Teachers 'miss reading problems'

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The Independent Online
Teachers fail to spot two-thirds of those who reach adult life as very poor readers, a new survey published yesterday says.

Even at the age of 16, the problems of many pupils have not been identified, according to research from the Basic Skills Agency into why 7 million adults have difficulty with literacy and numeracy.

The research, which followed a group of 1,650 children from birth to 21, found that 43 per cent of very poor readers had not been in a remedial class in primary school. And it concludes: "The role of the primary school in being able to identify those who need additional help and then to provide it is crucial."

Because children need to learn so rapidly between the ages of five and ten, "low achievement in primary school, especially if linked to low scores on cognitive development at age five, is immensely damaging", it says. Parents also have a vital role to play, the report says. Their failure to take an interest in children's schooling is one of the main reasons for failure to learn to read and to add up.

The research reveals a cycle of educational deprivation with half of those who are poor readers coming from over-crowded homes. Parents with literacy and numeracy difficulties are likely to hand them on to their children: 85 per cent had mothers who left school at 15 and 69 per cent had parents with no qualifications.

By comparison, school organisation appeared to have had little effect. Neither class size nor streaming made a difference to pupils' progress. However, those with difficulties were less likely to have had pre-school education than their peers. The survey also points out that adults who lack basic skills are not those who persistently played truant from school.