The headteacher column with Alex Reppold

Children who read for up to 30 minutes a day have a head start of a year's schooling over those who do not read.
Children who read for up to 30 minutes a day have a head start of a year's schooling over those who do not read.

On Tuesday I spent the best part of the night sat in A&E with my daughter.

We’d been concerned enough to pop to the local urgent care clinic who had then sent us onwards to A&E.

Alex Reppold, headteacher at Pocklington Junior School.

Alex Reppold, headteacher at Pocklington Junior School.

There were times while we were waiting where I felt utterly out of control as I couldn’t help do anything, and would have given any amount of money to have been seen immediately by an additional paediatrician.

This wasn’t a possibility, obviously, and in reality we were only kept waiting a few minutes.

Reflecting on the experience, after we were home, it was obvious the A&E department was well staffed and was clearly ready to be able to cope with pretty much anything. It just so happened that because we needed something specific, it wasn’t accessible immediately.

There’s always lots in the news about the NHS needing more money, in the same way that you’ll often hear headteachers and teachers unions saying the same thing.

In my school, one of our areas for development this year is about getting children to love reading.

We teach reading well; children can decode text, comprehend the passage and respond to questions.

However, there’s a difference between being able to master the mechanics of reading and ‘being a reader’.

I’m not going to lament the iPad revolution or blame games consoles specifically however in a world with so many other choices available reading a book, unless you happen to find one which completely absorbs you, can seem like a less attractive option than may other things.

As an example, since having a daughter, I’ve discovered there’s a certain magic in simply sitting somewhere which is neither noisy nor sticky!

As a headteacher therefore I want to have new, exciting and high quality books in my school, a beautiful library and access to resources which make children want to read – however there’s a limit to what I can do with the school’s limited funding. If I want all that, the reality is that I need to have one less teacher and class sizes of 35 and above, which is something I’m not willing to do.

Fortunately, unlike needing to be in hospital, schools are a public service which can easily be supported at home.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reviewed children’s learning internationally and discovered that ‘There is a difference in reading performance equivalent to just over a year’s schooling between young people who never read for enjoyment and those who read for up to 30 minutes a day’. Pretty remarkable stuff really.

Now I know full well that not everyone is going to love reading, however if it helps our children that much, it’s in everyone’s interest to try and help children get into reading. Pocklington has a lovely library and a lovely bookshop.

If we can support every child we each know in finding books they might love, it could make a real difference.