Warm praise for summer of literacy

The Government's summer of literacy may not have dramatically improved pupils' reading prowess - but it has done wonders for their attitude, according to teachers.

Most organisers of the summer schools expect that reading tests will not reveal any significant changes in children's achievement, but feel the activity has raised confidence and self-esteem. Formal results will be published by the National Foundation for Educational Research in November.

Sponsorship from a number of companies - including News International, which publishes The TES - allowed 50 secondary schools to take part in the literacy scheme. The selected pupils - children entering secondary school this September with a reading age up to two years less than expected of them - were given 50 hours' tuition during their holidays.

The scheme organisers said the summer schools were a wonderful opportunity for children to receive individual tuition using new books and software donated by companies. The attendance was high and the children said they enjoyed the experience. However, there was concern that the children chosen were in any case the most likely to improve and the ones that did best of all were those with supportive parents.

At Ribbleton Hall School in Lancashire, scheme co-ordinator Keith Hassall said: "It is unreasonable to expect 100 per cent of the children to read better. Some children will improve and some will stay where they are, but reading levels are just part of the story.

"It is their feelings and impressions which are important. At the end of the scheme they showed a greater willingness to read and less hesitation in tackling reading."

Out of 31 children on the reading scheme at Thomas Tallis school in Greenwich, London, 19 had improved their reading age by between six months and two years by the end of the summer school. Seven children remained at the same level, while five children went down three months.

Richard Stubbs, who helped to run the scheme, was not disappointed. He said: "Obviously we want all children to progress massively, but that's not realistic. It takes a lot for some to progress.

"The scheme has however tremendously improved their confidence. They have read lots of books, and dictionaries have become part of their everyday life. It also meant that the transition to secondary school held no fears for them. "

At Gilesgate school in Durham 31 children attended, of whom 12 improved by between three months and a year, 13 remained at the same level while six went down two months.

At Grange upper school in Bradford two-thirds progressed by between six months to one year. At Allertonshire school in North Yorkshire, headteacher Jim Smith said he believed the pupil:teacher ratio meant the pupils felt valued and important.

He said: "I am uncertain as to what testing will show in the short-term, but I have little doubt that the long-term advantages to these pupils will prove that the money was well spent.

"If the scheme has done nothing more than prevent or slow the regression which usually takes place over the summer break then it will have been worth it."

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