To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps she is taking to improve levels of child literacy in low-income families; and if she will make a statement.
The Government is committed to eliminating illiteracy and wants all children to read fluently and with good comprehension. The new English curriculum places a renewed focus on the requirement for pupils to learn to read through systematic synthetic phonics, as evidence shows this is the most effective approach to early reading.
To boost the quality of phonics teaching, we have provided £23.7 million in match funding to over 14,000 primary schools, enabling them to buy systematic synthetic phonics products and training. We have also introduced a phonics screening check. The first three years of the check have enabled teachers to identify nearly 568,000 six-year-olds who needed extra support.
For pupils who do not reach the expected level in reading by the end of primary school, we have introduced the Year 7 Catch-up Premium. This funding – £500 per pupil – enables secondary schools to deliver additional support for those pupils that most need it.
The Government has also committed £8.8 billion of pupil premium funding for schools in England for the period between 2011-12 and 2015-16. The pupil premium gives schools the extra resources they need to close the attainment gap between those from poorer and wealthier backgrounds, including in reading outcomes.
The 2014 Key Stage Two results show that our reforms are already having an effect: a record proportion of children (89%) reached the expected standard of reading (up three percentage points from last year). Attainment in reading has increased for disadvantaged pupils from 73% in 2011 to 82% in 2014, an increase of nine percentage points, while the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has narrowed by 5 percentage points. Attainment in writing has also increased for disadvantaged pupils from 70% in 2012 when teacher assessment was introduced to 76% in 2014, an increase of six percentage points, while the gap has narrowed by 3 percentage points over the same period.