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Kick-starting children's enthusiasm for learning
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THE importance of primary school children improving their reading, writing and maths skills is very clear across Oxfordshire.
And since the poor Key Stage 1 results back in 2010 where Oxford city performed worse in reading and writing than any other area in the country, children have come on in leaps and bounds.
The Oxford-Mail backed Get Oxfordshire Campaign run by County Council with the National Literacy Trust, saw results improve significantly with 81 per cent of children achieving the higher Level 2b or above in reading – higher than the national average of 79 per cent.
Oxford City Council has since launched its own scheme – the KRM programme – to continue improving both reading and maths results in the city. The £400,000 programme, run by educational consultancy firm KRM, was introduced to two schools back in January – East Oxford Primary School in Union Street and John Henry Newman in Grange Road, Littlemore – and in the seven months up to July results show that children have improved their reading age by an average 12.5 months.
About 80 per cent of the students at East Oxford Primary School have English as an additional language. Headteacher Lisa Biggin said the scheme had been a “lifeline”.
She said: “When we get a pupil who has come from Somalia, say, into Year Four and has no spoken English, this scheme, combined with working with them closely, has helped them accelerate their progress much faster.”
Three times a day, each class, from reception, takes 15 minutes to take part in the reading exercises. There are five sections of the practice – synthesis, segmentation, phonics, sight vocabulary and vocabulary.
Children are put into three different groups in the class, blue for the most advanced, green for the middle set, and yellow for those who are not progressing as fast as they should.
In the sessions, all children in the class are encouraged to join in for the blue group’s words, in Year Three or four this could be learning words such as “phantom”, but when it gets down to the yellow group, only they are asked to take part. The city council’s education advisor Anna Wright said this made sure the children in the yellow group were still being exposed to the more advanced words.
She said: “There is no assumption made about which are children are bright and those who are not.
“Some students who come from a really poor background appear not to have potential.
“Children who have come from a middle class upbringing may have had a book read to them every night since they were an infant.
“But for poorer families, they don’t always have the resources to do the same, and those children won’t have had the same exposure to words by the time they come to school.”
There are 100 words in the English language, such as “the”, “and”, “of”, that, if known, will mean you can understand 50 per cent of any text put in front of you, and the aim is for pupils to know them.
When children are taught to read under the normal curriculum they are generally given books for their ability and can not go up a level until they have completed that set.
Under this scheme, £8,000 has been given to each school to buy books with detailed stories which can be read by anyone, at any level.
Ms Biggin said: “Children can pick up any book. They aren’t restricted to just the “pink” level. And they are books with proper stories, rather than things like “I can jump, you can jump, we all jump together” which is the type of thing in a lot of books children have to read.”
Across East Oxford School and John Henry Newman, on average children have made 12.5 months progress in reading in the first six months, as assessed by the British Ability Scales Reading Test.
Usually students will make about six months reading age progress in that time.
The campaign is separate to the Oxford Mail-backed county council initiative, which saw Key Stage 1 results for seven-year-olds – the age group targeted in the campaign – show the proportion of children achieving expected levels exceeded targets.
With 81 per cent of children achieving the higher Level 2b or above in reading, Oxfordshire was above the national average of 79 per cent.
City councillor Pat Kennedy, board member for education, said: “I am delighted that so many children are enjoying their learning and making such encouraging progress. Fluent reading is fundamental for achievement in many areas of life.
“The work that the council has been doing with schools in disadvantaged areas is fantastic and I hope that we continue to be rewarded with good results.”
The programme has since been rolled out to five other schools. Pegasus Primary School, Windale Primary School and Orchard Meadow Primary School – part of the Blackbird Leys Academy – took up the reading scheme in April while Larkrise Primary and St Francis Primary took up the maths part of the programme at the same time.
SCHOOLS IN DISADVANTAGED AREAS.
Seven schools are involved in the council’s programme which is aimed at schools serving the more disadvantaged areas to help narrow the gap in attainment for children, particularly those children entitled to free school meals and who have been identified as having special educational needs.
Two schools, East Oxford and John Henry Newman, have been doing KRM for the longest period, since January, and they have made twice the expected level of progress.
The results for the other schools, which started in April, have not yet been released.
SCHOOLS involved are:
- East Oxford Primary
- John Henry Newman
- Orchard Meadow
- St Francis
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