If we believe the headlines in the Daily Mail and the press releases from OFSTED it is the fault of under performing schools and incompetent teachers that 20% of children do not achieve the expected level in literacy at the end of primary school. Of course, the problem is far more complex; children fail to become competent readers and writers for a variety of reasons but there are two major contributing factors that need to be considered: lack of confidence and poor self-image.

Teaching children one to-one at Springboard has made me realise the importance of confidence. It’s common for children to say to us when they start “I’m no good at reading” “I’m only on Pink” (The first level of graded reading books)and ”I can’t read that”.  They see reading as something difficult, painful, frustrating and above all something that others can do better. Sadly this is coming from five and six year olds. Imagine a child who is still struggling at the end of primary school: six years of feeling this bad often leads to disruptive behaviour or quiet withdrawal. We must intervene early before children become so despondent that they stop trying and lose all interest in learning.

We have had great success working with young children this year. Lewis* was just six when he started Springboard tuition in September. He was eager to please but very self-critical and fearful of getting anything wrong. He would even apologise to his tutor when he read or spelled a word incorrectly.  By December Lewis was blossoming; he had not only improved his phonics knowledge but had realised that with the support of his tutor, making mistakes was part of learning and not something to be afraid of. Lewis has now finished Springboard as his reading age has leapt from less than 4.5 to 6.10 a gain of two and a half years in two terms.

Lewis’ classmate, Carina* started Springboard in January.  Her teacher saw the impact of Springboard tuition and felt that she had similar confidence difficulties that were a barrier to her progress. Whilst Lewis would write nothing in class, Carina had a different tactic: she would simply copy the child sitting next to her. Both these children were very well-behaved and eager to learn in class but they were not progressing as expected due to a lack of confidence and fear of failure.

Josh* was approaching his sixth birthday when he started Springboard. Unlike Lewis and Carina he was very difficult to teach at first; he expressed his lack of confidence in a much more physical and emotional way. He would slide under the table, slap his head and wail “I can’t read, I don’t know that it’s too hard“.  His face used to crumple when he saw me at the classroom door. But, during the course of that first half term, he realised that reading was not that hard and that he could actually do it quite easily. He has a fantastic visual memory and is very observant, noticing spelling patterns and asking questions. I gave him lots of praise and encouragement which made his face light up with pleasure. He now reads confidently only occasionally stopping to close his eyes and say “Don’t help me I’m thinking in my brain!”  He no longer needs Springboard tuition as in just five months his reading age has improved from less than 4 years 5 months to 6 years 10 months which is five months above his actual age.

Lewis and Josh both made rapid progress in two terms because they had good memories and could make connections, see patterns and take on new learning easily. They just needed the boost of one-to-one tuition for a short time to bolster their confidence and fill in the gaps in their knowledge and skills. Had Springboard not been available their low confidence may have continued to be a barrier to their progress. Many children who attend Springboard need individual tuition for longer as they have specific learning difficulties, memory problems, speech and language delay, short concentration spans or challenging behaviour. The problem is that as these children grow older they become more and more discouraged and embarrassed when they compare themselves with their classmates. The impact of this on their confidence can be devastating. For these children Springboard is a haven where they are working at their own level and can experience success.

I was also interested to read this thread recently.