The Big Book Bash

Stanley Grove Primary Academy

School context

Stanley Grove converted to Academy status in September 2012. We are a 3-form entry school and currently have 640 children on roll. 51% are FSM. After becoming a Bright Futures Academy there was a period of uncertainty for the school community, particularly amongst parents who were not clear about what their relationship with the school would be like.

What was the need?

It was identified that reading was an area that needed to be developed across the school from the RAISE online data and was prioritised in the School Development Plan. The drive to improve attainment in reading across the school was implemented in staff training, parental involvement and reflective practice. Overall aims of the work
  • To engage children and families in a love of books and reading
  • To have an impact on pupil attainment in reading and build confidence in parents to read with their children.

What we did and how

the ‘BIG’ Idea – Principal and school Creative Lead came up with the idea to hold a community event in the summer term (10 weeks preparation time). This was supported by Governors and SLT. It was agreed that the project would be planned by Creative Lead, Parental Engagement Lead, Reading Lead and Assistant Vice Principal with a small team of staff to undertake other responsibilities as and when required. ‘Something BIG is going to happen’ – 8 weeks prior to the event the team began building some anticipation amongst the children and the staff that something BIG was going to happen. The whole school was covered in posters and staff on the team wore badges saying ‘I know what’s happening…’ We even painted the school wall with ‘What?’, ‘Where?’ and ‘When?’ The BIG reveal – with 6 weeks to go until the event on 21st June we revealed to the children at assembly and the parents on the playground at the end of the day that we would be holding a festival – The BIG Book Bash. The BIG Build Up – The Creative and Reading Leads chose eight books for the festival, one for each year group. Key personnel alongside year group teachers planned two weeks of exciting and creative lessons themed around the book for that year group. These lessons were delivered as the BIG build up in the two weeks leading up to Saturday 21st June. Every day pupils enjoyed literacy and numeracy activities based on their book and its themes as well as creating materials for the event. Also space was set aside for story writing sessions with the most interesting stories being rehearsed to be performed at the event. We wanted the pupils to feel they had a BIG part in creating the BBB so when the day arrived they felt proud and had ownership. The BIG Book Bash The day kicked off with a parade around the streets of Longsight. This was intended to draw an audience and literally ‘stop the traffic’. 300 people took part in the parade with 8 giant puppets. The festival on the school field consisted of 12 zones, each themed to the books the children had been studying in class. The zones were run by teachers, support workers, pupils, parents and community volunteers. Each zone had a number of creative and play based activities and these activities were predominantly free of charge.1000 people attended the festival on the day! The festival finished with The BIG Book Bash Bedtime Story! Ofsted came during the Big Book Bash and were very positive about it.

What were the outcomes for children, parents/families and the school?

The event was an enormous success for the families, not just in school but in the wider community. The children, parents and carers felt a sense of pride in the school and what we had all achieved together. The event could not have happened without the support and commitment of parents. This has led to greater engagement from parents and all our parental events are well attended. Parents are feeling confident in volunteering for school projects, safe in the knowledge that they will be treated well and given training to help in activities. Attainment in reading is going in the right direction and we are still working on interventions to improve the progress made by children. Ofsted said, “the growing links with, and support from, parents is one of the school’s important successes over the past year.”

Overcoming challenges

There were several challenges to face in the delivery of this event – Ofsted; staff commitment; cost; and engaging volunteers The commitment and hard work of the BIG Book Bash team slowly won round staff in school to feel confident about what the aims were and feel supported in the delivery of lessons. A team of community volunteers was recruited made up of parents, carers, relatives and local people. SLT agreed a budget and the Creative Lead was very ‘creative’ with the funds made available. We also worked hard to raise money and get resources from local businesses and local funding groups. As for Ofsted, by the time they came into school the confidence around the delivery of the project was so high that we needed to showcase what we were doing.

Our next steps

The BIG Book Bash was the beginning of a journey. The positive relationship that has been built with parents, the community and local businesses is being built on in several new projects. The experiential audit, completed in January 2014, is still very much at the centre of us wanting to broaden the experiences and opportunities open to families. Our next BIG project is the ‘I Can…Festival’ – March 2015.

Our top tips

  • An event such as the BIG Book Bash needs to be backed up by support from Senior Leaders in school and the school Governors. It was essential that staff were on board and appreciated the benefit and opportunities to learn outside of the classroom.
  • We are lucky at Stanley Grove that we have the staff infrastructure to support the delivery and organisation of big events. This means that when good ideas are generated there is the school commitment to have staff resource available.
  • Parental engagement needs to be a whole school priority.