A scheme enabling classroom assistants and parents to help five and six-year-olds who are having trouble learning to read was launched this week by the Open School, writes Diane Hofkins.
Soundworks, developed over four years, is a training programme and material kit for helpers to work with children in Years 1 and 2. The programme takes children through specific steps to help them link sounds in words with the letters on a page. Research shows that the failure to make this connection is what often holds children back.
"This can be taught by people who have the time," says Lynette Gribble, director of the Open School.
Each child's programme would be overseen by the class teacher, but sessions can be conducted by others trained to use Soundworks. Teachers rarely have the time to work sufficiently with individual pupils who are having problems. Such help could benefit at least 10 per cent of children, Lynette Gribble believes.
The Open School says it is "safe" to hand this work over to non-teachers because it says it is thorough, devised in a "fail-safe sequence", and each unit is supported by and step-by-step instructions.
"We do not think it safe for untrained people (those who are not teachers) to work with children beyond this very early stage," said Lynette Gribble.
They say it puts children on the road to reading, and also boosts their confidence. The project could fill part of the gap left by the Government's failure to expand the expensive Reading Recovery programme, which targets six-year-olds with reading difficulties.
The materials will cost Pounds 180 plus VAT, and training costs will vary. For details, contact Open School, Park Road, Dartington, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EQ.