A pioneering project between Renfrewshire Council and the University of Strathclyde has led to an improvement in children’s literacy attainment regardless of their background.

Deputy First minister John Swinney visits Our Lady of Peace 19.1.18

The innovative Renfrewshire Literacy Approach, funded by Renfrewshire Council and the Scottish Government, is a teacher and leadership training programme designed to enhance knowledge and skills in the teaching of reading.

A key aim of the collaboration is to narrow the attainment gap in literacy between pupils from low and high income households.

A report evaluating the approach, which was introduced in Renfrewshire in 2015, reveals that data gathered from reading tests indicates an increase in the average standardised age scores across primary three to seven and a decrease in those with low and below average scores. The increase applied to both girls and boys.

Further analysis indicated that the teaching programme may have had the greatest positive impact on children living in the most deprived areas.

It shows a positive increase in pupil attainment at all stages, particularly for those children who have previously struggled with aspects of learning to read.

The key aim of the approach is to improve standards in reading across Renfrewshire and to instil a life-long love of reading in children from an early age. This can increase children and young people’s chances of wider success across education and beyond.

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills and Deputy First Minister John Swinney visited Our Lady of Peace Primary School in Linwood, along with senior Council officials and Professor Sue Ellis from the University of Strathclyde, to officially launch the report today.

John Swinney, said: “The Literacy Report launched today shows good progress in raising attainment in literacy and closing the poverty related attainment gap.

“Supported by funding through the Scottish Attainment Challenge, this collaborative work undertaken by Renfrewshire Council and the University of Strathclyde to improve literacy outcomes for pupils and to close the attainment gap is showing promising results and we look forward to further progress as the programme develops.”

Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Policy Board, Councillor Jim Paterson, said:

“This report shows the positive impact the approach has had on literacy attainment. Real progress is being made with the literacy skills of pupils.

“The ability to read well from an early age means that children from all backgrounds will be able to take advantage of the opportunities open to them across education and will allow them to reach their full potential.

“We are committed to seeing attainment rise even further and to narrowing the gap between economically advantaged and disadvantaged children in Renfrewshire.  This approach is instrumental in helping achieve this.”

Professor Sue Ellis, of Strathclyde’s School of Education, who led the project at the University, said: “Whether children are rich or poor, they must be able to read to access the rest of the curriculum.  This project has made a real difference to the children of Renfrewshire.

“The data clearly shows a fall in the number of children with below average and very below average scores, and an increase in those scoring above average and very high scores.

“Senior council officers at Renfrewshire provided high-profile leadership and they took a real interest in the changes taking place.”

Lesley-Anne Dick, Head Teacher of Our Lady of Peace said the school had ‘fully embraced’ the approach and added: “The motivation and enthusiasm of our two Literacy Champions has empowered others to try out the new ideas.

“Staff have worked extremely hard to completely change their practice and have said they enjoy teaching reading in this way.

“The children themselves have said they enjoy having the opportunity to read or be read to every day. Several who were reluctant, are now reading and are now exposed to a wider variety of ‘real books’ rather than being limited to a school reading scheme.

“It is lovely to see them talking to each another about books, discussing their likes, dislikes and recommending authors.”

The partnership has seen more than 1,000 primary and secondary school teachers and other learning professionals take part. Standardised assessment data gathered from around 3,500 children from Primary 3 – Primary 7 demonstrated ‘statistically significant improvement’ in attainment of reading over the course of implementation.

Data also shows an increase in the number of children scoring above average and very high scores and a fall in those with low and below average scores.

The positive start to the Renfrewshire Literacy Approach is now being further developed through continued Attainment Challenge funding into other areas of literacy development.