Literacy charity Springboard is painlessly giving children a lift to catch up with their peers. Helen Ward reports
A one-to-one literacy scheme which helps children catch up with their classmates is to branch out nationwide from its south London roots.
The Springboard for Children scheme was set up 12 years ago in Oliver Goldsmith school, Peckham. The south London primary was attended by Damilola Taylor, the 10-year-old murdered in 2000, on his way home from the local library.
Pupils who are referred to the charity by their school receive individual tuition three times a week in basic phonic and spelling techniques.
At the end of 2003, 51 of the 118 children who had been on the programme for a year had made more than a year's progress in reading.
Nathan Pitts, 10, a pupil at Oliver Goldsmith, said the scheme worked because it was not school-type learning. He added: "It was done in a fun way, so it stuck in your brain."
Tutors employ a range of techniques to encourage learning from straightforward spelling using blocks printed with letters, to word games, computer programs and a comfortable reading corner.
Springboard for Children now has centres at 10 other primaries in the London boroughs of Southwark, Lambeth and Lewisham and plans to expand to Islington, Manchester and Bradford.
The charity charges pound;650 per pupil a year, which is half the cost of the scheme. Most tutors are volunteers who have completed a one-term training course.
The charity has recently finished a trial of children working in pairs or threes with a tutor, allowing more children to benefit.
Tahir Mehmet, 11, of Oliver Goldsmith, said: "Springboard helped me a lot.
We are doing practice papers for the national tests now and I got higher marks than some other children. They thought I had used the science book and when I said I hadn't they were so jealous."
His headteacher, Mark Parsons, faces challenges including high pupil mobility, high staff turnover and a cramped building.
He said: "We think Springboard is exceptionally good value for money. We like to think that our children are capable of anything."
Inspectors recently praised the considerable improvements at the 600-pupil school and noted Springboard's contribution.
In two terms of learning with Springboard, Lizzy Agho, nine, made one year and seven months' progress. She said: "After doing Springboard I went up to a higher group in class. I don't do babyish work anymore and it makes me feel happier."
If you are interested in Springboard working with your school, contact 0207 252 8859. www.springboard.org.uk