New £10m literacy ‘catch up’ fund

The government this week announced that it will target £10m towards helping children from poorer backgrounds who fall behind in reading and writing by the end of primary school.

According to the Department for Education, the main aim of the fund is to help disadvantaged pupils catch up and make the difficult transition from primary to secondary school, which it said was ‘one of the key stumbling blocks’ to improving social mobility in the UK.

Government figures indicate that around 16 per cent of pupils fail to master the basics of reading and one in four (25 per cent) the basics of writing by the time they finish primary school. Results from last year’s Key Stage 2 tests show that around 100,000 pupils in England failed to reach the expected standard in English.

One-to-one tuition

Funds will be directed towards ‘innovative literacy catch up’ projects, said the DfE, while money is also available for one to one tuition and schemes such as vouchers for literacy tuition that parents can spend.

The £10 million programme will be run by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), with some projects fast-tracked to start from this September and others starting in 2013.

A ‘huge boost to schools’

According to Children’s Minister Sarah Teather, improving reading standards in schools was ‘central’ to the coalition government’s education reforms.

“Being able to read fluently by the end of primary school is essential,” she said. “Without these skills children fall further behind in their education. This programme will also help close the gulf in achievement, where the poorest children are less likely to leave school with five good GCSEs than their less disadvantaged classmates.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg added: “I’m determined that the government does everything it can, through the Pupil Premium, to bring children up to speed in literacy as they make the transition from primary to secondary school. This money will be a huge boost to schools in giving extra support the children who need it.”

Applications open

Schools are currently being invited to bid for the funds, while charities, local authorities and universities can also apply. Once the applications are in, independent research teams, drawn from the EEF panel of evaluators, will evaluate the projects.

Jeremy Newton, CEO of Children & the Arts, welcomed the announcement. “It is evident that literacy skills are an essential building block for children to do well in other areas of education and in life in general,” he said. “Schools play a central role in helping disadvantaged children reach their full potential and it’s right that they have adequate support in place to best achieve that.”

PoetryQuest

Our own PoetryQuest project is particularly aimed at children in the upper years of Primary with the objective of inspiring them to take an interest in writing and reciting poetry. One teacher involved said that PoetryQuest “definitely impacted on [the class’s] engagement”, especially that “classic demographic of 9, 10, 11 year old boys who are turned off reading and literacy altogether… After working with [their partner poet] Breis, the class –  including the boys – now read poetry avidly and recite his poems by heart.”

The teacher reported that students with English as a second language were as engaged with the project: “Poetry is powerful as it’s free, there are no rules so the kids that haven’t got a confident grasp of language in a formal sense feel that that works in their favour and they can express themselves because it doesn’t have to be grammatically perfect. It’s their safety net.”

Clearly projects like PoetryQuest can have a real impact on children’s literacy and their wider appetite for learning. With generous funding from the MariaMarina Foundation, we are able to plan for an expansion of this aspect of the project in 2012/13 and beyond.

You can find out more about PoetryQuest 2012/13 here.

Interested organisations can find out more information and apply for funding via the EEF website.

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