Pilot project: Hospital education service

Gloucestershire Hospital Education Service (GHES) is a pupil referral unit (PRU), providing education to children from 4-18 who are unable to attend school due to extenuating medical needs. If they become well enough, these children then rejoin mainstream education. Up until the pandemic, most of the pupils accessing GHES did so because of immunocompromising conditions including cancer and heart conditions. In addition, GHES provided their education service to some children unable to attend school due to significant mental health needs. 

By nature of serving a community of pupils who are at home, many hospital outreach services report issues of isolation, as children are no longer socialising at school, nor are they within the four walls of the hospital where they could meet other children. Finding communal activities that can help combat this feeling is always a challenge for the teaching staff. 

Read for Good approached Gloucestershire Hospital Education Service (GHES) to explore the possibility of piloting a project to support their children with a shared, reading-focussed project that was informed by our work in schools and hospitals. We wanted to combine the wonderfully positive mental health benefits of reading with the advantages of a purposeful activity in which each individual pupil has a sense of community, shared goals, and working together.

To facilitate this, Read for Good helped the highly skilled staff at GHES by:

  • Telling them about our free reading tracker tool, Track My Read®, for staff and all of their pupils.
  • Giving guidance on how to use Track My Read, which included a short film and email support.
  • Creating a launch film, sent to participating children to get them excited about the project.

The project drew upon our learnings from Readathon®, recognising that empathy and a diverse range of reading materials are a powerful way to make reading more appealing:

  • GHES staff set a challenge for all pupils to collectively read for 5,000 minutes over a two week period.
  • Meeting the reading target would ‘unlock’ a donation of brand new books and comics for families accessing local food banks.
  • In addition, GHES would receive brand new reading for pleasure books for their pupils, continuing their engagement beyond the duration of the project.

Staff at GHES were crucial in helping to make the pilot a reality by effectively using Track My Read, supporting pupils with their reading, and making the most of our resources. Each child at GHES received a unique Track My Read log in which they could access on a computer, tablet or phone whenever they wanted to record what they’ve read, the number of minutes, and how much they enjoyed it through a simple emoji rating. As well as enabling children to log everything they read, Track My Read provides staff with rich insights showing reading attitudes and behaviour data by pupil. 

Results from Track My Read and our interview with GHES’ Literacy Lead told us that the project was an enormous success. Highlights included pupils smashing the original 5,000 minute target, having more than half of all pupils active on Track My Read, and being told that ‘[Pupils] were really motivated by the fact their reading would help families using the food bank to access magazines and books.’

You can read the full report here, which contains deeper insights and learnings. We hope that this case study provides helpful ideas for other similar settings, particularly where children and young people can feel isolated. If you work in a similar setting and would like to know more, please email reading@readforgood.org.

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