HUNDREDS of first-year pupils who struggled to understand basic words on their arrival at high school are now able to read and write thanks to a programme which has been rolled out to all of the Capital’s secondaries.
Around 444 S1s – nearly 14 per cent of the roll – were last year found to be in need of remedial help after it emerged many of them found it challenging to combine simple words such as “the” and “sight”, and scored below average in reading tests.
But a new literacy drive called Fast Track has resulted in “massive” gains among three-quarters of pupils taking part, who can successfully read texts appropriate for their age group without significant levels of assistance.
The results have been hailed as a game changer which will significantly boost long-term educational outcomes for Edinburgh’s most vulnerable school children.
Martin Gemmell, the city’s principal educational psychologist, said: “We knew where we had to pick things up, so we’ve made improvements in S1-2.
“We’re one of the five hubs for literacy which the Scottish Government has identified as having good practice which can be shared with other areas.
“We now have an integrated plan to meet literacy needs when they come into nursery until they go through the door in secondary school.”
Based on a system developed by US publisher Science Research Associates, Fast Track sees teachers drill struggling students through key fundamentals such as word sounds and letters as they build their ability to understand more complicated texts.
Broughton High had 47 S1s on the programme – the highest of any school – with 37 youngsters recording “significant gains” in reading and writing over the last session.
And Mr Gemmell said results at individual schools were particularly dramatic, with Craigroyston and Liberton enjoying score improvements that were close to double the city-wide average. “There are many teachers who have been working for a long time on literacy in Edinburgh to bring it forward and this is testament to their success,” he said.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, added: “I am delighted we are starting to see real improvements.”