An independent evaluation into the Letterbox Club, an initiative that sends monthly personalised parcels of books, stationery and maths games to fostered children aged 7 to 11 years to help them do better at school run in Northern Ireland by the Fostering Network and Booktrust, was today launched at a special event at Stormont.
The evaluation, carried out by the Centre for Effective Education at Queen’s University, has found that just over a third of the children increased a key stage maths level after improving their mental arithmetic and ability to solve number problems. It also showed that the 348 fostered children in the study made an average gain of 2.9 points on their reading accuracy scores and 3.9 points for reading comprehension.
Children in care tend to underachieve and often fall behind in literacy and numeracy at an early age, so the Letterbox Club encourages them to get more involved in their learning with the help and support of their foster carer.
Margaret Dunn is a foster carer and primary school head teacher from Newtownards. A young boy she fosters was part of the Letterbox Club this year, as were some of the children in care at her school.
Margaret said: “Our foster son was very excited when the big red envelope arrived each month and he found the materials really motivating. He was already a good reader so the books maintained his enjoyment and interest, while the maths games helped him to realise the importance of numeracy in real life.
“The Letterbox Club is a great innovation. It creates an important link between the classroom and home, inspiring children to get more involved in their learning. I can see the clear benefit it has had for the children in care in my school.”
Margaret Kelly, director of the Fostering Network Northern Ireland, said; “While children in care typically struggle to do as well as their peers in terms of academic achievement, the evidence from the Letterbox Club clearly shows that with the right help they can improve.
“By providing fun and inspiring educational materials, and with the support of their foster carers, these children can really enjoy the process of learning and are able to achieve their potential at an early stage in their development.”
Education minister John O’Dowd has lent his supportive to the initiative, and said: “Literacy and numeracy are the most important building blocks of a child’s education and are vital for their prospects later in life. The Letterbox Club initiative is an excellent way of increasing the access that children in foster care have to books and written material and this evaluation by Queen’s shows beyond doubt that the programme works.
“The Government has committed funding of £95,000 to the Letterbox Club spread over the past two years and this year and it is clear that this is money well spent. I commend the Fostering Network and Booktrust for their highly effective partnership approach in delivering the Letterbox Club and wish everyone involved in delivering this innovative project continued success as they help some of the most deserving children in our society.”
For media enquiries contact the Fostering Network press office on 020 7620 6425 or email@example.com