17 October 2023

West Riding Freemasons support Chapter One in Doncaster primary schools

Six hundred school children in disadvantaged communities of Doncaster will receive individual reading support from Chapter One over the next three years thanks to a grant from Yorkshire, West Riding Freemasons

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The £47,000 grant will support the Chapter One online reading volunteers programme which matches struggling early readers aged 5-7 with volunteers from local and national companies to give vital reading practice and support. The pairs meet virtually for 30 minutes every week for the whole academic year. Together they read stories and enjoy a range of word activities designed to build reading enjoyment, fluency and comprehension. Chapter One provides a laptop and headset for each classroom which then links, via a voice connection, to the volunteers.

In 2022, 38 per cent of 11-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds in England left primary school each year not reading to the expected standard. The pandemic had a devastating impact on these children, widening the attainment gap between them and their more advantaged counterparts. The challenges that disadvantaged children and their families face are now being exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis, with learning and attainment likely to be further affected.

Doncaster Council’s Education and Skills Strategy 2030 states that reading is the biggest area of challenge for the city, with the proportion of pupils meeting the expected standard currently well below the national average. Doncaster currently ranks 146th out of 151 Local Authorities for this measure. In 2021/22, 32.4 per cent of children in Doncaster were living in poverty, against a UK rate of 27 per cent. The government has named Doncaster as one of the 55 Education Investment Areas announced in the Levelling Up White Paper to raise school standards.

West Riding Freemasons

Below: One of Yorkshire, West Riding’s leading Freemasons Chris Allen sitting in on a Chapter One online reading session with a Year 2 student from Doncaster’s Hill Top Academy.

We’re very grateful to Yorkshire Freemasons for their generous grant supporting the work of Chapter One in Doncaster primary schools. The window to teach children how to read is short and missing it can make it almost impossible to catch up. By connecting children with effective, one-to-one reading support at the time they need it most, we develop fundamental reading skills and inspire a love for reading from an early age, helping to build confidence in children who might otherwise slip through the cracks.

Emma Bell, CEO, Chapter One

I am really pleased we have been able to help Chapter One with their hugely important project, supporting Doncaster children with their reading. Literacy is the fundamental skill that lies at the heart of all educational subjects and there is no other more important skill that children learn that will bring them such benefits than reading and nothing that will bring them more pleasure throughout their lives.

James H Newman, Leader of the Yorkshire, West Riding Freemasons