Two academics at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education – Dr. Daisy Powell (Associate Professor in the Psychology of Written Language) and Dr. Holly Joseph (Associate Professor of Language Education and Literacy Development) – are successful in their University’s Research Endowment Trust Fund (RETF) grant application.

According to the University, the funding is to support “ambitious projects that have the potential to lead to larger projects and associated funding bids.” Some of the judging criteria include how the proposed studies must be able to demonstrate ambition to achieve growth, enable high-risk research, and support innovation.

Reacting on the funding success news, Dr. Powell (the project’s Principal Investigator) commented that: “We’re thrilled to have received this funding, which will allow us to consolidate our new programme of research investigating the impact of economic disadvantage on literacy and aiming to shed light on how to raise outcomes for all children”.

Details of their project, titled ‘Does bilingualism mitigate the effects of social disadvantage on early literacy?’, which attracted £17,391 of the RETF funding, can be found below:

Duration: August 2022 – October 2023

Summary:  The so-called disadvantage gap – the gap in educational attainment between poorer students and their peers – starts early in life and persists through the school years, culminating in reduced life chances. However, children with English as an additional language (EAL) show a smaller gap than their English-only speaking peers and as yet we do not know the reasons for this. This project examines the social, environmental and economic factors which may compound or protect against the effects of poverty in EAL and English-only speaking children in the area of Whitley, Reading.  Findings will be used to inform the design of a literacy intervention for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, for which we will seek further funding.

Methods: The project will involve recruiting two groups of children (EAL and monolingual) attending Year 1 and Year 5 of primary school. Their reading and reading-related skills will be assessed, and we will also collect detailed data on demographic factors relating to socio-economic status (SES), and on other environmental factors thought to influence school outcomes. Data analysis will shed light on whether EAL and monolingual groups differ on literacy-related measures, and whether these differences are moderated by SES and environmental variables.  We will directly test which SES-related variables are most predictive of literacy, and whether this differs across EAL and monolingual groups. Finally, SATs data collected one year later will be used to examine which SES and environmental factors are most strongly linked to growth in attainment.