"We've involved children and their parents in learning to read and we've monitored reading ages before and after. In some cases we have helped raise children's reading age by 21 months."
Three years ago Leiston Middle School in Suffolk joined other local schools in a pilot organised by the Ipswich-based newspaper group. Four schools each sent a member of staff on a placement in the spring term of 1996 to collaborate in writing literacy material which Eastern Counties could print and distribute free to schools along with copies of their local newspaper.
Now, every child in Year 5 is given a workbook and a copy of the paper over a six-week period. They work through a range of activities from word-building games and writing speech bubbles to pictures to headline writing. The school explained to parents that they would be asked to read with their children and help them with the work. "The really good thing about this," says headteacher Richard Nichols, "was that children could take the papers home and involve their parents."
Over the past three years, reading standards have soared - 76 per cent of Leiston Middle School children now achieve level 4 or better in the reading element of the national curriculum English test.