The truth is, to the eight-plus age-range, teachers just aren't cool. Boys, especially, are more willing to open up to a mentor slightly older than themselves. So at Pinehurst Junior School we ran a project with pupils at Headlands Secondary School, which really helped to motivate a group of children who weren't buying into a reading culture.
Before the project, which adopted a multi-strand approach, we had a 35 per cent gap in reading results between boys and girls in Year 6. The following year the gap had gone. Mentoring wasn't the only thing that made a difference, but it certainly played a part.
Cheryl Byford, my excellent receiving secondary school colleague, brought her pupils to the library. Her volunteers were given initial training on hearing children read and on what to do when the younger ones got stuck on words. They also chatted informally about what kind of books they liked and what they read at the secondary school.
Whenever the secondary group came in, my pupils, who were a challenging bunch, were eager to go to the library and talk about reading. Often, they took their reading logs with them to share their views on the books they had been reading. The older pupils got a boost to their self-esteem, too.
It was obvious that the primary children looked up to them - a new experience for some of them. Not only did reading results improve and self-esteem get a boost, but a bridge was built between the schools. I'll be trying to build that bridge in my new school this September, for the sake of the results, but more for building the motivation to learn.
Jo Garton Deputy head of Wroughton Junior School, Swindon