Leading article: War of words

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The Independent Online

Gordon Brown for one will be heartened to read about the record of the education charity Springboard for Children in helping dyslexic youngsters and others struggling with reading problems. The Prime Minister made a point in his first keynote address on education after taking office of pledging to wipe out illiteracy. He singled out efforts made in West Dunbartonshire where a robust use of synthetic phonics has reduced the number of youngsters with reading difficulties from just over 30 per cent to six per cent in five years. The local authority is confident it can reduce that figure to zero next year.

West Dunbartonshire is not alone in its success. Springboard for Children says it has a 90 per cent success rate in improving children's reading standards to the level where they can be returned to a mainstream classroom. That is 90 per cent of the bottom 20 per cent who do not manage to reach the required standard in English in national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds. It therefore leaves only a handful of youngsters in any given school still struggling to learn. Now the charity is seeking to expand to offer help to 10,000 children a year, instead of the 350 they presently reach, although they will need more financial support to do so.

Mr Brown's target was set without a date for achieving it and has, as a result, been dismissed as pie in the sky by his political opponents. But implementing schemes like the ones offered by Springboard for Children and West Dunbartonshire council could get him very near to his goal encouragingly soon. They must be given the funding they need.