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 interim research showed that 1 in 3 pupils taking part in the 10-week intervention improved their reading ability on average by 11 months.

With the generous support of Clarks, 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.

Read how Sunanda Biswas motivates students to learn with breakdance.

Supported by

  • Clarks are supporting the National Literacy Trust through the Skills Academy programme. With their generous funding we are aiming to improve the reading skills and motivation of over 22,500 students in the next 5 years.

    Clarks pride themselves on the design and quality of their shoes. They have been caring for kids’ feet for over 170 years and as the leading school shoe brand in the UK, their beautifully crafted shoes enable kids to learn in comfort, be curious and enjoy the adventure of childhood. 

    Clarks are committed to making a positive contribution to communities around the world, supporting initiatives that enable people to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

    With their support, a much greater number of children will benefit from the Skills Academy programme ensuring an increase in children’s positive reading attitudes and behaviours, as well as the acceleration in non-cognitive skills like self-confidence, physical and mental wellbeing.

    Clarks’ Corporate Social Responsibility focus on comfort and movement aligns with Skills Academy as both the reading and the movement skills involved in the programme are vital for children as they develop their own identity and when the exploration of freedom and movement are at the forefront of their minds.



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

Skills Academy costs just £100. If you run Skills Academy with 15 students, this works out at under £7 per student. For £100 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
  • 15 copies of a class reader which you can select from a choice of 5 titles
  • PLUS one year’s free membership to 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 15 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. Our interim research has shown that 1 in 3 participating pupils have improved their reading age by an average of 11 months.  

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 this with more than 15 students, can I have additional materials?

As the resources are dispatched as a set of 15, you will need to purchase an additional Skills Academy class reader resource if you require more than that.

However, if you lose an item we will be happy to help where we can. Please email sport@literacytrust.org.uk with details of your required resource.


What is the choice of class readers?

Keeper by Mal Peet

The award-winning first novel from Carnegie Medal-winning Mal Peet introduces legendary sports journalist Paul Faustino and the haunting tale of the world's greatest goalkeeper: the man they call El Gato,"the Cat". As Paul interviews El Gato, the World Cup stands on the table between them. In the hours that follow, El Gato tells his incredible story - how he, a poor logger's son, learns to become a World Cup-winning goalkeeper so good he is almost unbeatable. And the most remarkable part of this story is the man who teaches him: the mysterious Keeper, who haunts a football pitch at the heart of the claustrophobic rainforest...


Booked by Kwame Alexander

Like lightning/you strike/fast and free/legs zoom/down field/eyes fixed/on the checkered ball/on the goal/ten yards to go/can't nobody stop you/can't nobody cop you... Twelve-year-old Nick is a football-mad boy who absolutely hates books. In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel The Crossover, football, family, love, and friendship take centre stage as Nick tries to figure out how to navigate his parents' break-up, stand up to bullies, and impress the girl of his dreams. These challenges - which seem even harder than scoring a tie-breaking, game-winning goal - change his life, as well as his best friend's. This energetic novel-in-verse by the poet Kwame Alexander captures all the thrills and setbacks, the action and emotion of a World Cup match.


Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho Yen 

When they first arrived, they came quietly and stealthily as if they tip-toed into the world when we were all looking the other way... Ade loves living at the top of a tower block. From his window, he feels like he can see the whole world stretching out beneath him. His mum doesn't really like looking outside - but it's going outside that she hates. She's happier sleeping all day inside their tower, where it's safe. But one day, other tower blocks on the estate start falling down around them and strange, menacing plants begin to appear. Now their tower isn't safe anymore. Ade and his mum are trapped and there's no way out . . .


Little Badman And The Invasion Of The Killer Aunties 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." I'm Humza Khan, the greatest eleven-year-old rapper Eggington has ever known; soon everyone will know my name. Only problem is school has got really weird, man. All my teachers are disappearing and our aunties are taking over. It wasn't too bad at the start, they keep feeding us delicious snacks. Like, all the time. But now these aunties are trying to mess with my music, so me and my best friends Umer and Wendy are going to hunt for the truth. Cos something big and bad is going on and we won't let anything mess with my music... or you know, the world.

A hilarious and fast-paced adventure from comedian Humza Arshad and screen writer Henry White, perfect for fans of David Solomons and David Baddiel.


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.


Max Kowalski Didn't Mean 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.