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Call for reading hour back-up

CHILDREN who struggle to read despite the literacy hour might need a "second wave" of support, says a Government-backed study.

Follow-up programmes for weak readers are a key feature of literacy schemes in the United States and Australia where schemes target 18 per cent of children who struggle despite a year of systematic literacy teaching.

The report by Roger Beard of Leeds University reviews research and other evidence supporting the introduction and structure of the national literacy strategy.

John Stannard, the head of the Government's literacy strategy, has already announced that he hopes to have a programme of special help in place by 2000.

The literacy hour was introduced by most primaries last September, the numeracy hour is due to be launched this autumn.

However, some critics are concerned at the lack of research-based evidence showing the hour's effectiveness. Others challenge specific aspects of the strategy and the literacy hour, claiming better results using different ways of teaching phonics.

Dr Beard's report sets out the arguments for a national initiative on literacy, citing evidence that standards have remained virtually unchanged since the late 1940s. Britain is a middling performer internationally - the most able youngsters match the best performers anywhere but there is a longer statistical "tail" of under-achievers.

Dr Beard concludes: "The complementary nature of much of the evidence is a clear indicator that, if it is widely and sensitively implemented, the national literacy strategy offers a major promise of significantly raising standards and of improving the life-chances of thousands of children."

National Literacy Strategy - Review of Research and other Related Evidence, available from DFEE Publications, PO Box 5050, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 6ZQ, tel 0845 6022260. Quote product code NLSRR.

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