Don't write off Reading Recovery

9th February 1996 at 00:00
Alan Davies described the evaluation of Reading Recovery funded by the School Curriculum Assessment Authority as "nothing more than a perfunctory exercise to justify the millions of pounds thrown at it" (TES, January 19). As one of those responsible for the evaluation, I would like to take issue with this on two counts.

First, the evaluation was a careful investigation which followed the progress of 400 children over two years in 63 schools, spread over seven education authorities. The results were analysed in great detail and published in a report which runs to 100 pages. We went to considerable lengths to ensure that the evaluation was objective and our findings were consistent with the evaluations carried out in New Zealand, Australia and the United States. Dr Davies commends to us THRASS, the handwriting, reading and spelling sequence project, on the basis of a much less exhaustive evaluation, though the fact that an evaluation was carried out, no doubt with limited funds, is to be applauded.

Second, there is a need to address the important issue of the sustained quality of any intervention programme. The problem is that a plethora of local programmes, often with inadequate support systems of training, assessment and monitoring schemes, cannot be maintained at a consistently high standard. Without adequate training and support, teachers find it difficult to teach innovative programmes. Often pressures within the school hijack programmes to be used with children for which they were never intended, or in a different way than originally designed. This is an issue which is addressed by Reading Recovery and no doubt contributes to its impressive results both over time and in a variety of contexts.

Reading Recovery is not a "magic bullet". It will not help every child. Other programmes have also been shown to be useful. What we need is a will to work together, using the best information that we have, to develop sensible ways of improving children's reading, without regard to personal prejudices. Only in this way can we use our limited resources where they will count most in helping children.

DR JANE HURRY Senior research officer Thomas Coram Research Unit University of London

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