Belfast Telegraph

Action call over 40,000 kids of 11 unable to read

By Nevin Farrell

Northern Ireland is facing an education crisis, with almost 40,000 pupils at risk of leaving primary school with reading problems if action is not taken, a campaign group has warned.

The Read On. Get On. lobby group says that over the five-year course of the next Assembly, an estimated 38,700 children will enter secondary level education unable to read well.

In 2015, more than one in five children (23%) in Northern Ireland were not reading well by the end of Key Stage 2.

The group says intervention is needed to allow children, particularly those from low-income homes, to fulfil their potential.

The Read On. Get On. coalition is urging every political party ahead of May's Assembly election to sign up to its goal to get each child reading well by the time they finish primary school by 2025. The group has launched its policy paper Reading Northern Ireland's Future, which argues that without increased action by the next Executive, it will make it harder to close the educational achievement gap.

It will mean that children, particularly those who grow up in poverty, will face barriers at every stage in their education which will seriously affect their future prospects.

Research shows children who read well by 11 do better at school, get better exam results and advance further in the workplace.

Fergus Cooper, a member of the Read On. Get On. coalition, said: "Until we succeed in giving every child in Northern Ireland the skill of reading, thousands of children will continue to struggle through education, with limited opportunities to learn and succeed."

The report shows the cost of children not reading well affects the Northern Ireland economy.

The loss to the UK economy due to workforce illiteracy is projected to be over £80bn a year.

Read On. Get On. is a UK-wide campaign to get every child reading well by the age of 11. Members in Northern Ireland include: Booktrust Northern Ireland; Early Years; PlayBoard NI; Libraries NI; Business in the Community; Save the Children; Parenting NI; the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, and Inner City South Belfast Sure Start.

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