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Pulling together to improve standards
6:00pm Monday 1st October 2012 in News
A MAJOR campaign to get Oxfordshire reading has been launched by Oxfordshire County Council, backed by the Oxford Mail. The authority has set aside more than half a million pounds for the
Oxfordshire Reading Campaign.
The goal is for a dramatic increase in the proportion of children achieving the higher levels at Key Stage 1 reading, which are taken by seven-year-olds, and to foster a life-long love of reading.
The campaign, run by the National Literacy Trust, will see an army of volunteers being sent in to read with the children who need the most help in 81 ‘focus’ schools, plus a range of school improvement measures including training at all levels.
Here, Frances Craven, pictured, deputy director for education and early intervention in Oxfordshire, explains why the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign is so important....
‘A year ago, when Oxfordshire County Council first began to discuss the idea of a big campaign to improve reading standards among Oxfordshire’s pupils, I was working for Leicestershire County Council.
When I accepted the post of deputy director for education and early intervention in Oxfordshire, I knew I was taking on a new role at both an exciting time and a time of real urgency in terms of the desire to bring about real improvement. I was surprised to see the county’s performance levels.
Like many I assumed that, given Oxfordshire’s fame for education, schools in the area would have relatively high standards of attainment.
This year we have made improvements in our standards, but we must not be complacent and must strive to be at the front, leading this agenda nationally.
Melinda Tilley, the council’s cabinet member for education, and her cabinet colleagues set us our objectives and provided us with a budget within which to achieve those aims.
We immediately set about seeking the services of an expert organisation with a track record in delivering campaigns that lay solid and lasting foundations in terms of improving reading standards.
The National Literacy Trust, NLT, stood out from the crowd and we appointed them without hesitation.
Ever since then, we have been working with NLT towards an autumn start for our campaign.
- Read about the campaign... http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/reading_campaign/
The Oxford Mail has provided wholehearted backing and plainly wishes to roll up its sleeves and get involved.
The newspaper is creating a momentum and a profile for us that bodes well. It is, no doubt, reflective of the community’s desire to see Oxfordshire as a whole, and Oxford city in particular, begin to move away from the lower reaches of league tables for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, leading to improvements further down the line at GCSE level.
I have enjoyed working with the NLT and the Oxford Mail and, more widely, with headteachers and governors from schools.
The exciting part is that we are only at the start of this journey and look forward to reaching milestones ahead that we can celebrate together as a county and a group of communities.
I have no doubts that, as education officers at the county council, headteachers, governors, school staff, local people and businesses, we are all pulling together with this common desire for improved standards.
I look forward to meeting all of you who are already involved, or planning to become involved, in our campaign and to the days and months ahead.
How YOU can help...
THE EYES HAVE IT FOR HI-TECH READING HELP
AN OXFORD University researcher has been using innovative technology to find out why some children struggle with reading.
Dr Holly Joseph worked with pupils at Oxford Spires Academy and Stephen Freeman Primary School in Didcot using ‘eye-
trackers’ to explore why some children had difficulty understanding what they read.
Youngsters read texts on a computer screen while the eye-tracker followed their gaze, seeing where they raced through and where they lingered for longer.
The Oxfordshire Reading Campaign, which is being backed by the Oxford Mail, aims to help children get to grips with literacy at a younger age, with targets directed at getting children who might be falling behind up to and beyond their expected reading levels.
Dr Joseph said: “Previously my research has been with younger children aged seven to 11 looking at the quite early stages of learning to read.
“Then we realised there are quite a lot of children who get all the way through primary school and still are not very efficient readers.
“Obviously that is a problem because by age 11, they are expected to use reading for all their lessons.”
The eye-tracker focused particularly on children with poor comprehension skills, those who could ‘decode’ the word and read fluently but had not really understood what they had read.
During tests, children were asked a question about a text both before and after they had read it, to see if it helped youngsters connect one part of it with another.
Dr Joseph said: “We thought having the question first might help but actually, preliminary results makes it look like having the question first makes it more difficult for children.
“This could be that it’s difficult for them to remember the question while also processing the text.”
She worked with about 50 Year 7 and 8 children at Spires for two hour-long sessions, and about 25 Year 4 and Year 5 pupils at Stephen Freeman.
That included a number of bi-lingual and multilingual children.
The data is currently being analysed and the information will be fed back to literacy co-ordinators and teachers at the schools to look at the implications.
Dr Joseph said: “Ours is only one experiment so it can’t say that much, but hopefully it will help.
“I believe this research is important because while there is lots of research looking at children with dyslexia, who don’t have comprehension problems but have difficulty decoding, this group of children has been comparatively neglected.
“I think these children are very often labelled naughty, not paying attention, or not trying because they don’t have such an obvious difficulty.
“They often come from less privileged backgrounds, which is another reason to try and find out who they are quite early on and give them extra support.”
She backed the reading campaign and said: “It’s really important to give children the support they need.”
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