September 4, 2008

A Welcome Return to One-on-One

To some, it might seem like the last throw of the dice to get performance in the maths and English national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds resuming an upward trend after several years of stagnation. To others, it is simply an eminently sensible idea. The Government announced this week that - from the start of the new term - the 5 per cent of youngsters struggling hardest would get special one-to-one help from their teachers in reading. This scheme will be stretched to cover writing and maths in the future.

It has created little excitement in the media because this is a drum that ministers have been banging for some time now - ever since David Miliband was Schools Minister and took up the idea of introducing personalised learning as the theme of his tenure of office. It was not a great soundbite then - and, sadly, is still not one now. Personalised learning doesn't exactly trip off the tongue.

We should, however, welcome the fact that 30,000 of the lowest achievers who, in the past, would have been switched off from secondary schooling are being given a much better chance of surviving in the classroom. Research shows that children taught one- to-one - a method that has been piloted in several schools and was widespread in the Nineties under the guise of the Reading Recovery project - can improve from being in the bottom 5 per cent to becoming an above-average reader in a relatively short space of time.

In an interview this week, the Government's primary school guru, Sir Jim Rose, who is conducting a review of the curriculum for ministers, indicated that the one-to-one scheme could be of benefit to twice the number of youngsters who are currently receiving it.

We hope that ministers will take note of his comments and expand the scheme accordingly as resources become available. It was unfortunate that, as resources became scarce in the mid- to late- Nineties, use of the Reading Recovery project became scarce.

As for today, though, we should be thankful that - from this term - one-to-one tuition for those struggling to learn is being rolled out to every primary school in England that is able to take advantage of it.

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