High school pupils get crash course in reading

Drummond pupils Erin Youngs 11, and Dennet Hughes, 12, are just two of the pupils who have benefitted from taking part in the Fast Track programme. Picture: Esme Allen
Drummond pupils Erin Youngs 11, and Dennet Hughes, 12, are just two of the pupils who have benefitted from taking part in the Fast Track programme. Picture: Esme Allen
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HUNDREDS of pupils across the Capital are on a crash course in the basics of literacy after it emerged some youngsters arrive at high school with a reading age as low as seven.

Around 300 pupils are taking part in the city’s Fast Track reading and writing scheme – with teachers drilling struggling students through key fundamentals such as word sounds and letters.

Early results indicate the new programme – developed by US publisher Science Research Associates – has sparked surging attainment, as the average pupil enjoys a 19-month advance in ­reading age after eight months of teaching.

Education chiefs are so impressed they have extended the programme to all of the city’s secondary schools.

Vincent Spicer, support for learning leader at Drummond Community High, where Fast Track is helping 37 S1-4 pupils this session, said: “It’s very prescriptive – it gets students to go back to those basic letter sounds and small words and build up from there.

“In terms of a cultural shift, there’s a huge emphasis in the new curriculum on students becoming more responsible for their learning.

“What you wouldn’t expect to see in a class now is a teacher standing up and ­taking a class for the whole period – that’s what happens with Fast Track.”

Business leaders welcomed the adoption of a more rigorous approach to ensuring all of Edinburgh’s high school pupils have a grounding in literacy. But they said it was “concerning” so many leave primary school without the basics.

Graham Birse, director of the Edinburgh Institute at Edinburgh Napier University, said: “There’s no doubt employers can get very frustrated at the lack of literacy skills among young job applicants.

“Anything that can be done to help those youngsters sharpen up their communication and literacy skills will help their job readiness.”

Councillor Jason Rust, education spokesman for the city’s Conservatives, said: “If this assists with some of the more basic skills in literacy then it’s a positive step, but that shouldn’t take away from the skills not being learned in the first place at primary school.”

Education chiefs said they were “delighted” with the roll-out of Fast Track.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Literacy is a key element of Curriculum for Excellence and initiatives like Fast Track aim to give our young people a love of reading which I hope will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com