The Read On. Get On. Campaign group, made up of charities and educational organisations, is to create a new measurement of children’s reading that tracks progress in early literacy and language throughout the early years. Its aim is to identify those children who are at risk of poor language and support them in gaining good communication skills.
It is one of a number of measures outlined in the campaign group’s new 10-step strategy to achieving its goal of every child leaving primary school being able to read well by 2025.
The campaign group believes that current measures of children’s reading fail to take into account the whole range of activities that define whether a child is reading wel, including both cognitive and affective processes.
Its 10-step strategy also includes recommendations to the Government to invest more in the early years workforce and ‘refresh’ the role of children’s centres, which it says are a vital resource in supporting early language and reading skills.
The campaign group argues that children’s centres offer many high-quality services to support early language and emergent literacy, as well as providing important outreach support to hard-to-reach families. However, it says that given the enormous pressures on funding, it is important there is a clear vision for the range of objectives that children’s centres can and should deliver.
It goes on to urge the Government to publish its planned consultation on children’s centres, focusing on their objectives, priorities, coverage and location so that integrated working can be prioritised.
An open consultation on the future of children’s centres was expected in autumn 2015. However, at the beginning of this year, the Department for Education confirmed it had been delayed.
The campaign group wants more money to be invested in the early years workforce to enable practitioners to build upon their skills and experience with continuous professional development, as studies such as EPPE show that well-qualified staff have a positive impact on children’s language skills.
One of its priorities is that the Government makes the investment needed to ensure every group setting is led by an early years teacher (or equivalent), and that strong progression routes are available for the whole childcare workforce to ensure they understand the importance of, and know how to support children’s early communication and language.
Within its 10-step strategy, the campaign group also calls on the whole of society to play a role in getting England’s children reading. It highlights the importance of collaboration and local leadership – including new partnerships with business, publishing, the arts and the media to widen its reach.
Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of ICAN – a member of the Read On. Get On. Campaign group, said, ‘Reading is fundamental in enabling children and adults to function in today's society and relies upon listening, understanding and developing good language skills. It is shocking that far too many children do not have the essential language skills needed to enable them to read well. The impact of this is profound; poor language at age five means you are four times more likely to struggle with reading at age 11.
‘Creating a new, consistent national measure of children’s reading will be an essential way of tracking progress in early language and literacy throughout the early years to identify those children who are at risk or poor language and support children in gaining good communication skills, the most important employability skills needs for a young people entering their first job.’
A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said, 'Every child, no matter what their background, should read widely and read well. It is a key part of their education, and ultimately helps them reach their full potential. That's why we've strengthened the curriculum to focus on developing their reading and writing skills, and teaching phonics helps children acquire the basic building blocks of reading.
'It is misleading to say that standards of reading in schools have dropped. We have introduced a more rigorous curriculum, raised the standard we expect pupils to achieve by age 11 and placed more emphasis on phonics in the teaching of reading. These changes mean this year’s results aren’t comparable to last year’s.'