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Heads say extra help makes the difference

EARLY intervention is leading to rising levels of attainment in literacy and numeracy in schools serving disadvantaged areas, headteachers and other promoted staff told the inspectors.They believe that higher expectations and an improved range of teaching approaches have prompted the "measurable improvement". An ethos of achievement had been established.

The inspectors themselves attribute the success of early intervention initiatives to the continued enthusiasm of staff and the high quality of support from nursery nurses, classroom assistants and auxiliaries.

Among other factors, they cite more focus on effective teaching, more structured teaching programmes, improved assessment procedures and more staff development.

Local authorities, the inspectors continue, have now extended best practice from the early intervention initiative to some or all of thei primaries but they need to satisfy themselves that the scheme's original aims are being met.

"Two key tests for authorities, then, are to provide evidence that in those schools in socially disadvantaged areas - the percentage of pupils achieving level A in literacy and numeracy by P2 has increased and that the percentage of pupils who do not attain level A in literacy and numeracy by P3 has decreased," HMI states.

It points out that extra funding for staffing, resoures and staff development are due to be withdrawn in 2002 and that authorities may have to consider sustaining improvements from within core budgets.

In launching the report, Graham Donaldson, deputy senior chief, said he would be "very surprised" if there was not a significant continuing emphasis on early intervention, which was not an Executive-led initiative in the first place.

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