October 3, 2008

Whiteboards Plan in Bid to Boost Children’s Literacy


EVERY primary one pupil in North Lanarkshire is to be given a whiteboard and magnetic letters as part of a drive to improve literacy.

The move, part of a council project called Active Literacy, will help children learn the sounds of groups of letters, enable them to put them together to make words and improve spelling skills at school and at home.

Active Literacy, launched as a pilot project in 2005, was rolled out across the authority after research showed children taking part had a reading age five months ahead of other North Lanarkshire pupils.

The council said the project was initiated as officials shared concerns expressed by successive governments over literacy standards among sections of the school population.

Current estimates suggest 25per cent of primary pupils - some 15,000 across Scotland - go to secondary without achieving basic literacy requirements.

In addition, a report by schools inspectors in 2003 found only one in three second-year pupils in secondary school had reached required standards in writing.

A number of local authorities have already run programmes to tackle the issue.

Clackmannanshire Council ran a successful project which used synthetic phonics - where children learn the sounds of groups of letters - to improve literacy scores.

West Dunbartonshire Council has run a decade-long campaign to "eradicate" illiteracy in its schools, while Glasgow has also made basic reading and writing a priority.

Nationally, through the current reform of what is taught in schools, all teachers are encouraged to concentrate of literacy and numeracy.

In April, the government announced plans for every secondary pupil in Scotland to sit compulsory literacy and numeracy exams.

Nancy Ferguson, a senior educational psychologist with North Lanarkshire Council, said: "One of the reasons for the project was the establishment of the new school curriculum which placed literacy at the heart of what is taught in schools curriculum.

"Historically as a council we were also involved with initiatives to help children's literacy in nursery and the early years of primary and this scheme was building on that.

"We were delighted with the evaluation which showed the progress pupils had made and the roll-out continues to be very successful. We are seeing similar trends."

Patricia Wilson, a quality improvement officer with the council, said the latest initiative, which will see the distribution of 8000 whiteboards, would build further on the council's success.

"Using these boards is a very practical and enjoyable way for children to learn, " she said. "Pupils can physically manipulate the letters so that they can see the sounds at the same time as they are hearing them. That practical application is very effective in the learning process.

"Parents will also be able to use them with children so what they learn at school can be reinforced in a fun way at home."

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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