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Dyslexia reading programme praised for its 'moral cause'

Partnership for Literacy will make a difference to the lives of children, says Schools Secretary

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A programme that can help older primary pupils who are struggling to read has won the backing of Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary.

Speaking at an event hosted by Dyslexia Action at the House of Commons this week, he praised those involved in the Partnership for Literacy programme for their commitment to the "moral cause".

The charity has published an initial evaluation of the programme, which provides training for two members of staff in screening children, using teaching materials and giving family support.

Mr Balls said: "It is a moral purpose that every child, not just some, has talent and ability and has the right to make the most of that talent and potential. This is blazing a trail and will be making a difference to the lives of children and young people for years to come."

Commenting on how Sir Jim Rose, who has been asked to find ways to teach dyslexic pupils as part of his primary curriculum review, might react, Mr Balls added: "I think Jim Rose will be cautiously positive (about this)."

The teaching materials in Partnership for Literacy include both one-to-one activities in word recognition and phonics, and a computer programme that builds skills, such as vocabulary, memory and spelling.

Durham University has found that 42 per cent of the 504 children on the programme had moved from below average to average by the end of the 17- week course.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of Dyslexia Action, said the progress was about twice as much as would be expected in that time and stressed it wasn't specifically for children diagnosed as dyslexic, but for all those struggling to read.

Partnership for Literacy is run by teaching assistants working with groups of children assessed as being in the bottom 20 per cent of readers. The model is different from the government's Every Child a Reader scheme that uses Reading Recovery, which is aimed at six-year-olds in the bottom 5 per cent and involves tuition by a trained teacher.

Jo Fiddes, head of Five Lanes Primary in Leeds, said the partnership programme meant a commitment in staff time, and a culture shift for teaching assistants who ran the programme and for teachers who were used to having teaching assistants in class all the time. She described how one pupil, Thomas, told her: "I used to think I couldn't do `owt, but now I know I can."

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