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Education Secretary launches UCL and Arsenal literacy initiative

30 January 2017

Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening attended the launch of a new partnership between Arsenal in the Community and the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) today (30 January 2017).

Through the IOE’s Reading Recovery literacy intervention and Arsenal’s Double Club initiative, the partnership aims to reach more north London children and raise educational achievement.

For the launch, pupils aged between five and seven years old gathered in various areas of the Emirates Stadium to read their favourite stories to the Minister. After a game of football, the pupils then joined the Minister for a tour of the stadium, which included meeting the Club’s mascot Gunnersaurus and visiting the team’s changing room. One pupil said: “This was the best day of my life.”

AFC Read Aloud event

These children have benefitted from either the work of Arsenal’s Double Club or the IOE’s Reading Recovery initiative, as both programmes have helped children improve their literacy skills.

Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, said:

“It is brilliant to see literacy and sporting activities working together today with the Reading Recovery Read Aloud initiative. I loved reading as a child, and it is really important that every child can read well. That's why the curriculum now has more focus on reading and writing, while our phonics work is helping 147,000 more children are on track to become great readers.

“Playing sport is about more than just ensuring young people are healthy and happy. Sport is also great for helping children develop team-working skills, communication skills and the ability to problem-solve, which in turn make a big difference to young people being able to reach their goals.”

Now in its third year, Read Aloud celebrates the success of thousands of children who have overcome literacy difficulties through the IOE’s Reading Recovery programme. Throughout February, schools across the UK and Ireland will give children the opportunity to read books that are special to them.

Reading Recovery supports five and six year olds who are facing challenges in learning to read and write and gives them a short, intensive catch-up with specially trained teachers. As a result, eight out of ten children catch up with their classmates within six months. 

Professor Becky Francis, Director of the IOE, said:

“Our International Literacy Centre (ILC) is at the forefront of improving outcomes in literacy education and has had considerable success with providing professional learning for teachers who work with children struggling with literacy. I am so pleased that the Secretary of State has shown her support of Read Aloud by attending our celebration and was able to witness first-hand how Reading Recovery has benefitted some of these children.”

Arsenal’s Double Club is an award winning education programme for children in the local community. It uses football as the hook to make learning fun and engaging.

Jack McNicholl, Double Club Manager, said: “This partnership will help us reach more children in the area, and to continue to support them with their literacy development in an engaging way. We work with over 30 local schools on a weekly basis and this is a fantastic opportunity to team up with UCL and the IOE to help even more children.”

Both programmes aim to support pupils who are currently below the national average in reading and writing. 

Last year, actor Gillian Anderson joined pupils at Islington Primary School for the start of the 2016 Reading Recovery Read Aloud campaign.

Speaking about the initiative, she said:

“If our children are to make their way in the world they need to find a voice to have the confidence to make themselves heard. Children who have struggled to learn to read can find this especially difficult. The Reading Recovery Read Aloud programme helps children to believe in themselves as readers and communicators, to feel that they have a voice.”’

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  • School children with Professor Michael Arthur, UCL President & Provost, Professor Becky Francis, IOE Director, Ms Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education and Richard Watts, Islington Council leader (from left to right). Courtesy of Arsenal Football Club.