MANY of the children in Oxfordshire’s Reading Campaign have seen their literacy level advance by more than a year in just four months.

Yesterday it was revealed that children at 29 of 56 schools taking part in the scheme have seen their reading age rise on average 13.3 months in the first four months since its launch in September.

The figure was unveiled at a conference of 63 headteachers, deputies and literacy co-ordinators at Unipart to review how the campaign had gone and to share ideas about getting children reading.

The Reading Campaign was launched by the National Literacy Trust and Oxfordshire County Council, and backed by the Oxford Mail to address the county’s poor literacy results at Key Stage 1 level.

The campaign is a mix of reading help for children, training and continuing professional development for teaching staff plus a volunteer reading scheme, and headteachers said yesterday they believed it should expand to other schools.

Frances Craven, Oxfordshire County Council’s deputy director for education and early intervention, said: “Please go and tell schools in your area and in your partnership about the impact the programme is having in schools.

“If every school went and told somebody else about the programme we would see a significant increase in schools joining – I’m putting that down as a challenge.”

Lynn Knapp, headteacher at Windmill Primary School, said she would not hesitate to recommend it to other schools.

She said: “We have had good progress for the majority of children. I have already passed it on to other schools. St Andrew’s in Headington took it on because I said how good it was.”

Case studies from Stephen Freeman Primary School in Didcot, St Nicholas in Oxford, John Hampden in Thame and Carterton were detailed to those taking part, while keynote speakers included education consultant and former Government communications champion Jean Gross and literacy consultant and lecturer Nikki Gamble.

Key Stage 1 teacher Kerry Halstead was full of praise for the training she received.

She said: “It gave me a chance to look at reading environments, book corners, the whole learning environment and how to bring that up to speed.”

Alan Haigh, headteacher at John Hampden, said of the eight children who have been through the programme at his school – four of whom had special educational needs – seven were now at the goal of Level 2b+, which is above age-related expectations.

Teaching assistants Caroline Lilley, from John Hampden, and Lynn Banerji, from St Nicholas, spoke movingly about the impact the scheme had on individual children who were now wanting to read, including one who had previously been selectively mute but was now engaged in the classroom.

Ms Gross spoke about how research showed getting children talking drastically improved reading skills.

She gave a host of ideas for getting children talking, giving an example of a school where a ‘spaceship’ landed in school overnight.

She said: “We often talk more when we are exposed to strong sensory stimulus, when we see something amazing, touch something amazing, hear something amazing.”

It is planned for a third wave of schools to start from September.


Nicola Jenkins, literacy subject leader at Holy Trinity Primary School, Chipping Norton, said: “The teaching assistants and teachers have said they have seen big improvements already in terms of enthusiasm and phonic ability.”

Sue Green, literacy co-ordinator at Sandhills Primary School, Oxford, said: “We have only just started it but the children are really enthusiastic.”

Amy Pearce, deputy headteacher at New Marston Primary School, Oxford, said: “The group that have already run it are on track to get a 2b and all of those children have made accelerated progress.”

Cathryn Wilkes, headteacher at Edward Feild Primary School, Kidlington, said: “We have got really good results from the first group of eight, making about 13 months of progress.”