26,000 to leave primary as poor readers


Fears for 26,000 11-year-olds “unable to read properly”

About 26,000 children are at risk of leaving Welsh primary schools unable to read well over the next five years, a campaign group has claimed.

The Read On. Get On. coalition said “decisive action” must be taken by which ever party triumphs in May”s assembly elections.

It claimed 10,000 of these children would be from poor backgrounds and must be allowed to fulfil their potential.

The Welsh government said literacy would be central to a new curriculum.

Read On. Get On. is a UK-wide campaign aimed at getting everyone reading well by the age of 11.

In Wales, it is made up of charities and literary agencies, including Save the Children, the Welsh Books Council and Literature Wales.

The group said children who read well by 11 do better at school, achieve better exam results and fare better in the workplace.

In Wales, it said the figures amounted to one in four of the poorest children and called for all youngsters to start secondary school as confident readers by 2025.

“Ambitious goal”

To achieve this, it wants more investment in the early years workforce, including specialist support and help for parents to encourage reading at home.

“We know that this is a challenging ambition, but it is wholly achievable and within our grasp if we focus our efforts,” said Save the Children”s Mary Powell-Chandler, who is the chair of Read On. Get On.

A Welsh government spokesman said literacy and numeracy would be “right at the heart” of a new curriculum being devised.

He added a £6.3m programme had recently been approved to provide qualifications for the early years workforce as well as an “education begins at home” campaign.

Aled Roberts, Welsh Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said: “The Welsh Liberal Democrats, in budget negotiations, insisted on the creation of the Welsh Pupil Premium, which focuses resources to Wales” most disadvantaged children.

“We are already seeing the benefits of this policy, which is beginning to break the link between poverty and attainment that has dogged our education system for so long. However, more must be done and there is no room for complacency.”

Plaid Cymru”s education spokesman Simon Thomas said: “There is a clear and urgent need to improve standards in our schools. Strong reading skills open the door for children to do well in other subjects and it is important that parents as well as teachers recognise this fact.”

Angela Burns, Welsh Conservatives” education spokesperson, said: “This report highlights serious and legitimate concerns, and as a party the Welsh Conservatives would echo the need for decisive action to be taken to tackle shortfalls in literacy standards at some Welsh primary schools.”

The other parties have been asked to comment.