About Skills Academy

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Find out more about Skills Academy!

Do your students spend hours practising their football skills, but no time reading? Are they more interested in music and dance than their English lessons?

The National Literacy Trust’s Skills Academy programme is built on 15 years of successfully delivering sport and literacy programmes. It helps Year 7 & 8 students struggling with their reading increase their comprehension skills, reading stamina and motivation to read and delivers key objectives from the KS3 national curriculum.  

Our recent evaluation showed that half of students participating in Skills Academy improved their reading age on average by 8.4 months over the 10 week programme, while 7 in 10 (71%) students said reading interesting texts as part of the programme had motivated them to be better readers.

Skills Academy includes two modules: one focuses on freestyle football and the other on beatbox and breakdance. Students complete weekly reading challenges in one or other of the modules and are rewarded with how-to videos of impressive football tricks or beatboxing and breakdance routines. The fun and informative videos are demonstrated by professional beatboxers, breakdancers and top freestyle footballers.

Try out Skills Academy before you buy it, with a free lesson plan, and sample challenge

The current Ofsted framework requires the running of intervention programmes for students who are struggling. The latest research from the EEF stipulates schools should plan to support students with the weakest levels of literacy, particularly in Year 7. Skills Academy will help your school provide for this need.

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Read how Sunanda Biswas motivates students to learn with breakdance.

  • “The programme has motivated our students to read, exposing them to accessible, relevant texts. It has also helped them to develop specific skills that will help them in other curriculum areas.” Amy Lloyd, Vyners School

     “We have really seen an improvement in all 22 students’ engagement with reading and they’ve all moved up at least one year’s reading level. In fact, it’s been so popular at school that we’ve been inundated with other students wanting to take part! “ Daniel Richards, Mountain Ash Comprehensive School

      “So yesterday evening we completed our first Skills Academy session and it was great. The power point and handout are fantastic and the session overall was really engaging for the boys.” Suzie Barton, Mosslands School

      “The mean average reading age improvement for the pupils involved in Skills Academy was 1.01 years. One pupil improved his reading age by 3.07 years.”  Andrew Jackson, Canon Slade School

     "A student came to us with huge literacy deficits and a complete lack of self-confidence. Skills Academy was a catalyst for turning her life around and improving her life chances." Nina Moore, Full Circle Education


How much does Skills Academy cost and what do I get?


Skills Academy costs just £150. If you run Skills Academy with 10 students, this works out at £15 per student. For £150 you will receive:

  • one year's access to online comprehension challenges and rewards for your students
  • 10 easy to follow curriculum-linked lesson plans and guidance notes for both modules
  • 10 books as a classs library to encourage choosing and reading a book for pleasure 
  • PLUS one year’s membership of the National Literacy Trust worth £100. Members receive: discounts for programmes, CPD, books and more; a wealth of exclusive literacy resources and tools; access to a community of teaching expertise

Reusable class readers, online challenges and unlimited student sign-up to the Skills Academy website provides even greater value for money if you choose to run the intervention for multiple groups of 10 students. 

Which students is Skills Academy aimed at?

Skills Academy is for Year 7 and 8 students who are struggling with reading comprehension skills. To help identify students’ suitability for this intervention programme you may wish to consider the following criteria:

  • Year 7 students who achieved below 100 in the KS2 reading paper
  • Students in years 7 and 8 whose reading age is below their chronological age
  • Students in years 7 and 8 who demonstrate limited progress in reading comprehension skills in your termly data collections

What impact will Skills Academy have on my pupils?

Skills Academy will enable students who have arrived from primary school with reading comprehension skills below the national average to increase their comprehension skills, reading stamina and motivation to read.

The National Literacy Trust will be evaluating the programme regularly so that we can identify any changes in reading levels as a result of taking part in the intervention. 

Practitioners will also be asked to complete short online reflective surveys to feedback on changes observed in pupils, and in their own confidence and practice, following participation.

Read our success story written by an English teacher delivering Skills Academy which shows how the intervention has increased the reading ages of her students. 

Can I run both freestyle football and beatbox and breakdance modules?

Your annual subcription gives you access to both modules but you need to follow just one module at a time. It is not advisable to switch modules during the 10-week programme as students' progress may be lost and the skills from the reward videos will not be properly fulfilled. Once the 10-week programme is finished you can select a new cohort and run the same module again or switch to the alternative one. 

Can Skills Academy have a cross-curricular reach?

This is a good opportunity to involve your colleagues from the PE team and the music team in English and literacy in general. Equally the reading and comprehension skills learnt during the programme can really support students access a knowledge rich curriculum across all subjects. 

I want to run the programme with more than one group. Is that possible?

You can run Skills Academy with as many students as you like and colleagues can support you with this. However, the Skills  Academy website cannot support separate groups online or have more than one teacher log-in per school. The solution is to timetable your groups to run at different times and share the log-in among colleagues as you need to. This current restriction is owing to the fact that our funding is limited and we have prioritised keeping the costs low for schools. 

If you would like additional packs of books please email sport@literacytrust.org.uk and we will be happy to help. 


What is in the class library box?

We are working with our partners at Penguin Random House so that you receive two copies of the following books. If a book is out of stock an additional copy of another title may be included to fulfill the ten copies.

Little Badman And The Time-travelling Teacher of Doom by Humza Arshad and Henry White

You've probably heard of me, right? Little Badman. No? Oh. Well . . . doesn't Matter. You will do one day. I'm gonna be big.'

They've faced deadly alien slugs, killer aunties and double maths.

Now, Humza Kahn (and his friend Umer, I guess) face something even scarier - Humza's dad! And he's fed up with the boys acting up all the time. So he's sending them away to school.

But this is not ordinary school. This is a special summer school in Pakistan, and the two friends are about to learn that something very weird indeed is going on - someone has been messing with time!

The world may just need saving again . . .


Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. So when Astrid falls in love with roller derby and signs up for a summer camp, she's sure Nicole will be right by her side - until Nicole signs up for ballet camp instead, with Astrid's biggest rival. So begins the hardest summer of Astrid's life, as she struggles to stay on her skates, to learn who she is without Nicole . . . and to find out what it takes to be a strong, tough, awesome roller girl.

This book is beautifully illustrated as a graphic novel and focuses on female friendships, finding your own identity and the determination needed to achieve your dreams.


The Glass Children by Kristina Ohlsson

Billie is forced to leave the only home she’s ever known when her mother decides they should move to a new house in a small town. Musty furniture and odd belongings fill the old, dilapidated building, the ghostly remains of its previous tenants - including two small glass figures, one boy and one girl. The neighbours and local community are hiding something, Billie can tell – a secret about the house, a secret of its past. Then Billie notices that the glass figures have moved when the house was empty. Soon after, a tiny handprint appears on a dusty table - the handprint of a small child. Billie is certain that they are being haunted. But her mother thinks Billie is making it up. With the help of her new friend Aladdin, Billie desperately tries to uncover the house’s dark, tragic history . . . leading her closer to the chilling truth.


Johnny And The Bomb by Terry Pratchett

Johnny Maxwell and his friends have to do something when they find Mrs Tachyon, the local bag lady, semi-conscious in an alley . . . as long as it's not the kiss of life.But there's more to Mrs Tachyon than a squeaky trolley and a bunch of dubious black bags. Somehow she holds the key to different times, different eras – including the Blackbury Blitz in 1941. Suddenly 'now' isn't the safe place Johnny once thought it was as he finds himself caught up more and more with 'then' . . .


Max Kowalski Didn’t Meant It by Susie Day

Max wants to be just like his dad - fun, loud and strong. He loves their trips to the fair and Dad's no-nonsense attitude when Max gets in trouble at school. But everything changes when mysterious boxes and even more mysterious wads of cash start turning up at their house, and when Dad disappears it's up to Max to look after his three sisters until Dad comes home. Determined to keep the family together, Max takes his sisters to a remote village in Wales, where he's convinced that no one will find them. What Max doesn't expect to find is new friends, new questions, and a very old legend. Just how easy is it to look after three kids with no grown ups around? Where did Dad go, really? And what are the whispers Max keeps hearing, of a golden dragon, asleep under the mountain...?

I'm struggling to access the films in the online challenge. Why can't I view the films?

In order to view the online rewards you need to ensure that school filters do not restrict access to online video content. 

Allowing access to online videos will enable you to view the performance and tutorial videos. If gaining access is not possible, pupils will still be able to complete all online challenges but without viewing the video rewards.

If you have problems, please email sport@literacytrust.org.uk including as much information as possible about the issue. 

How can parents get involved?

We encourage parents to practise the new weekly skill with their child and support them in reading the class reader. More information can also be found on the parent information page.