Reading Campaign: Education expert says pupils need extra support

Witney Gazette: Prof John Howson Prof John Howson

THE policy adviser who blew the whistle on poor grades in Oxford has added his support to the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign.

Professor John Howson flagged up the figures at the end of 2010 after uncovering them on the Department for Education website.

The data he discovered showed Oxford schools were the worst in the country at reading, writing and maths.

At the time, almost a fifth of the 1,274 city pupils fell short in maths and almost a quarter on reading.

Almost three out of 10 did not reach the key level in writing.

Prof Howson backed the campaign.

He said: “I’m in favour of anything which will improve results in Oxfordshire’s schools.”

Prof Howson said he initially had concerns about the city and county councils running seperate reading initiatives, but he said it could be better for some children who benefit from both.

He added: “I suppose that could end up being a good thing if some schools get involved in both schemes, but I don’t think that’s happening.”

He added that Oxford schools had a long way to go, despite recent improvements in grades seen this year.

He said: “We’re still not showing huge improvement, and I worry this focus on literacy may cause a slight deterioration in numeracy.

“I’m not an expert in teaching Key Stage 1 age children.

“I’m an expert in data, not in methodology.

“My view is that we don’t want something which produce short-term effects, but long-term plans.”

In total, 45 primary schools across the county have signed up to join the Oxford Mail-backed campaign.

Teaching assistants at all schools have started their training and began the intervention programme within schools.

A public appeal for volunteers also saw 103 people coming forward.

They are currently going through a vetting process and being linked up with schools.

Volunteer co-ordinators at the schools will receive training in the new year, and then they will train up the volunteers in February and March in readiness for starting reading one to one with children soon after.

The idea is that children will benefit from targeted support from trained teaching assistants, while at the same time having an opportunity to practice their reading with volunteers who will visit them at school twice a week to read together.

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