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Emergency start for secondary strategies

It's just six weeks into the pilots, but the Education Secretary has already decided to bring in the 11-14 literacy and numeracy schemes next year. Sarah Cassidy reports

EVERY secondary school will be expected to introduce the new literacy and numeracy strategies for 11 to 14-year-olds next September, although the controversial pilot scheme is only six weeks old.

Like primaries, secondaries will not technically be forced to introduce the strategies but the primary experience suggests that, in practice, they all will.

Training for all secondary English and maths teachers starts after Easter as part of an pound;82 million scheme to tackle the slump in pupil literacy and numeracy performance in the early secondary years. The money, announced by Education Secretary David Blunkett this week, will help fund the pilot, the strategies and more summer schools. The national programme and summer schools will be match-funded by councils.

Mr Blunkett believes the strategies will be crucial in helping 14-year-olds reach ambitious new targets, currently out for consultation. He expects that 80 per cent of them should achieve level five in maths and ICT nd 70 per cent in science by 2004.

More than 200 schools in 17 local authorities are trying out the strategies. Science, ICT and thinking skills will be piloted in the summer term, with training beginning after Christmas 2001.

But the pilot has already been criticised by some in local authorities, including David Hawker, Brighton and Hove's director of education, a key architect of the strategy in his previous role as head of curriculum and assessment at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. He has complained to ministers about the heavy-handed and inflexible way the pilot is being run.

The National Association for the Teaching of English has found most pilot schools were worried about the training and testing involved. Several were considering pulling out.

Anne Barnes, chair of the association's secondary committee said: "The general feeling is that the training is rushed and dictatorial and that it will be difficult to introduce nationally. There is a sense of frustration from English teachers that they have been dragooned into this." The consultation closes on December 15. INSIGHT

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