Good news on early readers

24th March 2006 at 00:00
For the past nine years, early intervention has been a prime focus of educational policy and is now seen to be paying off. If the basic ingredient for success in school is success in early reading, then West Dunbartonshire is to be commended for its remarkable efforts in attempting to eradicate illiteracy in the second poorest Scottish authority. Estimates suggest as many as 40 per cent in some of the poorest areas leave school without the basic literacy levels they need to survive in adult society.

That will no longer be true in West Dunbartonshire after its multi-dimensional attack on reading. No one is allowed to slip through the reading net, and individual failure is met with one-to-one tuition further up primary and into secondary.

The authority is also to be commended for its frankness when it admits that each year hundreds of primary children left without the literacy skills they needed for secondary school. Something was going wrong somewhere before the latest initiative took hold, not that anyone could admit it.

The West Dunbartonshire story should make education feel good about itself.

Investment from the Scottish Executive pump-primed early intervention, the authority set an ambitious target of eradicating illiteracy over 10 years, evidence from research changed the way teachers tackled reading and staff were highly committed to new ways of working. Regular testing has assessed progress and pupil scores have improved year on year.

This is the lesson of educational change. It happens in the classroom and is determined by the attitude and approach of the teacher. West Dunbartonshire staff have opted into the synthetic phonics approach and have been supported by a 16-strong intervention team - all teachers. It involved extensive professional development. As Sister Elizabeth at St Michael's primary points out, this is about teamwork.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today