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New countywide schools project to improve boys’ reading

9 October 2017

Thousands of school pupils in Essex will benefit from a new project aiming to improve the progress and attainment of boys in reading.

Essex County Council has been awarded £500,000 from the Government’s Strategic School Improvement Fund for a project to help improve educational outcomes for boys in Key Stages 1 to 3.

The collaborative project between the council and Essex Teaching School Alliances (TSAs) will run for two years.

It will aim to support and improve boys’ reading, and comes as statistics show the county’s boys typically underperform in the subject.

In 2017, the percentage of boys in Essex reaching the expected standard in reading at the end of the Key Stage 1 was 74 per cent, compared with 82 per cent of girls.

Provisional Key Stage 2 data for 2017 also shows a disparity, with 70 per cent of boys achieving the expected standard, compared with 77 per cent of girls.

The new grant funding will enable three separate phases of the programme to be run, with each one focused on a specific key stage (1-3) and initially led by a different TSA.

Other TSAs will then be involved in providing additional capacity to roll it out across different schools.

The project has been developed from TSA centres of excellence work, which Essex County Council introduced in order to capture and develop all of the outstanding research and best practice in Essex schools.

This particular scheme will enable excellent practice to be shared right across Essex, supporting boys with reading and, ultimately, aiming to improve their outcomes at key stage 4 (GCSEs).

The project starts this autumn and is likely to involve at least 80 primary and secondary schools in Essex.

There will be a particular focus on improving the teaching of phonics and the vital reading comprehension and fluency skills which enable pupils to make rapid and sustained progress in reading.

Cllr Ray Gooding, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, said: “We are committed to ensuring all pupils in Essex receive the best possible education and work very closely with the county’s schools.

“Data shows that boys in Essex typically underperform in English in Key Stages 1 to 3 and we are delighted to have successfully secured funding for an exciting new programme to help reverse that trend.

“Good literacy and comprehension are vital in ensuring young people are well equipped for later education and employment.”

Caroline Derbyshire, headteacher at Saffron Walden County High School, which is part of the Saffron Alliance TSA, said: “It is fantastic that funding has been secured on behalf of the local authority and teaching school alliances to promote reading strategies for disadvantaged boys at both primary and secondary level. 

“This money will make a huge difference to the educational chances of these boys in Essex.”

Andrew Smith, headteacher at Lyons Hall Primary School in Braintree, which is part of the Professional Learning Network TSA in mid Essex, added: “The reading programme has been designed to give teachers time to learn from current research and reflect on how their practice back in school can be adapted to more effectively teach and support boys with reading.

“There is a strong focus on reading for pleasure, developing fluency, reading resilience and key strategies to improve comprehension.

“Alongside the three training days, delegates will have individualised support in their own schools to help ensure that changes made to the teaching of reading will lead to improvement in outcomes for boys.”