Every Child a Reader can boost prospects for the core of strugglers
It was timely that the second evaluation of the Every Child a Reader programme was published last week, just as this year's round of key-stage assessments began. We have improved literacy levels over the past 10 years, with 80 per cent of children now getting the expected level when they leave primary school - 100,000 more than 10 years ago. But there is a stubborn core of pupils who are struggling and need more help.
We now have clear evidence that the Every Child a Reader programme can dramatically improve results. As The TES reported last week, the programme has exceeded expectations. Children who were in the bottom 5 per cent nationally when they started school are now achieving higher than average results and can write twice as many words as similar peers.
And what of the perennial issue of raising standards in boys' literacy? The programme is successful in this area too, narrowing the gender gap that normally exists between low-achieving boys and girls. The programme comes with a fairly high cost attached, but the reality is that it works. Cost is not a barrier to the planned expansion to 30,000 pupils by 2011, and the programme is now fully funded by the Government.
We have also asked Jim Rose to widen the scope of his review of primary education to look at what kind of support works best for children with dyslexia.
As well as children who are struggling to grasp the basics, we must look at the bigger picture and at how we can help all children to improve their literacy skills.
I recently asked Ofsted to carry out a small survey looking at the requirement to implement regular phonics lessons. Its findings are really encouraging: our free phonics programme, Letters and Sounds, is proving successful, and teachers have been "surprised by the joy" shown by children.