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   De La Salle High School, Downpatrick 

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                                            Every Child a Reader

Despite massive spending, there is still a huge problem with levels of literacy in Northern Ireland schools. According to the recent Audit Office Report nearly a quarter of children left primary school with below standard literacy skills and were likely to struggle with the literacy demands of post-primary curriculum.

Our written language is an alphabetic code, to learn to read a child must crack the code. The child must learn what sounds the letters and groups of letters represent and how to put these sounds together to make words. It is now accepted that learning to read will be the most difficult task that some children will encounter at school and that to leave them to crack the code for themselves is no longer an option.

At De La Salle High School we use a synthetic phonics methodology to teach our weakest readers how the alphabetic code works, synthetic phonics is a multi-sensory approach and caters for all children.

On average our weakest year 8 group have reading ages between 3-6 years below their chronological ages. Our Reading Programme is a whole-class programme and runs for approximately fifteen weeks.

At the beginning of the programme, parents are invited to the school and take part in a question and answer session about how the programme works and how they can support their child.

The weakest readers in the group also receive additional support every morning during registration class and at other times throughout the week.

The children are re-tested at the end of the programme. Last years group added an average of twenty seven months to their reading ages. Children who continue to experience problems receive one to one or small group tuition for the remainder of the year. We are fortunate to have two learning Support Assistants who have been specially trained to deliver the programme.

                                                        

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Staff and students of De La Salle High School,Downpatrick with the Education Minister, Ms Caitriona Ruane during a recent school visit.

The Reading Programme is lead and co-ordinated by Mr. Jim Curran –Committee member of the Reading Reform foundation and Head of SEU De La Salle High School.