Thousands of pupils who fail to read properly by the age of 11 will be sentenced to a lifetime of underachievement, according to a report out today.
Figures show that only one in 10 of the pupils who failed to reach the required standard in reading in national curriculum tests go on to get the benchmark of five top-grade passes at GCSE - including maths and English.
Last year, a total of 75,000 children failed to clear the hurdle at 11.
The report, by the Education Endowment Foundation, aims to show the best way of helping struggling pupils to catch up in reading.
It warns that sending them to summer school can be costly and have less of an impact on their reading standards.
“Summer schools can improve reading ability but their effectiveness will be limited by the quality of teaching that takes place,” the report concludes. “In addition, it is possible that other approaches delivered in school may be more cost-effective.”
By contrast, one-to-one or small-group tuition either within the school day or as an extracurricular activity “can help pupils catch up”.
“Given its lower cost, schools could consider trialling small-group tuition as a first option, before moving to one to one tuition if small group tuition is ineffective,” it adds.
Dr Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, an offshoot of the Sutton Trust education charity, which campaigns for an equal deal for disadvantaged pupils, said the prospects for children who failed to reach the required standard at 11 were “bleak”.
“In 2013 children from low income families were twice as likely to be behind compared to their peers,” he added. “For white children from low-income families the picture was even worse: over 25 per cent made the transition [to secondary school] without achieving level four [the required standard].”
Earlier this week MPs on the Commons education select committee called for schools to remain open longer to allow white working class pupils to do their homework in the classroom, rather than in an inadequate home environment.