The number of schools offering intensive catch-up lessons to children who struggle with reading has plummeted following the removal of dedicated funding, it has emerged.
Research released today shows that Reading Recovery, which was at the core of the last Labour government's Every Child a Reader programme, results in long-lasting improvements in pupils' abilities.
But analysis by the European Centre for Reading Recovery - based at the University of London's Institute of Education - shows schools are turning their back on the scheme.
Reading Recovery is a course lasting up to 20 weeks aimed at those children furthest behind with reading when they are in their first year of primary school. The annual monitoring report shows for the first time that not only did the vast majority of pupils catch up with their classmates while doing the course, but that the effects lasted until Year 6: of the participants, 95 per cent achieved level 3 at the end of primary school, while 78 per cent reached level 4.
The programme was part-funded by Labour between 2008 and 2011, with schools asked to make up the remainder of the cost. It costs #163;2,700 to train a Reading Recovery teacher in the first instance, plus #163;1,000 for each additional year. But the removal of ring-fenced funding has led to a dramatic drop in the number of schools offering the initiative.
In 201112, almost 12,000 children received Reading Recovery lessons in England, down from 21,000 in the previous year. The report notes that nearly 1,000 schools withdrew from the programme citing budget restraints, and that 21 local authorities have stopped offering support for Reading Recovery.
Mike Cassidy, head of Rabbsfarm Primary, Hillingdon, said: "It is a very expensive programme, but so is investing in further special needs programmes through the school and the aim of this is to take children off those programmes."