You’ve got to give credit to Graeme Paton. He is nothing if not dogged. When it comes to trying to get something done about the numbers of children being unable to read and write, persistence is a key attribute.
Yesterday, he revealed that around ‘15 per cent of children in England have reading skills no better than a five-year-old’. This in spite of the billions the last government spent on the Literacy Strategy!
What is equally alarming is that a third of boys from poorer families can’t read properly. The figures are even worse for writing: according to Paton, only 59 per cent of boys from poorer backgrounds ‘can write properly’.
The trouble is that many head teachers seem still to be blissfully unaware that being able to read and write proficiently underpins everything else. That or they pay lip service to the importance of teaching reading and spelling and the time it takes to do it properly.
On Sounds-Write trainings, we constantly come up against the complaint that ‘in our school we aren’t allowed to spend more than ten or fifteen minutes two or three times a week’ on teaching children to become literate. And yet, everything flows from that ability. If a pupil can read and write, they are much more able to develop whatever potential they have.
Because of the complexity of the English alphabet code - something else many heads don’t understand - phonics lessons need to be taught for half an hour a day every day. If that is done and done properly, pupils emerge from Key Stage 1 fully capable of contending with the greater textual demands placed on them in Key Stage 2.