Suffolk eyes 10-year scheme to help parents boost their child’s literacy skills

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for education Mary Evans. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for education Mary Evans. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Major plans to boost Suffolk’s literacy are in the pipeline, as the county’s education chiefs aim to team up with a leading charity.

Suffolk County Council and the National Literacy Trust are in early discussions to create a 'Suffolk Literacy Hub' following the success of 14 other hubs across the country.

Any scheme would likely feature activities which make reading more interesting for youngsters, events to encourage children to consider careers they may want to do at an earlier age, and support for parents who themselves may not be confident readers.

According to a report published for Suffolk's Health and Wellbeing Board, attainment gains in literacy have "started to plateau", with the percentage of youngsters achieving the good level of development at 67% - below the national average.

Cabinet member for education Mary Evans said: "The hub would give disadvantaged children the extra support they need to bridge the gap between them and their peers before they start early years education.

"We are always striving to improve educational attainment in Suffolk and improving literacy is an effective way of boosting educational attainment on a wider level.

"As well as improving educational attainment strong literary skills can lead to better lifelong career prospects and better health and wellbeing."

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"The National Literacy Trust have worked all over the country, so they can bring ideas we might not have been able to generate ourselves."

The Health and Wellbeing Board is set to commission a working group to draw up cost proposals for a hub.

The report prepared for the board said: "With the job market demanding high skills and good qualifications millions of our poorer citizens are trapped in a cycle of intergenerational low income and stunted social mobility, in large part because of low literacy skills.

"As well as predicting academic success, strong literacy skills are linked to lifetime earnings and better health and wellbeing outcomes."

In Middlesbrough, the number of children who reached the expected communication level increased by 43% - three times the national average, while in Peterborough the number of Key Stage 2 pupils reading grew by nearly a quarter.

Jason Vit, head of local areas at the National Literacy Trust, said: "We are excited to be working with Suffolk County Council to explore the ways in which we can support their long-term plans to improve the literacy skills, aspirations and life chances of its children and young people.

"Our research and analysis shows that the UK's literacy challenge is intensely local. We therefore target our work in the towns, cities and regions where we can make the biggest difference to children lives through literacy.

"We currently run literacy hubs in 14 communities across the UK, where we bring together local partners from all sectors in decade-long campaigns to transform local literacy levels.

"Our approach is different in each place we work because every community has different needs and this is the best way to create long-lasting change. And our approach works.

"When we began working with local partners in Middlesbrough, children from the town were starting school with some of the lowest communication, language and literacy skills in the country. Five years on, and our targeting programmes and campaigns have helped to halve the attainment gap with the national average."