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Primary age children in ‘literary poverty’



Reading together: Developing a vital skill which enriches children

NEW research reveals that more than a quarter of a million UK primary school children are experiencing literary poverty.
Literary poverty is defined by BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, as a child who is read to or with for pleasure, for less than 15 minutes a week outside of school.
The study shows that 345,000 (14%) school children aged seven to nine are currently falling into this category, with a further 17% on the border, being read to or with for less than half an hour a week.
Worryingly, six per cent of children aged 7-9 falls into the worse category of literary poverty, with their parents or guardians never reading to or with them at all.
Just a third (37%) of young children in the UK are reading with or being read to by a parent or carer for over an hour a week in total. BookTrust encourages families to read together for just 10 minutes a day as this helps develop their language, curiosity, imagination and listening skills, as well as benefitting their academic development, including writing skills.
It appears that the traditional bedtime story is also suffering. One in seven parents admits that they never read to their child before bed, with a further 11% say they only do so once a week on average.
The research shows that the importance of regular reading is not lost on parents, with nine in ten believing that reading for pleasure is important for their child. However, children aged 7 – 11 today are on average reading for pleasure for 28 minutes less a week than their parents did at the same age. In fact, half of the children aged 7 – 11 in the UK (50%) read for less than an hour a week.
In response to the worrying findings, former Waterstones Children’s Laureate Anne Fine has launched BookTrust’s annual fundraising Pyjamarama campaign to call on families to rediscover the joy of reading:
“With far fewer screen distractions, my friends and I spent half our lives deep in books. Now, half our primary school children spend less than an hour a week reading for pleasure. But reading’s a vital skill. It’s the bedrock of education in all subjects and enriches our children from both an emotional and a cultural perspective. For the parent, sharing a story with a small child is a sanity-saving, calming comfort, and reading to an older child soon becomes addictive. I’d encourage everyone to put aside the screens a little more to engage children with reading. It truly does work wonders.”
Pyjamarama invites Primary Schools and Nurseries to sign up and allow children to wear their pyjamas all day on Friday, June 5, and celebrate the bedtime story in return for a £1 donation. All funds raised will go towards helping help BookTrust ensure that every child experiences the life-changing benefits of access to books and reading.
Gemma Malley, Director at BookTrust comments, “We are seeing a real cliff-edge in terms of children reading for enjoyment and whilst parents want their children to read more, there’s a real danger that families are sleepwalking into literary poverty. We know that reading for enjoyment is closely linked to academic development as well as building confidence and resilience, and children who are read to are much more likely to read for enjoyment. We hope that through Pyjamarama we can encourage families across the country to reconnect with reading and to snuggle up with a fantastic book together.”


Research reveals nearly half of children in Wales had additional learning needs



A NEW study has highlighted the prevalence of additional learning needs, formerly known as special educational needs, among under 16-year-olds in Wales. The findings come with a policy briefing, calling for a robust review of processes used to recognise such issues and more inclusive learning support for all children nationally.

The research and policy reports, led by the University of Bristol and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, found nearly half (47.9%) of children born in 2002/2003 were identified with some form of additional learning needs (ALN) at some point during their schooling. This was shown to have the biggest impact on academic achievement across all Key Stages of their education.

Lead author Dr Cathryn Knight, Senior Lecturer in Psychology of Education at the University of Bristol, said: “Our findings clearly challenge the notion that learning needs only affect a minority of learners. Key common factors increasing the likelihood of being identified with SEN also emerged, emphasising the importance of recognising the child’s environment and understanding their individual situation to effectively support their learning needs.”

Researchers from the University’s School of Education and Swansea University analysed data from more than 200,000 children in Wales, born between 2002 and 2009, to understand the levels of SEN and its impact on academic achievement.

Findings revealed that the earlier the additional needs emerged and were recognised, and the longer their education was spent with these known needs, the less likely they were to meet nationally expected levels of attainment.

Dr Knight said: “Our research suggests the former SEN system in Wales was unable to effectively support students to mitigate the negative impact of SEN on their grades. This underscores the substantial toll of SEN on academic achievement. To improve academic attainment levels in Wales, it is crucial to prioritise effective support for this very large group of learners.”

Learners having free school meals (FSM) throughout their education were found to be four times more likely to be identified with SEN compared to those not in receipt of free meals. Those born in the most deprived neighbourhoods were shown to be even more likely (4.6 times) to be identified with SEN.

The study also showed boys were much (5.5 times) more likely to be identified with SEN than girls. Children with higher school attendance had a lower likelihood of SEN identification and learners born in the summer, so younger in their year group, were three times more likely to be identified with SEN than those born in the autumn.

Dr Knight said: “This raises concerns about the effectiveness of SEN identification processes, particularly given the unexpectedly high number of learners identified with SEN. It suggests a potential issue of over- or under-identification of certain children.”

The main policy recommendations in the report were to prioritise inclusive educational initiatives that recognise and support all children. The substantial impact of SEN on children’s grades, raises questions about how children with learning needs can be supported to show progression within the education system. Therefore, consideration of more inclusive assessment practices is recommended. The report also calls for current methods used to identify learning need to be rigorously reviewed, with a new focus on ensuring accuracy, fairness, and inclusivity.

The research mirrors similar national findings. Evidence from the Education Policy Institute in England also found a high level (40.7%) of SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) identification. Other research, published in the British Educational Research Journal, has also shown that children with SEND in England are also far less likely to meet expected learning standards than their peers at Key Stage 1.

Dr Knight said: “We also need longer-term evidence within Wales and across the UK in order to develop a fuller understanding of the challenges. This includes possible systematic issues with how learning needs are recognised and their subsequent impact on attainment.”

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School children focus on Pembrokeshire’s renewable energy future



FENTON COMMUNITY PRIMARY SCHOOL welcomed renewable energy experts to help Year 5 and 6 learners broaden their knowledge as part of their Marine Energy Project.

During the summer term Blue Gem Wind, Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum and the Darwin Experience have discussed Pembrokeshire’s importance in the renewable energy sector and low carbon technologies with the school children.

Learners designed and built models of different anchorage structures for offshore turbines, and learnt from the Darwin Centre about the different marine organisms that might colonise them.

They pitched their design ideas, with a combination of class designs being built and deployed at the Marine Energy Test Area (META) in Milford Haven by Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum.

The visits have inspired many new ideas and possibilities for the future of the learners.

Summer Marshall (Year 6) explained: “It was a great opportunity for our designs to be actually made into something for a real-life purpose.”
“If it wasn’t for this project I wouldn’t have learned about the importance of marine habitats and how these are linked to our future,” added TJ Hill (Year 6)
“It is really important because a lot of future jobs will be based around renewable energy and technology,” said Milly Badger (Year 6).
“From having Blue Gem Wind, META and Darwin visit, it’s made me think about a job in renewable energy,” added Oscar Davies (Year 6).

Acting Executive Headteacher Gareth Thomas said: “The project has enabled development of careers and work-related experiences with our learners. Direct industry engagement has been crucial to motivate our learners to think about the future jobs in Pembrokeshire and the life they may lead here.”

Year 5 and 6 teachers Leah Hackett, Matthew Vaughan and Mike Lowde agreed that many of their pupils could work in the renewable industry in future.

“Hopefully, after this, we have a group of enthusiastic pupils who already have a keen understanding of the benefits of renewable energy and the place it holds in Pembrokeshire and the wider world,” they added.

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Pupils delight in ice cream treat from Pembrokeshire’s number one van



CHILDREN at Ysgol Caer Elen in Haverfordwest were treated to a delightful surprise on Tuesday when they were all given the opportunity to enjoy ice cream, generously provided by Mr McGeown and his family.

The delicious ice cream, a highlight of the school’s summer celebrations, was not just a treat for the pupils but also a testament to the McGeown family’s commitment to supporting educational projects. The funds raised by the family have been donated to the school, aimed at enhancing various school initiatives.

The joyous event was made even more special by the efforts of volunteers Martin, Sian, Amirah, Jack, and Alyannah, who served the ice cream. Their contribution ensured that the occasion was filled with a wonderful and happy atmosphere.

The school extends its heartfelt thanks to Mr McGeown and his family for their generosity and support. Their donation will play a crucial role in the continued development and success of school projects, benefiting all pupils.

“We are incredibly grateful to Mr McGeown and his family for their kindness and support,” said Mr Dafydd Hughes, the headteacher of Ysgol Caer Elen. “The ice cream treat brought immense joy to the children and added to the spirit of our summer celebrations.”

Ysgol Caer Elen, a pioneering Welsh-medium school catering to students from ages 3 to 16, prides itself on its vibrant community and commitment to high-quality education in Pembrokeshire. The school’s ethos centres on creating a caring and inclusive environment where every pupil is encouraged to achieve their best and develop their skills for the 21st century

The community looks forward to seeing the positive impact of the McGeown family’s contribution, as the school continues to thrive with the support of dedicated and caring individuals.

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