In the wake of news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is fearing a ‘lockdown illiteracy surge’ after being presented with details of the dramatic fall in literacy attainment this year, our founder, Katy Parkinson, has been sharing her personal thoughts.
Globally credited for her expert contribution in literacy, and the creator of Lexonik, Katy says the government is in danger of simply adopting a ‘catch-up culture’, rather than taking a hard look at what’s long been systemic in the education system for too many decades.
She believes the gap in reading and vocabulary skills for disadvantaged children heading into year 7 will be worse than ever, but insists it has long been in need of attention.
“We have been talking about these issues in some form or other for so long now, and it’s a well established fact that children living in “persistent poverty” are at a significant disadvantage for educational and academic progress,” she says.
“What we absolutely cannot do is to view this as merely ‘covid catch-up’. It would miss the point. It would be a shameful failing by the government to dismiss the problem in this way.
“We must see the systems and structures changing once and for all if we’re ever going to address the issues the UK has around literacy and our young people.”
A teacher for more than 25 years, Katy’s frustration with literacy teaching and vocabulary cognition prompted her to create our edutech business Lexonik, two decades ago.
Its model achieves a typical reading age gain of 27 months over six hour-long sessions, and focuses on helping youngsters to learn the methodology behind a literacy skill, rather than simply driving a child to a particular answer.
“Key to sustainable change, is how we deliver to children, and how teachers are taught to impart their literacy insight,” continues Katy.
“While I applaud every teacher and parent who has done such incredible work over this last year, and while I am pleased that such recognition of online learning has been achieved over the course of the pandemic, I also know without any shadow of a doubt that children thrive with face to face teaching.
“Literacy development is not just about structure taught via a screen, but about the nuances of expert questioning and oral reasoning, which come when a student is face to face with a skilled teacher.”
Ms Parkinson says she is now ‘deeply concerned’ that students are going to be less able to cope as they arrive at high school this Autumn, and she stresses that it will not only be historically disadvantaged children whose attainment levels are identified as having suffered.
“I cannot deny being deeply concerned about how Year 6 pupils will adjust when they enter Year 7,” she says.
“I simply do not think they will be fully prepared for the secondary curriculum, because of the halting in literacy progress which has been felt in the last 12 months.
“And while this issue has widened the gap for those disadvantaged youngsters, we have to also acknowledge that for the first time we may see less disadvantaged children bear the brunt too.
“In cases where two parents have been busy trying to work throughout the year, and where home-schooling has presented time and resource challenges, we’ll see a notable lack of progression.”
Figures prepared for Downing Street in recent weeks are said to have revealed a stark rise in the number of children struggling with literacy over the last year – up by 30,000.
It is anticipated that the drive to improve this area of attainment will be a focus for the government in the coming year.
*What do you think? Are you concerned about what the pandemic has done for literacy levels within your school, or for your child? We value your views. Please do get in touch.