Yes: schools should be fined for not teaching reading

So, the recent report on the Summer 2011 riots recommended that schools should be fined for not teaching reading. I agree.

Michael Bond, the author of the much loved Paddington Bear, was on the BBC on Monday morning. He said that the two most important things you can do with children are spending time with them and teaching them to read. He went on to say that reading must start in the home.

And for many families this is the case. Reading does start in the home. Children are exposed to books from birth. They are read to every night. They understand which way to turn the pages and which way to read the script. They may even recognise a few words.

However this is not the case for all families. For some children their first exposure to books is at school. For a sizeable minority in my school this is the case. And for many more, whilst the children still have had some exposure to books, they still enter school behind the national average for reading.

In my school we have to teach reading. Merely giving the children a home reader and hoping doesn’t work. The children have to be taught how to read from scratch.

In contrast, at the school where my own children go, less teaching of reading is needed. This is because in general the children enter the school more able to read and continue with more home support of reading as they progress through the school.

Yet funding is more or less the same. Yes, my school probably does pick slightly more special needs funding, but it is for the few children who are a long way below the national average, not those who are slightly behind. And despite that, the teaching of reading at my school really works. Where nearly 80% of the children enter the school behind the national average, less than 20% leave the school behind the national average.

We taught reading well to a lot of children.

I suspect the measure being suggested by the panel that investigated the Summer 2011 riots would suggest fining schools like us for allowing some children to leave us at a standard that is lower than the national average. But wouldn’t be great if it was a measure that rewarded schools who actually teach reading and don’t just leave it up to supportive parents.

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