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Literacy drive to install catch-up reading schemes in every primary

Evidence shows that they change pupils' results, basic skills director tells heads' conference

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Evidence shows that they change pupils' results, basic skills director tells heads' conference

Catch-up reading programmes are set to be introduced in every primary school in Wales as part of a national strategy to improve literacy levels, it has been revealed.

Speaking at teaching union NAHT Cymru's annual conference last week, Tony Schiavone, head of the Assembly government's basic skills unit, gave headteachers an insight into the four-year National Literacy Plan, which is due to be published later this autumn.

He told delegates that all teachers would be expected to become teachers of literacy, with extra investment in classroom-based training and mentoring to help them deliver the plan's aims.

The scheme is targeted at primary schools and focused on raising attainment standards overall and on closing the gender gap.

Mr Schiavone told delegates there was hard evidence that catch-up reading intervention programmes could change results.

In 2008, programmes involving nearly 6,000 pupils in 200 schools across six local authorities achieved an average improvement in reading comprehension age of 20 months over a nine-month period.

In the last academic year literacy catch-up programmes took place involving 6,300 pupils at more than 1,000 primary schools and almost 2,000 pupils at 100 secondaries.

On average, 87 per cent of pupils showed literacy advances to the expected levels.

An evaluation of the Assembly government's "Read a Million Words in Wales" scheme revealed that 32 per cent of children with below average reading ability in both the 7-9 and 9-11 age groups said they wanted more help with their reading.

Mr Schiavone said: "Why is this type of additional support not a core part of every school's teaching and learning programme? We think it should be. Suitable intervention can change results. We need to identify where the challenges are and tackle them openly and honestly.

"Of course every school is different, but surely the core of what will effect the change will be effective in most schools. We want to get it right first time. It's all about raising standards of literacy and making sure we go forward with a vision and aspiration."

Terry Williams, newly installed president of NAHT Cymru and head of Litchard Primary in Bridgend, welcomed the literacy plan.

"It's all about raising standards, which is very positive and fits in with everything we want to see as heads," he said. "I have a catch-up programme in my school and it works very well. As long as they are implemented properly I think such schemes can be used more widely."

Improving literacy is also one of the new focuses of the attainment- raising school effectiveness framework, and Mr Schiavone told heads that leadership would be expected at all levels of the system to effect a step change in standards.

There would also be a need to improve the teaching skills of all practitioners, he said, with a promise of investment in classroom-based development to build on best practice.

The "vision and aspiration" of the four-year plan is for all children in Wales to be fully literate by the age of 11.

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