North East Primary Literacy Campaign

In September 2016, EEF launched a new £10 million North East Primary Literacy Campaign, co-funded with Northern Rock Foundation.

This five-year campaign to boost literacy levels for disadvantaged pupils in the North East will aim to reach all 880 primary schools in the region in order to narrow the gap in educational outcomes between children from low-income homes and their more advantaged classmates.

The challenge

One-in-three (33%) pupils at primary school in the North East - more than 66,000 children - are classified as disadvantaged. There is a significant literacy gap between them and their better-off classmates:

  • For reading, 17% of disadvantaged pupils – some 1,700 children – did not achieve the expected level compared to 7% from better-off backgrounds. The attainment gap is 10%.
  • For writing, 24% of disadvantaged pupils – some 2,400 children – did not achieve the expected level compared to 9% from better-off backgrounds. The attainment gap is 15%.
  • For grammar, punctuation and spelling the issue is starker still. In 2014, 34% – some 3,400 children – did not achieve the level expected compared to 17% from better-off backgrounds. The attainment gap is 17%.

While the challenge is difficult, it is by no means hopeless.

In 2014, there were 106 primary schools in the North East where the attainment of disadvantaged pupils at Key Stage 2exceeded the national average for non-disadvantaged pupils: in other words, they bucked the trend, ensuring children from low-income backgrounds have a much better hope of success in later life. These schools – some 1-in-8 of the North East’s primary schools – are spread across the spectrum of disadvantage: exactly half (53) have an above-average proportion of disadvantaged pupils for the North East.

These schools show that it is possible to narrow the gap. The challenge is tackling it in all schools, especially those serving the most disadvantaged communities.

The campaign

To support pupils struggling with literacy, primary schools must be able to base their decisions on accessible, accurate information about what has succeeded and what has failed in the past.

There are no guaranteed solutions or quick fixes, but we believe that evidence can and should be used to support decision-makers' professional judgement.

This is especially important in deciding how most effectively to spend money targeted at children from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as the Pupil Premium, which totalled more than £87 million for North East primary schools in 2015/16. Ultimately, this campaign should be the catalyst for achieving a system change which will endure beyond our funding.

Campaign structure

The North East Primary Literacy Campaign combines three key elements:

  • Evidence-based guidance: recommendations about how to improve literacy teaching using the best available evidence.
  • Place-based advocacy: working with local partners to support schools to improve literacy attainment using recommendations in the guidance reports.
  • Direct support for programmes: new grants to test and scale up evidence-based programmes in schools.
  1. Updated: 13th October, 2016

    Key Stage 1 Literacy Guidance

    1 MB pdf - KS1_Literacy_Guidance.pdf

    Evidence based recomendations on improving literacy in Key Stage 1

  1. Updated: 13th October, 2016

    Key Stage 1 Literacy Guidance (Printable)

    1 MB pdf - KS1_Literacy_Guidance_-_Printable.pdf

    A printable version of the literacy guidance

  1. Updated: 18th October, 2016

    Discussion Questions

    237 KB pdf - KS1_Literacy_Discussion_Questions.pdf

    These questions can be used to guide discussion about how the guidance recommendations compare to current practice and to help explore the nuance in the report

  1. Updated: 18th October, 2016

    Red Amber Green (RAG) Self Assessment Guide

    424 KB pdf - KS1_Literacy_RAG.pdf

    This guide describes what ‘ineffective’, improving’ and ‘exemplary’ practice can look like in relation to each of the recommendations.