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Business & Economy

The Last Word: Sarah Ledger, chief executive at Lexonik

Closing this month’s issue of North East Times Magazine, Sarah Ledger, chief executive at Middlesbrough-based Lexonik, reflects on the education firm’s recent National Literacy Trust acclaim, assesses the post-pandemic learning landscape and sets out why strong reading skills are fundamental to the North East fulfilling its ‘levelling-up’ ambitions.

Lexonik was recently praised by the National Literacy Trust for significantly increasing learners’ reading ability and confidence, while also enhancing teachers’ capacity to support pupils. You must be immensely proud of such industry recognition?

Incredibly so.

We always knew the progress impact of our Lexonik Advance literacy programme, and of our delivery, but we wanted to validate that a second time.

School and college leaders, as well as teachers on the ground, need to trust in the interventions they are buying into – and ask to see external evaluations of impact to validate all progress data claims. 

By inviting the National Literacy Trust to robustly research our approach and report on our work, we were absolutely putting ourselves out there for the rigours of the highest scrutiny in the sector.

We’re thrilled with what they concluded, and we’re proud to be able to share that with our colleagues, schools and communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted youngsters’ progress on their respective learning pathways. Has the landscape begun to turn more favourably again, now lessons are once more being delivered in classrooms, or is there still an element of catching up to be done?

Teachers worked constantly throughout the pandemic, and continue to do so, to ensure students are reaching their potential in all areas.

But it’s certainly been a challenging period for the profession; when we’re in classrooms, and training teachers about Lexonik Advance, we’re chatting to them all the time about how tough it has been.

But there is optimism for gaining ground.

In fact, you could say that it is in some ways because of the pandemic period, wherein some schools sought out solutions like ours, and recognised how effective our system is in speedily getting students to leapfrog their reading age. 

Reading interventions must be seen as a ‘fire break’, a strategic, data-driven short period of time.

You are a strong advocate of literacy being key to the North East’s ambitions of maximising its place within the Government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda. Why do you think that, and does anything need to be done more widely to ensure skill levels rise?

Reading is a basic human right; nobody should feel limited by their inability to read.

Ability and opportunity should be something that are attainable no matter where you start your life, and what you hope to pursue.

We really believe learning and literacy are vital to exposing all humans to greater opportunities, so there must be more emphasis on giving schools and teachers the tools and techniques to arm our youngsters with what they need. Having said that, we’re just as passionate this applies to adults.

Adult illiteracy is a bigger problem than many realise, so we’re continuously reaching out to businesses in the North East and saying, ‘come forward if you think we can work with your staff to improve their literacy’.

It will enable them to go further and faster professionally.