9:00am Monday 19th August 2013
By Fran Bardsley
THE campaign to improve literacy among Oxfordshire’s schoolchildren has been hailed a huge success after pupils’ reading ages soared.
The Oxfordshire Reading Campaign has improved the average reading age of participating primary schoolchildren by nearly two years in some cases.
That’s according to the first-year-end report into the two-year, Oxford Mail-backed campaign.
County council cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley described the improvements as “extraordinary” and pledged to get more schools involved.
She said: “I find it incredible. I knew it would be good but I didn’t expect that kind of impact.
“I expected it to take a couple of years before we would see anything at all, but within weeks we were getting testimonials saying how the children had improved.
“I think we have now got Oxfordshire reading – we have achieved what we wanted to do.”
To date, 54 schools have signed up to the £585,000 scheme, with three more starting training in the autumn. More than 400 pupils have benefited so far.
The campaign was launched last September to address poor reading results in seven-year-olds at Key Stage 1, and to foster a lifelong love of reading.
The key to the campaign was a reading intervention programme, delivered by teaching assistants in school and using the so-called Project X Code books produced by Oxford University Press.
Volunteers were also drafted in to provide one-on-one tuition to struggling children.
The best performing school so far has been Brookside Primary School in Bicester, with an average reading age rise of nearly two years.
The average increase for the county was 13.5 months, according to the report from Edge Hill University. based on data from 163 children on the scheme from 33 schools. And that was in just four months.
Mrs Tilley said: “The only disappointment has been the number of schools, some of whom have been a bit wary, which isn’t surprising. I want to do everybody now.
“Hopefully if they see what we have managed to achieve they will come on board.”
While the annual report is still in a preliminary form and does not have information from all the schools which took part, it showed the programme worked equally well for girls and boys, those entitled to free school meals, and those with special educational needs. And it was particularly effective for children from ethnic minority backgrounds, and for the youngest children.
Nick Dowrick, director of intervention support at Edge Hill University, wrote the report.
He said: “These were all children who were having difficulties in reading and were progressing at less than one month gain for one month age, so it is a huge gain for them.
“The training and professional development schools receive, using X Code, the volunteers and the publicity of the campaign has come together to make it work so well.”
Julie Gibbings, Oxfordshire Reading Campaign manager for the National Literacy Trust, said the reading age gains and increased profile of the importance of reading were the biggest successes.
She said: “Reading ability improved across the board. “The volunteering as well as the X Code scheme and the wider continuing professional development will impact across the board.”
Mrs Tilley praised the Oxford Mail’s efforts in promoting the scheme.
She said: “The contribution made by the Oxford Mail has been immeasurable.
“It has been absolutely phenomenal in terms of getting all the volunteers and raising awareness.”
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