Best Practice

Language and literacy: Closing the gap for disadvantaged white children

By the age of five, the language and literacy gaps faced by working class white children are already apparent. But it is never too late to provide effective help, even at secondary level. Jean Gross advises

I first met Jason when he was six. I was an educational psychologist and Jason was referred because he had made no progress at all with reading.

He grew up in the shadow of a spoil heap in the former Somerset coalfields, in a small village where few adults were in regular work. His horizons stretched no further than the council estate where he lived, and the village shop.

Over the years, I tracked his progress – or lack of it – through increasing difficult behaviour and friendship problems. He ended up excluded from secondary school and with no qualifications.

Most schools have children like Jason. He was a white, disadvantaged boy: a member of a group who on average have the lowest attainment levels in all phases of education, other than children of Gypsy Roma and Traveller heritage.

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