Literacy drive brings extra lessons for primary teachers

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The Independent Online
Every primary school teacher will receive extra training in teaching reading and writing, under an ambitious Government programme to drive up literary standards.

Schools, education authorities, and the Government, together with parents and employers, will all have a role in a nation-wide effort to boost reading, according to the National Literacy Strategy, published today.

The detailed five-year agenda, which confirms the place of literacy at the heart of the Government's education programme, will lead to unprecedented consistency among primary schools across the country.

Teachers will be trained to use officially recognised teaching techniques, and all primary schools will be required to set aside an hour each day for the teaching of reading, unless they can prove they are using alternative methods which are as good or more successful.

The strategy, devised by a Literacy Task Force appointed by Labour while in opposition, is designed to achieve the Government's ambitious targets of 80 per cent of all 11-year-olds reading at the standard expected for their age by 2002.

Last year, only 56 per cent achieved that level.

Work on the demanding programme will begin immediately, as local education authorities start devising action plans for raising literacy standards in primary schools.

Schools will become directly involved next summer, when each will send their head teacher, a governor, and a designated literacy co-ordinator for two days' training in teaching reading and writing, to be passed on to all staff.

From autumn 1998, when schools are expected to introduce a reading hour, those which have furthest to go to meet the literacy target will receive extra intensive support from specially appointed consultants.

To back up the programme, the 1998-99 school year will be designated "National Year of Reading", when parents will be urged through media campaigns to help their children read.

Funding for the strategy, which will be monitored in schools and LEAs by Ofsted, will come from a fund given to local authorities for education training.

The schools minister Stephen Byers said the strategy provided a practical agenda for action. "Every primary school in the land has an important part to play in our national drive to raise standards. Every parent and employer will welcome our determination to ensure our children have the literacy skills they will need in the 21st century."