Case Study: George Green's Secondary School

Creating a buzz around books and rights at this London secondary

Home > Resources for Rights Respecting Schools > Resources > Best practice case studies > George Green’s Secondary School – children’s rights and literature

A whole-school approach to literacy builds a reading community where young people feel empowered and inspired.

Sophie Harrinson, an RRS Ambassador and the school’s Language and Literacy Coordinator, explains how George Green’s uses books to support students to learn about, explore and discuss children’s rights.

A comprehensive approach to reading underpinned by rights

Alongside academic reading, we seek to develop students’ awareness, understanding, empathy and curiosity through form time reading, and by word of mouth, or what we like to call ‘book gossip’. 

 At KS3, each year group has a set title that students and tutors read and discuss in forms.  Year 7 read the historical fiction novella, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Year 8 read James Bowen’s autobiography; Bob: No Ordinary Cat and Year 9 read the powerful story Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah.  Each title encourages students to consider numerous rights including protection by law and protection in war; discrimination; life, survival, and development; recovery and reintegration – and where these have been compromised or eroded.  

Students in Years 10 to 12 have dedicated time to read and discuss a short factual story or extract or news article each week. These discussions can link back into rights. Our school vision is that students become ‘change-makers’, so material frequently explores inspiring advocates for the rights of others and includes personal reflection time for students to consider their own rights in cultivating their dreams and how they might affect change. Pivotal to every session is that students feel empowered to share their thoughts freely (Article 12) and this is supported through pair and group talk-based activities. 

Alongside a staff book club, we also have a Staff/Young Adult book club with members from across the school.  Staff vote on a title from a shortlist of diverse reads, and once read, loan their copy directly to students they think would enjoy it too on personal recommendation.  Students can then lend to peers or return to be reloaned.

We involve students in choosing, curating, and promoting books as well as an active involvement in competitions and events.  We have student librarians who curate bookshelves; student-led book clubs; a book request email system; all Year 7 students, when they join, choose a book to keep; a reading corner in the school magazine written by students and a dedicated reading website ( for students and staff to share book reviews.

Championing diversity, inclusion and wellbeing through books

In auditing our library three years ago, we found gaps in our provision of books that celebrated and championed diversity in voices and reflected real-lived experiences.  We used tools available from ‘Lit in Colour’ to dramatically increase the number of books by Black, Asian and minority ethnic writers and considered our student population – especially in seeking out books written by South Asian writers.  We promote books all year round through annual reading challenges, our staff and student book clubs, revolving displays as well as recommended reading during Black History Month (please see our reading website).   

Our student-led Pride assembly this year wove in a number of fiction and non-fiction LGBTQ+ books and authors chosen with students, with all available in the library and influencing our Staff/ Young Adult Book Club titles and many feature on doors around the school.   

We know that reading improves wellbeing and positive thinking and to this end, have a ‘shelf-care’ area in the library set aside for relaxed reading which houses a mixture of fiction, non-fiction, personal accounts, picture books and poetry to help provide escapism, advice, comfort and support in understanding and managing their mental health and well-being (Article 24). 

Research (Alex Quigley, EFF) suggests that ‘better book access and reading practice supports boys’ motivation in particular’ so we have racks full of the most popular reads taken out by boys within easy reach.  One of these, Marcus Rashford’s You Are a Champion saw co-author Carl Anka share his reading journey and experiences as writer with 200 Year 8 students in a Book Club meets ‘Match of the Day’ style interview and Q&A led entirely by students.  The queue for his autograph took over twenty minutes to clear and was an incredible moment in making their rights real. 

Building a whole-school reading community

During lockdown, I created a website dedicated entirely to reading for pleasure to help students (and staff) connect and to share links to online books and resources quickly.  I use it to launch, every World Book Day, annual reading challenges that specifically promote diverse voices and titles from minority cultures as well as share reading lists, competitions and news, staff and student ‘Books of the Term’, support for parents and carers, a MFL Library and much more.  

Our vision in setting out on this journey was to build a reading community: a school that reads and helps students on their own reading journey to feeling empowered and inspiredIt has taken a long time to build a culture of reading for pleasure, and we are embedding it but it started from a visitor’s book asking for recommendations left in reception to the Staff/Young Adult book club with members reading the book of the term in break-time to pique interest so start small and build upwards. 

Creating a rights based reading culture in your school

Our school’s development plan is underpinned by Article 3, the best interests of the child, and supporting our students to become confident, curious and capable readers is integral to this.  

Seek out any opportunity to generate ‘book gossip’ by positioning staff as ‘enabling adults’ in supporting students (especially dormant readers) by suggesting or finding a book that captures their interest or imagination. For example, last week, a biology colleague, upon learning about a student’s passion for fungi, lent them her own copy of Entangled Life by British biologist Merlin Sheldrake. 
Identify gaps in your current provision of inclusive and representative literature, as well as books to support mental health and well-beingThere is a wealth of resources online to support and guide including the Book Trust, The Reading Agency, Reading Well, Lit in Colour, and CLPE. 
Find ways to introduce students to new perspectives and voices through form time reads (extracts or novels and non-fiction), PSHCE and through book clubs. And, all the way, listen to students to find out what they like to read, and what’s trending!

School context: ​George Green’s is a large secondary school and sixth form in east London, where over 60% of pupils meet the threshold for pupil premium funding, 23% are EAL and 29% are SEND.  

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