A £10 million scheme to boost literacy for 10,000 pupils in primary schools across the North East is being launched today.
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and Northern Rock Foundation will be running a five-year campaign in the region to test the most effective ways of helping children learn to read and write well – and to introduce proven methods to schools.
The project will be open to all 880 primary schools in the area, but will focus particularly on those with high numbers of disadvantaged pupils.
Schools' level of involvement in the programme will vary according to their needs. The EEF will begin by recruiting a network of local advocates who will work with schools to identify specific issues. The advocates will be able to provide training and information on what is available in terms of evidence-based programmes.
Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said: “We know that good literacy is absolutely fundamental to success in secondary school and later in life, but your chance of leaving primary school without decent reading and writing skills is significantly increased if you come from a poor home. We hope the campaign will leave a lasting legacy of evidence-based programmes and effective practice in the region, building on the good work already under way in schools.”
A recent IPPR North report found that poor children in the North were already academically lagging behind their counterparts in London at the start of primary school, with 47 per cent of children born in the poorest families in the North achieving a good level of development by the age of 5 compared with 59 per cent of those in the capital.
In order to boost literacy in the region, the EEF will carry out trials of programmes which have already shown promise. In the longer term, there may be funding to introduce programmes which have been evaluated as successful into schools.
Former EEF trials which have yielded positive results include: Catch Up Literacy, which provides one-to-one teaching assistant support, the Fresh Start phonics programme for older children and an approach called Using Self-Regulation to Improve Writing, which uses memorable experiences to inspire writing.
James Turner, deputy chief executive officer of the EEF, said: “We have not yet decided which programmes we are going to roll out but there are already some which have shown promise. Initially it is about testing those programmes on a bigger scale in the North East.
"But when we have proven they are effective then we would look for a model where the EEF puts in its own money to get it going. It’s unlikely that a sustainable model would be that the EEF just pays for it [a particular programme], but the EEF may give money to get it going [in schools]."
Dame Jackie Fisher, trustee of Northern Rock Foundation, said: “All the evidence shows that children who do not read well by age 11 have significantly less chance of achieving good GCSEs and of moving into work. We hope this programme will help to break a cycle of poor literacy among disadvantaged children in the North East, and improve the lives and employability of young people across our region.”