the case that students get out what they put in. In particular, for those willing to take the time to use Spellzone at home the sky is seemingly the limit for what they can achieve.

As for individual success stories, Pauline describes: "One of our biggest successes is a student who managed to complete all the available tasks and is now being set individual tasks linked to Year 5 and 6. Her spelling has soared and it has been enormously satisfying to see. Spellzone gives students a test once they have completed eight course units, which means we get regular updates on what they’ve scored and how that compares to their previous scores. One student has managed to raise her most recent test score to a fantastic 90%, having originally scored 53%."

Every Friday, Sheering invites student’s families to an Achievement Assembly, during which students who have earned 100% in a Spellzone test that week are awarded certificates for high standards, a feat that Pauline is pleased to say is happening more and more frequently. The school is looking forward to seeing students continue to flourish with Spellzone’s help, and is currently looking into new ways to incorporate the resource into classes in the future.

Sheering C of E Primary School

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"Thank goodness for Spellzone during this remote learning phase. The site is easy for students to navigate independently and they're really enjoying the activities and spelling games. You get an awful lot for your money with Spellzone. Really reassuring is the very prompt response with helpdesk queries. I've very rarely needed the helpdesk, but when I have, the issue has been addressed and sorted within a very short time."

Sarah Taggart, Oasis Academy Lord's Hill