Readers make Leaders

Milly Pumfrey, English Teacher, writes: ‘Readers make leaders’, a project linking primary and secondary pupils in Oxford, was dreamed up by Rev. Tom Shaw and Jill Hudson, Executive Head of the Blackbird Leys Academy Trust. Working with English Teacher, Milly Pumfrey, and Kathy Hodder-Williams, a Teacher at Pegasus Primary School, it involved Fourth Form and Lower Sixth pupils from St. Edward’s, Magdalen College School and Cherwell, and pupils in Years 4 and 5 from the three primary schools which make up the Trust, namely Pegasus, Orchard Meadow and Windale. Six hundred children in all took part in Blackbird Leys Park last Friday.

Prior to the event, each secondary school child had bought a book for a primary school pupil he or she would be paired with. The children chose a book they had loved at the age of 9 or 10. Also, all children had brought along one of their favourite poems. Already the relationship had begun before the children had even met. On arrival, the children paired up and then got together into groups of 4. Although initially a little nervous, it took just minutes before they were at ease in each other’s company. They read extracts from the books and the poems together, played some literacy games such as vocabulary top trumps (made by some Lower Sixth pupils) and were entertained by the renowned and remarkable performance poet, AF Harrold. Two Lower Sixth pupils, Emma Isola and Kim Pushong, taught the children a dance routine during the morning too. Celia Hodgson and Casper Sunley filmed the event and the video, expertly edited by Celia, is available on Teddies on Camera.

The morning was hugely successful. The children were, without exception, totally absorbed and focused on their partners as they talked, read and played together. The teachers just melted into the background. The beauty of the simple yet powerful encounter was very clear. The gentleness with which the older children communicated with the younger and the way the younger ones captivated the older children was very touching.

It was a huge and complex event to organise and colleagues in the Common Room came together to prepare and assemble resources for the 600 children. Excellent collaboration between the staff of St Edward’s and the Blackbird Academy Trust primary schools made it a joy to plan and co-ordinate such a big and important occasion. More events are in the pipeline!


‘If you look around, the children are all engaged, just relishing books, books and reading, language, word and stories. All of that is the most powerful thing in life — the thing that change lives and it’s coming to reality, right here, right now.’
Jill Hudson, Executive Head of the Blackbird Leys Academy Trust

‘For me it’s about encounter. When we encounter other people through writing or poetry, we have an opportunity to grow’.
Rev. Tom Shaw, Assistant Chaplain

‘For our pupils in particular, that skill that they will develop by working with the younger children is something that they will take with them through their lives. So it’s an absolutely fantastic opportunity and I hope that the schools can benefit from what we can offer.’
Matthew Albrighton, Deputy Head Academic

Our pupils all absolutely loved it. Every single one of them was beaming and full of how wonderful their partners were and how much they enjoyed the morning.’
Kathy Hodder-Williams, Pegasus School

‘The pupils are buzzing and are wearing their Readers make Leaders t-shirts with pride.’
Stella Cranston, Orchard Meadow School

‘The Fourth Form and Lower Sixth had the opportunity to lead their groups in Blackbird Leys Park and they rose to the challenge admirably. We were very proud of them’.
Milly Pumfrey, English Teacher

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