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article imageMany British 11-year-olds have reading skills of 7-year-olds

By Andrew John     Dec 17, 2010 in World
Many 11-year-olds in England are moving into their new secondary schools with the reading abilities of 7-year-olds, according to data obtained by the BBC.
One boy in 11 (nine percent) is leaving primary school with substandard literacy.
The BBC story says that, in some areas of England, the situation is even worse.
In Nottingham, “that proportion was 15% and the situation was only marginally better in Derby, Manchester, Rotherham and Telford,” says the BBC’s website.
“Just before leaving primary school, children take a reading test as part of their SATS examinations. They are then marked into categories, level 4 being the expected standard.”
While overall scores improved over the past 15 years, there is a “stubborn problem” at the lower end of the school spectrum, says the BBC. “In 1995, the proportion of 11-year-olds getting Level 2 or below in English – the standard expected of a seven-year-old – was 7%. In 2010, it had fallen only to 5%.
“The figures show the problem is worse for boys. Overall in England, 9% of them – about 18,000 – achieved a maximum of level 2 in reading.”
The story quotes Dylan Williams, professor of education at the Institute of Education, as saying it’s never been more important to be able to read to a decent standard.
“Twenty years ago, you got a lot of information from television. Now it’s the Internet – you have to be more literate.”
But the problem is exacerbated because there aren’t the resources to deal with it.
There are such methods as “reading recovery,” he says, but they are very expensive and involve tuition in much smaller class sizes.
The story quotes Mike Welsh, national president of the National Association of Head Teachers, as saying: “There’s nothing new here. We know that part of underachievement is due to children with very significant special educational needs where progress can be much slower.
Highest priorities
“Many primary head teachers, particularly those serving disadvantaged communities under social-economic challenge, regard the raising of boys’ attainment, particularly in writing and reading, as one of their highest priorities.
“Schools reflect society. What we want is school and home to work together, where children are actually listened to at home, in terms of reading, and obviously parents read to them.”
Britain’s Education Secretary in the Con–Dem coalition government, Michael Gove, is to introduce a national reading test for all six-year-olds in England to identify those with problems.
“I believe we need to make a series of changes so that children can learn to read so they can go on to read to learn,” he said.
More about Literacy, Reading skills, British school pupils
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