Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education and Welsh Language
In November 2021 I gave an oral statement confirming the absolute priority I place on reading and oracy and the actions I intend to take to ensure that all learners achieve high standards in these skills. I am pleased to provide members with an update.
Improving standards of oracy and reading is essential for all learners, no matter what their socio-economic background, to be equipped with the skills, knowledge, and experience to reach their potential. I am pleased that the impact of the additional £5 million I invested in books and reading programmes is being felt throughout Wales. This has resulted in over 350,000 additional books and 169,070 book tokens being gifted to our learners in both primary and secondary schools.
Research shows that reading more and developing a love of reading and literature has a positive impact upon education success. This year I am piloting a reading mentoring programme where university students will be partnered with primary schools in areas of deprivation to work with targeted groups of learners to encourage an enjoyment and motivation to read. This pilot also provides the opportunity to expand learner awareness of and aspiration towards higher education opportunities at an early age.
With our partners, we have developed a toolkit to further support high standards of oracy and reading in schools and settings – A whole-school approach to oracy and reading: Toolkit to support high standards of oracy and reading in schools and settings. The toolkit recognises the complexity of raising standards in these skills, and the importance of the whole school community working together in a coordinated, consistent, and sustained way where speaking, listening, and reading are part of all aspects of school or setting life. The toolkit provides access to a range of information and resources which will enable schools and settings to develop and embed their own Whole School Approach to reading and oracy.
I know many schools and settings have been working in this way for many years. The toolkit reinforces this culture and aspiration for all within settings, with working partnership between staff, parents, carers, and the wider community and in doing so contributing to tackling the impact of poverty on educational attainment.
Finally, it is essential that we maintain momentum in continuing to improve our approach to literacy skills. To support this Estyn is currently undertaking a thematic review on developing English reading skills in schools in Wales, which will report in May. Later this year Estyn will undertake a further thematic review on developing Welsh reading skills. Together these reports will inform the next phase of this essential area of work.