Leicester has committed to a ten-year programme to raise children’s reading levels, through Whatever it takes. The strategic board of WIT includes representatives from a union, adult literacy, community education, as well as schools. Last year, their results were the second most improved in the UK, so stakeholders are pleased with their collaborative action.
I met Ellen Lee, the energetic programme leader toward the end of their week-long Authors Week. Fifty children from each participating schools came to author-led workshops to promote a love of reading (and writing). That equated to more than 5,200 children over the week- a marathon effort.
Interestingly, Whatever it takes is co-chaired by a strategic lead from both the primary and secondary sectors, full-time positions that are funded by the schools themselves.
Early aims included: providing inspirational work outside the classroom to promote reading; supporting schools to take a whole-school strategic approach to reading; and quality staff professional development. School clusters meet twice a year to discuss specific local needs. Targets have included supporting reluctant readers, ESOL and boys. Students are surveyed annually about attitudes to reading (as well as what and how much they read) and the percentage of students reading for pleasure is tracking up.
Some students don’t transition well to high school, particularly with low reading ability play. A new initiative is identifying about 300 10-11 year olds who are significantly below reading standard during their last year of primary school. They will be offered support through the end of their school year, through the summer and into the second term of their first year at high school. Interventions include synthetics phonics coaching, an inspirational day out and being matched with a older buddy from their new high school.
Given our own statistics – 24% of students leaving primary school below the NZ reading standard – and our summer reading slump, a focused programme of support across that all important summer of transition is worth exploring.