MPs' alarmist reading report

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
MPs are alarmed by the gap in reading achievement between schools with similar intakes ("Call for literacy strategy rethink", TES, April 8).

This is a real concern, but why look to Clackmannanshire for a solution? There is more up-to-date and reliable evidence. Ofsted's recent study of paired high and low scoring schools with similar intakes shows the importance of a cohesive staff, informed leadership, high expectations and close monitoring.

The study also shows phonics teaching is one vital aid to word identification, but not the royal road. This is hardly surprising, given our spelling system, where the letter "a" has different values in such common words as "cat", "car", "call" and "cake".

England's 10-year-olds were placed third of 35 countries in a recent international reading comparison but the study also showed they like reading less than they did six years ago. We should ask ourselves why.

It is important to help lower-achieving schools to emulate those doing better but we should do so in a way that is measured and informed, not as a panic reaction to an alarmist report.

Dr Eve Bearne President, United Kingdom Literacy Association Faculty of Education University of Cambridge

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