Schemes for slow readers 'ineffective'

8th May 1998 at 01:00
Acclaimed schemes used to encourage slow readers are generally ineffective, according to a senior education researcher.

Dr Greg Brooks of the National Foundation for Educational Research claimed this week that some popular and costly schemes to support struggling readers have no more effect on children's progress than normal classroom teaching.

Dr Brooks's book, What works for slow readers, is intended as a consumer guide to schools who have to choose from dozens of schemes, few of which, he says, have been properly evaluated.

Of those that have, Dr Brooks found that schemes which concentrate on phonological awareness to the exclusion of story and meaning, such as the Buckinghamshire Phonological Awareness Training, were relatively ineffective.

Dr Brooks also says that progress made as a result of costly information technology programmes was "non-significant".

In one primary school where an Integrated Learning System -devised by the National Council for Educational Technology - had been used for children with special needs, they had made significantly less progress than pupils taught using more conventional methods.

However, Dr Brooks found that where technology was used with precision and backed up by teachers, as with the Jersey Computer Assisted Reading Development Programme, significant gains were made.

He said: "Information technology is an enormously powerful tool in the hands of people who know what they are doing, but struggling readers are precisely the people who don't know what they are doing and need intensive and careful guidance."

Dr Brooks said many initiatives were evaluated just on the "feel-good" factor of participants.

However, Roy Blatchford, director of the National Literacy Trust which is running the "Reading is Fundamental" campaign, believes that the feel-good factor should be taken into account.

He said: "It's not just about whether a scheme improves reading ages, but whether it also engages children as readers."

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