Published on: 18 Jan 2012

...the most striking finding is the under-reporting of children with significant reading difficulties which suggests that many of these children’s reading problems will not be addressed during their secondary schooling.

New research unveils depth of reading problems in secondary schools

A new study into reading comprehension conducted by a team of experts from the Centre for Reading and Language at the University of York has revealed that a substantial proportion of pupils who experience reading difficulties were not identified on the SEN Register. The research also discovered that some students in every secondary school year group involved in the study had a reading age of 6 or 7 years.

The research unveiled the following findings:     

  • Fewer than 53.5% of 12 and 16 year olds with significant reading problems are known to their schools, as indicated by the SEN Register;
  • Only 46% of all secondary students with decoding difficulties and 44% of secondary students with reading comprehension difficulties are on the SEN Register;
  • There appears to be a strong relationship between reading difficulties and social deprivation. A third of pupils with the highest level of social deprivation (postcode ranks 1 or 2) exhibited a reading difficulty, compared with only 5% of pupils with the lowest level of social deprivation (postcode ranks 9 and 10).

The team of researchers, led by Professor Margaret Snowling, Professor Charles Hulme and Dr Sue Stothard, carried out the research as part of the development and standardisation of GL Assessment’s York Assessment of Reading for Comprehension: Passage Reading Secondary (YARC Secondary).

Commenting on the research findings, Dr Sue Stothard said, “For me, the most striking finding is the under-reporting of children with significant reading difficulties which suggests that many of these children’s reading problems will not be addressed during their secondary schooling.”

Professor Snowling said, “The data we collected are striking in showing that in each year group, there are substantial numbers of children with significant reading difficulties, many reading below the 7-year level. This finding underlines the fact that it is critical to identify children at risk of reading difficulties early, certainly well before secondary school, and for appropriate interventions to be put in place. The association between reading difficulties and social deprivation is particularly worrying because many parents of such pupils may themselves have experienced literacy difficulties at school and they are likely to be the least vocal about their children’s special needs.”

GL Assessment has published a white paper on the results of the research, which can be downloaded fromwww.yarcsupport.co.uk/research.

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