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l-r Helen Smith, Higher Level Teaching Assistant and Caroline Pryer, headteacher of Ponteland Middle School.
l-r Helen Smith, Higher Level Teaching Assistant and Caroline Pryer, headteacher of Ponteland Middle School.

A WEB-BASED interactive approach to reading and spelling has made a big impact at a Ponteland school.

Self-Learn, Read and Spell, a synthetic phonic programme, was designed by entrepreneur Gordon Phillips based on personal experience.

The system, which is aimed at anyone who struggles with literacy, has been trialled at Ponteland Middle School and it achieved a 99 per cent success rate.

During a period from September to June, the vast majority of the pupils doing the course made between one and five years’ progress in their reading and spelling ages.

For example, an 11-year-old student with a spelling age of nine increased their ability by five years to that of a 14-year-old.

Ponteland Middle School headteacher Caroline Pryer said: “Self-Learn has proved to be a highly effective and cost efficient way of boosting pupils’ ability to read and spell.

“We have found it very successful with youngsters who have English as a second language as well as pupils who are dyslexic. It is ideal for students with a range of abilities as each has an individual programme that they work through at their own pace.

“Self-Learn has achieved outcomes that far outweigh any other form of support we previously used to augment literacy lessons led by our expert staff.”

Mr Phillips left school at 14, unable to read or spell. His lack of academic skills, due to severe dyslexia, led him to follow his father into engineering and he had a successful career in the industry.

He mastered the ability to spell five years ago at the age of 60 following many hours of research and used his new understanding of English decoding to help a group of young offenders, many of whom were dyslexic. His system got all the boys reading within six months.

This realisation led him to invent Self-Learn Read and Spell. It gives students vital one-to-one support and can be used to support literacy at school as well as by the general public at home.

Mr Phillips said: “It is very satisfying to see that in such a robust evaluation, the Self-Learn system is achieving such an outstanding rate of success.

“My ambition is to see Self-Learn adopted by more educational establishments so that young people do not go through adulthood struggling with reading and writing like I did.”

The programme is fully interactive, includes fun and exciting reading games and spelling tasks, and should give a student who is having problems a boost to their reading and spelling ages.

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