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Due to a number of contextual factors, we felt that our pupils at Portway lacked exposure to news from outside of their own community so we decided to pursue options to support this through our reading and writing learning journey. First News was the ideal route into this exposure. We decided that our use of the newspaper needed to be both purposeful and consistent in order to have the required impact. We had a First News launch where pupils completed a variety of news based activities to mark the beginning of our journey with First News. We now have junior librarians who are responsible for the delivery of our newspapers to all classes across the school each week.

Early Years receive copies of the newspaper weekly and teachers share relevant stories with the class that link to the learning of the week. Newspapers are also present in the reading corners so pupils can browse during their independent learning time.

Year groups one to six use First News on a weekly basis as a consistent part of their learning journey. Each Monday, all classes from Years one to six use a chosen article from First News as their focus text. This is a verbal reading lesson, where pupils practise a word reading skill (e.g. the use of prefix/suffix or reading with fluency and expression) using the chosen First News story as a focus. Pupils are then given the opportunity to discuss the article, share their opinions and debate within the classroom. Most weeks, the chosen stories come from the comprehension activities on First News Education so teachers can ensure high quality comprehension questions. This also saves lots of resourcing time for teachers!

We also use the ‘News Debate’ Activities as a stimulus for assemblies and whole school project weeks, for example Eco-week.

Our First News assembly leader, Laura Brothwell says, ‘It is amazing to see the children growing in confidence when discussing topical issues each week. We focus our assemblies on current stories and give all pupils the opportunity to discuss with their peers as well as adults. We encourage pupils to listen courteously and challenge the ideas of others. We have managed to link First News to many of our whole school priorities such as mental health and well-being and healthy eating.’

Our pupils at Portway love First News and get excited for the new delivery each week. First News is a popular choice in every reading corner across the school and teachers are encouraged to signpost pupils to relevant articles, past and present. Our pupils particularly enjoy the ‘Puzzles’ from First News tools, these are sometimes sent out as additional home learning activities.

Over the last year at Portway, we have recorded a notable improvement in both reading progress and attainment in all year groups across the school. We believe the weekly use of First News as part of our learning journey is a significant contributing factor to this. Pupils are increasingly confident in sharing their views and opinions and are beginning to considerately challenge the views of others. Our pupils have an increasing awareness of the wider world and we feel that our work with First News is helping us to give them the exposure to current world news that they need, particularly as we prepare our Year 6 pupils for their transition to secondary school.

Pupils say they enjoy reading the newspaper each week and we have a waiting list of pupils who would like to be part of the editorial team which suggests that First News has been a real inspiration.

We use the ‘News Debates’ and ‘News Comprehensions’ tools to support our assembly planning each week. Each Wednesday we hold a First News assembly in which a focus article is chosen. The article is discussed and debated throughout the assembly and pupils are encourage to reflect on how the chosen story has an impact on the wider world as well as themselves.

Our weekly use of the ‘News Comprehensions’ in reading is an effective way of giving pupils the opportunity to practise key word reading and comprehension skills within a relevant context.

After working with First News for a relatively short amount of time, we realised that our pupils were really engaged in the idea of a weekly newspaper so we looked into options to create our own termly school newspaper. We have now had three successful issues of Portway Post, a project which is now fully embedded in our school community. We have a pupil editorial team that works on each issue and all year groups contribute writing from their ‘News Week’ learning journeys to the creation of the final issue. Without the inspiration and excitement from the introduction of First News into our school, we would not be having the success and interest we have with our very own school newspaper.

‘It’s good when we get to talk about the news in assembly. I feel like I know more about what is happening in the world and I always go home and ask my mum what she thinks about it.’ (Y5 pupil)

‘First News inspired me to want to become a journalist. I love working on Portway Post [the school newspaper]!’ (Y6 Pupil)

‘My favourite part is looking at the sports pages. Me and my friends talk about the stories after our lessons.’ (Y4 pupil)

‘I like it when we have time to just look through the paper at whatever we want.’ (Y2 pupil)

‘I really like the puzzle pages, I always turn to them first!’ (Y6 pupil)

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