On the road to recovery

31st January 1997 at 00:00
Diane Spencer's article "Tight funds hamper Reading Recovery" (TES, January 10) raised concerns about the funding of the programme but did little to advertise the fact that last year 80 per cent of the six-year-old pupils in the programme reached the average literacy levels of their classes.

This represented a gain of 5 per cent nationally from 1995, as tutors and teachers became more experienced in delivering the programme to the bottom 20 per cent of six-year-olds.

These pupils no longer require extra literacy support from special needs and literacy support services and the long-term costs of that support at both primary and secondary levels.

Many of these pupils would also have required a statement of special educational need for language and literacy difficulties at much additional cost to local education authorities.

The article did mention the fact that the in-service training programme was over the course of a year but it neglected to state that it combines the latest research on the "interactive" theory of reading, ie teaching pupils to use all the cues in the text simultaneously - the meaning of the story (semantic), the sentence structure (syntactic) and the visual aspects of words (grapho-phonic) - and to develop appropriate reading strategies for themselves.

Phonics is taught in the context of reading and writing and time is spent teaching phonemic awareness and analogy. Teachers learn how to teach pupils to write commonly occurring words quickly and fluently and how to hear and record the sounds in words for writing and their associated letter patterns.

Pupils are prompted to be constructors of their own literacy learning and to become independent. Perhaps this is why the programme has attracted so much attention as it differs from many other methods of teaching pupils with literacy problems and does not maintain the theory that these pupils will always require literacy support.

While it is important that classroom practice improves through the National Literacy Project (TES letters, January 17), it is imperative that we do not lose sight of the fact that there will always be pupils who require individual teaching alongside good classroom programmes.

It is also important that we acknowledge the remarkable progress that these Reading Recovery tutors, teachers and pupils have made.

Reading Recovery needs to be nationally funded and not left to school budgets and LEAs that are not able to attract additional funding from sources such as the single regeneration budget.

There are pupils with literacy difficulties in every primary school, whether it be in an inner-city or a rural area.

Additional funding is required to enable the trained Reading Recovery teachers to remainin post and to be teaching these hardest to teach children, as in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and Canada, where it isnow embedded in the education system.

A deputy headteacher and practising Reading Recovery teacher from Australia recently informed me that she was one of four trained Reading Recovery teachers at her large primary school in Melbourne and how effective and cost-effective it was for the pupils and school.

This would be seen as a luxury in Britain and not a necessity.

Finally, the article neglected to mention the findings of the recent National Foundation for Educational ResearchOpen University report on Reading Performance at Nine (July 1996).

This states quite clearly that "the performance of lower ability pupils in England and Wales tails off drastically compared with other international comparisons and that change is required to rectify this by the early identification of children at risk of reading failure where 'early' means by age six at the latest, followed by effective remediation".

Reading Recovery has proved to be that effective remediation and as the report clearly concludes "it is time to start treating reading failure as preventable and to commit the determination and the resources to prevent it", as in the Melbourne school quoted above.

LYNDA PEARCE Reading Recovery tutor 27 Hinton Avenue Cambridge

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