THE successful Oxford Mail-backed Oxfordshire Reading Campaign is to be extended.

The scheme – launched in September 2012 with a £585,000 cash pot – was due to end in July, but the Oxfordshire Schools Forum has pledged at least another £500,000 to extend it for at least another year.

Headteachers said the campaign – in place at 63 schools in the county and helping hundreds of pupils – has helped literacy levels soar.

Latest figures show those achieving good levels of progress between the ages of seven and 11 rose from 85 to 90 per cent in the most recent year.

Melinda Tilley, cabinet member for education, said she was “thrilled” to be able to offer the cash for a scheme which sees youngsters helped to improve their reading skills.

The reading campaign was launched following poor Key Stage 1 results in 2010 where Oxford city performed more poorly in reading and writing than any other area.

It is not known yet exactly how the money will be used, but Mrs Tilley said she wanted to hear from teachers and headteachers about how best to take it forward.

She said: “We do have some more money to continue the scheme, rather than doing anything else.

“We could widen the scheme to more children, more schools, and we are also thinking about doing a bit of writing, which goes hand-in-hand with reading.

“I also think I was the one who said ‘let’s do this’, but it would never have worked without the support of the Oxford Mail, the Schools Forum who gave us the money, Oxford University Press, the National Literacy Trust and, of course, the schools.”

At the moment, it is not clear if the National Literacy Trust will be chosen to keep overseeing the project.

But headteachers, pupils and volunteers have welcomed the news that the campaign will continue.

Katy Walsh, deputy headteacher at Caldecott Primary School in Abingdon, said: “This will make a fantastic difference.

“It will sustain training in the schools for teachers and teaching assistants and it can be sustained into the future.

“This had a lot of impact on the school last year and we felt we were just getting into our stride and able to embed the practice. So, if this is able to extend, we will be able to continue to build on that.”

Headington’s Windmill Primary School headteacher Lynn Knapp said: “I really think this is great. We should be able to continue and build on the already good progress we have made.

“I think we would have continued as a school without this anyway as I am really pleased with the impact it has had in the school.

“This could mean the campaign could have more of a long-term impact rather than fizzle out.”

Pupils from her school said the project had given them a love of reading.

Seven-year-old Tom Morton said he had really enjoyed reading since starting the project.

He said: “Sometimes I just read books at home for no reason. I really want to keep going so I can learn words which are really, really tricky.”

And Max Sutton, six, said: “I think reading is fun and I like it even more now.”

Six-year-old Leah Puente said the project had improved her reading, adding: “I am much, much, much better now. I like the books we read because they have lots of adventures.”

Sue Dunne, who has volunteered at St John’s Primary School in Paddock Road, Wallingford, was pleased the scheme could continue.

She said: “I really think it has been a good scheme and it can only keep getting better.”

Dorothy Sym, a volunteer at All Saints Primary School in Didcot, said: “We know the children here really enjoy it from the feedback we have got.

“The longer we can keep it going, the more opportunities there can be for children to improve their reading.”

Julie Gibbings, programme manager for the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign at the National Literacy Trust, said: “Everyone is delighted with the fantastic gains that have been made and, now that the programme has gathered so much momentum, we know it is vital to support schools in continuing with their excellent work and to increase their confidence in taking this into the future.”

The scheme is one of many literacy projects in the county – with others including a city council-run literacy programme and charity Assisted Reading for Children in Oxfordshire (ARCh), which helps schoolchildren learn to read.


  • In 55 per cent of schools on the scheme, more than 80.8 per cent of children achieved a Level 2b or above in KS1 during the first year
  • By September 2013, 95.4 per cent of children involved said they liked reading more than before
  • There are 63 schools across Oxfordshire involved


  • The project is run between the National Literacy Trust, Oxford University Press, and Edge Hill University
  • It is a reading intervention programme, delivered by teaching assistants in school and using the Project X Code books produced by Oxford University Press, run alongside a one-to-one volunteer reading scheme, all working with year 2 pupils