Council committed to helping children improve their reading and writing

Plymouth City Council will now be working more closely with schools to help more 11 year olds to reach the standard of literacy they’ll need to be successful learners.

In May 2014 the Council’s Cabinet set out 50 new pledges all aimed at making Plymouth a better place to live. One of those pledges was to increase the number of children leaving school with the ability to read and write.

By working together with the Plymouth Teaching School Alliance the Council has put in place a shared training directory, with the best teachers in the city delivering training programmes to improve literacy teaching. This training programme runs alongside the highly successful Right to Read volunteer reading programme, that recruits and trains suitable adults to visit local primary schools to hear individual children read as well as a focused programme supporting families with reading.

Councillor Sue McDonald Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Public Health said: “Reading for enjoyment can only be achieved when children learn to read accurately and regular practice is the key together with good teaching. We know that some children find it difficult to learn to read and they need extra practice or one to one support to succeed, so by putting in the increased focus on literacy now we are able to ensure these children do not get left behind. Reading is an essential life skill and is a good predictor of future academic success.”

Cllr Sue McDonald with pupils from Salisbury Road Primary School.

Cllr Sue McDonald with pupils from Salisbury Road Primary School.

During the last year 17 primary schools were supported intensively in literacy by the Plymouth Teaching School Alliance in partnership with Council staff. As a result standards in reading outcomes for 11 year olds improved on average by 7 per cent by these schools compared to a city average improvement of 1 per cent.

The latest performance data for 11 year olds shows the highest ever number of children reaching national expectations in reading. Primary pupils’ test results have also improved significantly in grammar, spelling and punctuation. Plymouth now has the smallest attainment gap for South West authorities and against similar cities nationwide for pupils entitled to free school meals.

The council has also been successfully delivering a new programme for parents of year one children (five to six year olds) to help them support their children’s reading development at home.

The ‘SPOKES’ programme (Supporting Parents on Kids’ Education) was written by staff from the University of Oxford and the results from Plymouth are being evaluated nationally. The course gives parents new techniques and strategies as well as helping them to understand how children’s literacy develops.

So far 246 families across Plymouth have taken up a place on the course and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. A massive 98 per cent of parents thought that their ability to help their child had improved since they started the programme.

When asked what they had enjoyed the most one parent answered: “All of it, the free books, having homework to do with my child. This course has made such a massive difference to my life it’s hard to explain. I have benefitted from all of it and feel really lucky to have been chosen to take part. I am excited to see how my child’s learning progresses.”

For those interested in volunteering for Right to Read, visit