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Education Minister, the Hon.  Rolston Anglin, JP, (centre) with Catch Up Literacy team.

Published 8th November 2010, 6:41pm

The Ministry of Education, Training and Employment, in conjunction with the Webster Foundation, is launching a pilot literacy intervention programme, Catch Up Literacy, for struggling readers in the government primary schools. On 25-26 October, 2010, more than thirty education professionals from government schools were trained to use this internationally-recognised reading intervention. Education Minister, the Hon, Rolston Anglin, noted that this is a very timely and important development. "As one of the strategic priorities of the Ministry is to improve our students' literacy standards, we are very thankful that the Webster Foundation sees literacy as important and that they are supportive of our efforts to improve our students' achievement," he said. The Webster Foundation, which is fully funding this pilot scheme in the Cayman Islands, was established in 1984 by members of the family of James Samuel Webster of Cayman and Jamaica. James Samuel Webster was the founder of the Grand Cayman Company. Catch Up Literacy is a reading programme that has had remarkable success in helping struggling readers in the UK and Australia. It is also being piloted in Ireland. One of the Webster Foundation's objectives is the advancement of education in the Cayman Islands, and it believes that Catch Up Literacy will make a major contribution to the future educational achievements of Caymanian schoolchildren. Newly appointed Literacy Specialist in the Ministry, Ms Anne Briggs noted that the reading intervention will be delivered to approximately 100 students between now and the end of the school year by trained teachers' aides and teachers. The intervention consists of 2 fifteen minute sessions per week for an individual student. Students are typically in the program for seven to eight months. Julie Lawes, Director of Catch Up, who delivered the training alongside the developer of the program, Dee Reid, said: "We have long been aware of the impact that Catch Up Literacy can have for children who are struggling to learn to read. We are delighted with the new large scale research that confirms that children helped by Catch Up achieve almost two and a half times the progress of a typically developing child - which is all the more remarkable when you remember that struggling readers by definition make much less progress than typical children!" Ms. Lawes confirmed that the outcomes of the programme are not confined merely to reading; often the disruptive behaviour that accompanies students who struggle to read lessens. Also, schools report a better understanding of the individual struggling reader's strengths and weaknesses, and find it easier to help 'difficult to reach' children. The intervention also enhances the literacy teaching skills of learning support assistants and teachers.