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Schools ‘must lead efforts to boost reading’
SCHOOLS will need to “own” the campaign to drive up reading standards in Oxfordshire schools if it is to be a success.
That is according to Oxfordshire County Council's children's services scrutiny committee, which yesterday discussed the council’s new education strategy, including an ambitious campaign to raise reading standards among the county’s youngest children.
Committee chairman Michael Waine said: “Schools have got to own this.
“We have got to be able to say ‘you did this for yourselves’.
“So many strategies have floundered and haven’t worked, because they were ‘done to’ schools.”
The council has set aside more than £500,000 to spend on improving reading standards in a campaign which will begin in September.
It follows a series of damning test results, which in 2010 placed Oxford’s seven-year-olds as the worst in the country at Key Stage 1, with almost a quarter failing to reach expected levels in reading.
Working with the National Literacy Trust, the council will work with teachers and send in volunteers to read one-to-one with the children who need help the most.
Eighty as yet unidentified schools will be focused on but the campaign will operate throughout the county.
Val Smith, the Labour councillor for Leys and Lye in Oxford, raised concerns about how to work with children who did not read at home.
She said: “What can we do with the children themselves without the home support to foster a culture a love of books?”
The council’s cabinet member for education, Melinda Tilley, described this as the “single biggest problem” and said: “Schools need an awful lot of parental support and if children don’t get it, they’re at a disadvantage from the start.”
Concerns were also raised that some schools which most needed support to improve standards might be unable to cover the cost of supply teachers while class teachers were receiving extra training.
But the council’s deputy director of education and early intervention, Frances Craven, said resources had been identified from within the education budget which would pay for supply costs to schools as part of the project.
Mrs Tilley added: “We don’t want it to cost the schools anything at all – we want them to be able to participate.”
Catalogue of difficulties
November 2010: It is revealed that Key Stage 1 results at schools in Oxford are the worst in the country.
February 2011: Oxfordshire County Council plans an inquiry into the results.
May 2011: The council’s cabinet member for schools improvement, Michael Waine, stands down but denies poor results are the reason for stepping down. Melinda Tilley is appointed to succeed him.
October 2011: New test results show Oxford city is still bottom for writing but has made slight improvements in maths and reading in Key Stage 1 results.
November 2011: Six-point schools improvement plan launched by county council
December 2011: Key Stage 2 results which show nearly a third of Oxford 11-year-olds fail to get the expected grade branded “rubbish” by Mrs Tilley
July 2012: Campaign to improve reading standards at primary schools launched.