£1bn drive for literacy is 'failing at GCSE'

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair's £1bn drive to improve reading and numeracy skills among children is failing, according to a leading Blairite think-tank.

Tony Blair's £1bn drive to improve reading and numeracy skills among children is failing, according to a leading Blairite think-tank.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has found that 16-year-olds are not getting better GCSE results despite the costly Government campaign to raise standards.

Although scores in literacy tests for 11-year-olds rose by 18 percentage points between 1996 and 2004, the same children only obtained improvement of four percentage points in their GCSEs.

The IPPR findings were unveiled at a private Whitehall seminar earlier this month. They suggest that the extra money being injected into Britain's schools is not having any significant impact.

Some experts say the disappointing results highlight the poor standards in secondary schools. Others say the national test results at 11 are flawed and have exaggeratedprimary schools improvements.

In 1997, Sir Michael Barber, the most senior adviser in the Education department, said a major social transformation would be achieved by ensuring children left primary school with the basic skills to benefit from secondary education. He described the national literacy and numeracy strategy as the "largest educational initiative on the planet". The initiative has cost more than £1bn since it began.

Peter Robinson, the senior economist at the IPPR, told education officials at the seminar: "We had that huge surge ... by 11-year-olds, yet five years later when they took GCSEs the rate of improvement trundled along as before."

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