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Image courtesy of Real Action

Image courtesy of Real Action

Courtesy of Real Action

Real Action is a community-led educational charity which provides specialist literacy and English language programmes for children and adults resident predominantly in the Queen's Park, Harrow Road and Westbourne wards of north Westminster, and in adjoining areas of north Kensington, Kensal Green south Kilburn and Harlesden. Its founder, Mozart Estate resident Roger Diamond, was concerned about the criminal activities - and illiteracy - of gangs of young children on the estate. With co-founder Katie Ivens he set up Real Action with a management committee of local parents in 1997. The organisation became a registered charity the following year.

Real Action aims, with each of its carefully sourced and purpose-designed programmes, to substantially and speedily raise the literacy and language levels of its 'disadvantaged' clientele of multiple origins and abilities. The programmes have been specially devised to provide uniquely effective opportunities for educational success, access to further training, education and employment, and an alternative to dependency, disaffection and involvement in criminal activity.


Real Action's flagship project, the Butterfly Saturday Reading School was set up, permanently, in 1999 for children aged 5 -12. The aim is to enable as many local children as possible to enter secondary school with age- appropriate reading levels, ensuring that they will be equipped to participate in secondary education with prospects of fulfilling careers and personal lives, instead of succumbing to disaffection and all the consequences.

Real Action's work with local children at the Butterfly Saturday Reading School has made an impact discernible in statistics published by the DCSF. These indicate that over ten years since 1997 improvement in literacy for 11- year olds in Queen's Park was almost twice that achieved by children in Westminster as a whole. This has been attributed to the work of Real Action.

Image courtesy of Real Action

Courtesy of Real Action

In the 10 years of the Butterfly school's existence an outstanding record has been established for raising children's attainment: in an average 30 hours' teaching children's reading ages regularly (since 1999) improve by an average 13 months. By-products of the Butterfly programme include noticeable improvements in children's behaviour; reports of improved attainment at school, often with unexpectedly high SAT test results; removal from Special Needs registers; and raised aspirations. Over the 10 years that Real Action has delivered the programme, principally to children in the area in and around the Mozart Estate, it has been noticeable that as Butterfly children have grown older they - unlike some of their siblings and neighbours - tend not to feature among the more troubled (and troubling) youths seen around the streets and the estate.

Children receive a national standardised reading test on entering the programme. They are placed in graded classes of up to 15 children, that match their reading level, where they are taught the Butterfly Reading and Writing Course until they have attained Reading Age 8. Children move up classes, often very speedily, as their reading levels improve. Beyond Reading Age 8 they are taught a programme of spelling, punctuation, grammar, comprehension, essay-writing etc. The classes benefit children from the multiplicity of cultures that proliferate in the area; they tend to be particularly popular with families of Caribbean, African and Islamic cultural backgrounds. A number of children have special needs.

Classes normally take place at 10am to 12 noon on a minimum of 30 Saturdays in term-time, over the school year. The classes are popular, grow by word of mouth, and are normally over-subscribed: their growth is only constrained by funding limitations.