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British relaunch of reading scheme;Curriculum 2000

FIRST Steps, a popular Australian reading project will be relaunched in a special British edition catering for the literacy hour, writes Sue Palmer.

Fans of the project, used widely in Britain and abroad, believe it could help teachers to cope with a wide spread of ability in primary classes. The literacy hour has been criticised by some for failing to reach the weakest pupils.

First Steps is based on research showing that children pass through a series of stages in acquiring literacy skills.

Used in Australasia, Malaysia, the US and China, it has inspired a band of enthusiasts who believe it takes account of pupils' development as well as their chronological age. It was introduced to the UK by the educational publishers Heinemann four years ago, but has been somewhat eclipsed by the Government's literacy strategy. The new, British, version provides - on one A3 page - an overview of five sequential "phases" in children's literacy development (now described in literacy-strategy-friendly language.

The teacher assesses where a child fits on this continuum then turns to a corresponding continuum of "teaching emphases". These suggest how to move the child on to the next stage, while covering the aims of the literacy strategy.

Teachers' books covering the assessments and teaching procedures and in-service training courses based on the First Steps NLS Edition will be available after its official launch in May.

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