Labour Conference: Blunkett to put pounds 50m into literacy campaign

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A pounds 50m standards fund to improve literacy and numeracy will be announced today by David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education.

Judith Judd, Education Editor, explains where the money will come from and how the initiative fits in to the Government's schools programme.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, will today announce a pounds 50m standards fund to be used for initiatives such as training for primary school teachers in how to improve their teaching of reading.

The money, which will be available next year, will come mainly from the Grants for Education Support and Training (Gest) fund which pays out cash to local education authorities for specific projects. However, some extra money will come from other parts of the education budget.

Mr Blunkett is insisting that traditional methods such as phonics should play a part in teaching reading. Schools which are struggling to raise standards will be sent specially appointed consultants. There will also be two days training next summer for the head, literacy co-ordinator and a governor from every primary school.

Secondary schools are expected to benefit from projects to teach pupils who fail to learn to read in primary school.

Mr Blunkett will confirm a promise to make next year (1998/9) the National Year of Reading. The Government will fund an advertising campaign urging parents to read with their children at home for at least 20 minutes each day.

At present, the Government finds 60 per cent of the money for most Gest projects while local education authorities find the remainder. From next year that will decrease to 50 per cent.

As the Prime Minister reminded the Labour Party conference yesterday, the Government has set bold targets of 80 per cent of 11-year-olds reaching the expected standard in literacy by 2002 and 75 per cent doing so in numeracy.

Mr Blair also repeated his promise to reverse the Conservatives' policy of cutting spending on education. The last government, he said, had planned to cut from pounds 83m to pounds 43m the money that came from the Home Office to help children from homes where English is a second language, making redundant 7,000 teachers and classroom assistants. "Today I announce that Tory cut will not stand," he said.

l Comprehensive school campaigners said that government proposals for parents to vote on the future of grammar schools would make it very difficult to end selection. The Campaign for the Advancement of State Education said that the proposal to require 20 per cent of eligible parents to call for a ballot would force organisers to collect thousands of signatures.