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Many adults are reluctant to admit to their literacy difficulties and ask for help, One of the most important aspects of supporting adults with low literacy levels is to increase their self-esteem and persuade them of the benefits of improving their reading and writing.
Julie’s vision was for good quality support that had to be one-to-one, fit in with learners’ lives and be easy to access.
In order to make the learning free, flexible and one-to-one Julie decided to find local people who could read and who were willing and able to help others and to train them to become reading coaches.
The Benefits are Clear
£500 from the Co-operative Society financed a pilot. The first two learners and volunteer Reading Coaches made quick progress and highlighted the benefits of short regular one-to-one learning sessions for the learner and the Reading Coach.
Inspired by our first learner we trained our first group of Reading Coaches in Cinderford in November 2010 and had no difficulty in finding new learners for them to work with. A large Lottery grant in March 2011 enabled FRED to recruit more coaches and further training sessions were run in Cinderford, Lydney and Coleford. To date we have trained over 100 coaches and helped about 80 people in the Forest improve their basic literacy skills.
In October 2017, FRED+ was launched to include extended reading activities and early writing skills.
For more information see Archive.
The first chat:
For whoever answers the FRED phone, the main aim of that first chat is to find out why the potential Learner wants help, where they live, answer any questions/concerns, and invite them to a meeting.
Allocating a coach:
To provide the best help for a Learner, it is important that our Coach Co-ordinator has a good understanding of the specific challenges for a Learner, so she can offer the most appropriate Coach to provide learning support. Meeting the new Learner at a neutral location, is an important part of this process. There are many things that may affect the choice of Coach, including mobility issues, location, availability, and reading level, but there are no formal tests or application forms. Any information shared with FRED, will be totally confidential.
First meeting with a reading coach:
Once a Coach has been allocated to a new Learner, he/she will make contact by phone or message, to arrange a meeting. This is an opportunity for the Coach to find out more about what the Learner wants to achieve, their interests, any anxieties, and what support they may have at home, as well as when and where it will be convenient to meet. Anyone who has difficulty getting to meetings because of health or other issues, may be offered the option of remote meetings, or the loan of a FRED laptop.
On going support:
The usual arrangement is for Learners to meet their Coaches twice a week on a regular basis, for about half an hour at a time. However, because this is a one to one programme, arrangements can be altered at any time. It is important to remember that learning to read as an adult is not a quick fix, and requires determination and encouragement. The most successful Learners have a good support network from family or friends, to help them keep going. Even so, family crises or ill health may mean the Learner needs to have a break from lessons. Whatever the situation, the FRED Coach will be there to remind his/her Learner what they have achieved, encourage them to keep going, and adjust goals as needed.
While our arrangements for coaching continue to be primarily 1 to 1 meetings in person, since 2021, we have been increasing the options for remote support. Remote support used to be simply keeping in touch by phone, if the Coach or Learner is unwell or injured, but now may be extended to include the use of personal recorders for reading practice, use of online learning resources, meeting on Zoom and the loan of a FRED laptop.
Supplementary phone coaching might be listening to reading practice, going through reading exercises on the phone (Coach and Learner each have a Turning Pages manual), dictation, discussing writing ideas or offering tips on how to remember spelling. Additional spelling lists etc can be shared visually using messenger or WhatsApp.
Simple recording devices or smart phones can be used to record short reading texts, so a Learner can practise reading or writing at home, or record their own reading for their Coach to evaluate. Smart phones can also give visual help in a range of ways.
Since 2021 when Covid 19 drove many services online only, there has been a big increase in resources for online coaching and FRED can now offer 1 to 1 zoom coaching to all Learners. For Learners without any smart devices(phone, laptop) we have a laptop loan scheme which will enable Learners to access not just reading support, using screen sharing, but in the process, learn basic digital skills that will enable them to use other online services and reading resources.
The Management Team writes and follows policies to make sure we keep within the law and to keep all our volunteers and learners safe. We organise the training and the support for new and existing coaches and make sure they have all the resources they need to support their learners. We are responsible for raising all the money needed to keep our group going. If you would like to support our work, please get in touch to find out how.
The Management Team also support the coach coordinator who meets the learners for the first time and pairs them with a suitable reading coach.
Trainer and Coach Coordinator
Kris Ventris Field has over 35 years’ experience working in the Adult Literacy sector and is responsible for training the reading Coaches before they start working with a Learner, as well as offering training through coach meetings, both in-person and remotely. She advises on methods of delivery; on resources, and on activities to support the reading pairs.
She is also the key contact for Learners and Coaches. She contacts all prospective new Learners when they are referred, whether by an organisation, by a friend or family member, or as a self-referral. She offers them a confidential interview and an informal assessment. She then matches the Learner with a suitable, trained reading Coach, sets them up in a suitable venue with a starter pack of resources, and provides on-going support.
Kris reports back to the Management Team on a regular basis so that they stay in touch with how things are going and can deal with any problems or concerns. She writes and sends out a regular newsletter to Coaches and is available by telephone or email.
Team Leader and Lead Referral Networker
Malcom Vine took on the role of Team Leader in May 2022. He leads the team meetings and oversees the group’s operations. Malcom also leads a small team of referral networkers, who work throughout the Forest spreading the word about FRED Plus.
People who experience difficulty with reading and writing are often socially isolated and embarrassed about seeking help and it can be a challenge reaching potential learners. As well as distributing leaflets and posters to as many organisations and businesses as possible, the team also attends events, meetings and places where contact with potential Learners can be made.
Malcom also represents FRED plus at meetings with local employers, local government, other education providers and non-statutory organisations.
Administrator and Meetings Secretary
John Izzard is our administrator and meetings secretary as well as dealing with any referrals from the Chepstow and Sedbury area.
Jennifer Lewis has a background in law, which ensures she is well-placed to offer guidance on our policies, insurance and our Constitution.
Her expertise in teaching adults whose first language is other than English, is helpful when Learners are referred to FRED Plus should their spoken English require some improvement before they start with a reading Coach.
Treasurer & Fundraising Lead
Chris Warren is out Treasurer and Lead Fundraiser. Currently he has the additional role of overseeing Safeguarding and Data Protection.
We use radio, newspaper and social media to communicate information about FRED plus, as well as using a range of paper-based materials for displays, for awareness raising and for passing to potential referrers, volunteers and Learners. As such we need a broad skill set to optimise our approach.
We have several areas where the Team would welcome additional help
- IT Support and lead on Social Media
- Safeguarding Champion and Data Protection Champion
- Coach Coordinator Support
If you are interested, and especially if you have experience in any of these areas, we would love to hear from you. Please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us where your interest might be. Kris will then send you the relevant role description(s) and an application form, before arranging an interview and taking up references
The Team 2021 and some of our coaches