It’s been 201 years since one of the world’s greatest writers was born in the city of Portsmouth. And over the past year, we have celebrated the work of Charles Dickens by helping to inspire our young people to become good readers and writers.
Since we launched the Read All About It campaign, literacy results in Portsmouth and beyond have improved.
Six and seven-year-olds are achieving higher than the national average results in reading and writing at Key Stage 1.
In Portsmouth, 90 per cent achieved the expected Level 2 grade or above in reading and 84 per cent in writing.
Meanwhile, across Hampshire, which covers schools in Fareham, Gosport and Havant, 90 per cent got the expected result in reading and 88 per cent in writing – all above the national average of 87 and 83 respectively.
And children aged 10 and 11 saw improved results in reading and writing at Key Stage 2.
GCSE results also went up again last summer.
Charles Dickens Junior School, rather fittingly, is one of the most improved schools across the area, and the biggest in the city with 70 per cent of children getting the expected results in English – an improvement of 23 per cent.
Acting headteacher Lisa Florence says: ‘We made reading a very positive thing. We reward children for reading at home. We want it to be something they enjoy.’
She adds that the campaign has been helpful to schools.
‘It’s crucial. Reading is a life skill that the children need. They need to be able to read and write just to do the basic things in life so anything which will help schools in what we are trying to do can only be a good thing.’
At St Columba Academy in Fareham, the results jumped up by 19 per cent, with 62 per cent of children getting the expected result.
Principal Jane Hoggarth says: ‘It’s always good to get improved results. It’s to do with changes that we have made with the teaching of reading and the encouragement for children to read more at home, and making the library more exciting so children want to come in and read more books.
‘Being able to read and write are the fundamentals. It’s the biggest skill that all the children need to access.
‘Anything that celebrates the importance of reading and encouraging people to develop their reading has got to be seen as a good thing.’
At Warren Park Primary School in Havant, English results leapt up 20 per cent.
Headteacher Colin Harris says: ‘We have worked really hard. We have every child reading every day. We made sure that we heard every child read individually.
‘We changed the whole approach to reading. Without that fundamental skill the rest of the curriculum in English isn’t going to be developed.
‘We want to engage a love of reading again. It’s ensuring that every child starts to enjoy reading.’
At Grange Junior School in Rowner in Gosport, 89 per cent of pupils got the expected Level 4 or above – up 20 per cent on the previous year.
Leiza Harris, assistant headteacher said: ‘We were absolutely delighted. We think the staff and the children at our school worked incredibly hard. Everyone strives to improve. The results are proof of the hard work that has gone on.
‘Literacy is a vital life skill. The job of primary schools really is to ensure that all children leave with a certain level of literacy to carry on into secondary school and later on in life.’
Councillor Rob Wood, cabinet member for children’s services at the city council says: ‘It’s a fantastic campaign. Across the city we’ve been working really hard on our various key stage outcomes.
‘Therefore I am delighted we are seeing improvements in the standards of literacy that our pupils are achieving in school tests and exams.’
Councillor Roy Perry, Hampshire County Council’s lead member for children’s services said: ‘I am pleased to see that Hampshire pupils consistently outperform against national averages for literacy-related subjects.
‘This is testimony to the high-quality teaching and the dedication of staff and the hard work of pupils themselves.’
Author Ali Sparkes, who supported the campaign from the start adds: ‘The last year has been really good for everybody interested in literacy in Portsmouth.
‘Everybody loves Charles Dickens. Portsmouth must be incredibly proud to claim him as one of their sons. Things like this do make a difference. It’s a fantastic campaign.
‘It has inspired a lot of people. To hear that the literacy figures have gone up over the past year is just fabulous. It’s the cherry on the cake.’