A SCHEME set up by Oxford City Council to improve reading in primary schools has been dubbed a “shambles” after it emerged all six schools have dropped out before its completion. 

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley warned children in the city have been left “unable to read” because the city council decided to launch its own three-year reading programme, at a cost of £505,000, rather than taking up a county council scheme.

The county council’s reading campaign, Project X, was backed by the Oxford Mail and ran in more than 60 primary schools across Oxfordshire for two years, from 2012 to 2014, costing a total of £600,000.

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Children taking part in the county scheme raised their reading age by 13 months after only four months.

The city council appointed psychological and educational research consultants KRM in 2012 to help improve on 2010’s poor Key Stage 1 results, the worst in reading and writing in the country.

But it emerged that all six schools on the KRM reading programme – John Henry Newman, St John Fisher, East Oxford, Pegasus, Windale, and Orchard Meadow – had dropped out two years into the three-year scheme.

The two schools receiving help with maths from KRM – Larkriseand St Francis CofE Primary – are continuing with the programme.

Mrs Tilley said: “I’m really upset there are children who still can’t read in the city because the city council didn’t follow our programme.

“I asked the city council if they wanted to come in on our reading programme and they didn’t say yes or no. Then they went on and started their own programme and lorded it over us saying we weren’t doing our jobs properly.

“The reason it [the scheme] failed was because it wasn’t purely reading, it was based on lots of psychometric testing which causes kids to lose interest.

“Now I’m stuck with trying to help the city’s children and I don’t know if we can now get any more money to do it.”

City councillor Mohammed AltafKhan, a Liberal Democrat member of the scrutiny committee, said: “It’s a shambles; we’re not getting the results we should be.

It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“It would be better to give responsibility for it to the county council as they have the expertise to deal with it.”

The KRM programme involves children getting 15-minute teaching sessions three times a day.

Spokesman Jonathan Solity said it was a “pity” schools had dropped out and added the programme had been “highly effective”.

He said: “The programmes achieved what they set out to achieve, were extremely successful and demonstrated that the gap in attainments between pupils in schools in disadvantaged communities can be bridged through the quality of what is taught and how it is taught.” He added: “[Mrs Tilley] is looking to score cheap political points at the expense of children’s education rather than take the time to check her facts.”

City council leader Bob Price said Mrs Tilley’s comments illustrated “a disappointing lack of understanding about the KRM programme” and failed to address the basic question of why the county “has been unable to address the underperformance of these schools over many years”.

None of the six schools who were involved in the reading programme responded to the Oxford Mail s request for a comment.

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