This September, the Pompey Pirates Literacy Hub is to be launched in the Charles Dickens Ward where 44 per cent of children live in poverty. Government research shows children from low-income backgrounds are twice as likely to fall below expected levels of reading and writing by age 11 than their peers from wealthier homes.
The Literacy Hub is an education charity working with The University of Portsmouth and Portsmouth City Council. The hub’s founder, Becca Dean, believes the need to narrow the ‘learning gap’ has become even more apparent since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Becca said: ‘Due to school closures in response to the pandemic our work has become even more crucial as the literacy gap between those less advantaged children and their peers is likely to become even wider.
‘Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are the ones who benefit the most from being in a school environment, where their needs can be supported. They are the children who, because of the school closures, are facing the most challenging learning circumstances because of a comparative lack of books, learning resources and IT.’
The learning programme for children aged nine to 13 will provide once-a-week targeted help for children identified by their schools as needing greatest support. The ‘Young Pirates’ will work in small groups on reading and creative writing projects and will see and hear some of their work broadcast on Express FM and at the city’s Number 6 Cinema.
Professor Sherria Hoskins, civic lead at the University of Portsmouth, said: ‘We are extremely excited to support the hubs because they offer a unique, creative and adventurous learning environment that inspire young people to improve their literacy skills and fall in love with reading and writing.’
With nearly a quarter of children in Portsmouth living in poverty, the charity are hoping to roll the programme out across the city.
Mike Stoneman, deputy director for education at Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘The Pompey Pirates will support schools in closing the literacy gap.’