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If it doesn't help, don't do it

Osler wants no let-up on basics

TEACHERS have swallowed "generations of rubbish" about learning to read, Christine Riach, early education adviser in Dundee, warned. "We were even at one point sold on teaching children to read a different alphabet to the one they would ultimately read," Mrs Riach said.

She had worked in nurseries as recently as 18 months ago which had banned print because staff had been told children did not appreciate it at that age. "We have had to counter that kind of rubbish," she said.

"Try it in your own situation and if you think it does not work, don't do it," she urged.

"We are not going round saying to people you must adopt this method because I do not believe there is a single method that will work for all children. We have to base our work on a range of approaches and trust the professional expertise of our teachers."

Early literacy was vital to children's sense of achievement and baseline assessment was fundamental. Since 90 per cent of primary 1 pupils came from nursery schools and classes, Dundee's pilot approach tested on entry to nursery, halfway through nursery, entry to P1 and eight weeks into formal schooling.

The approach emphasised where children were at, rather than what they could not do.

Mrs Riach said assessment was important to keeping children "on task" once they start formal school, especially as many had severe challenges in their lives.

"One, two or three children in P1 classes come adrift and out of kilter with their classmates," she said. Teachers had to ensure that courses matched pupil expectations and what they were ready for. Different kinds of learning should be going on to match different learning styles.

Dundee was, for example, prepared to look at boys' preferred learning style in the early stages. "Boys like to be constructive, like to do and be active but their manipulative skills, such as being able to hold scissors or pencils, develop less quickly than girls'," Mrs Riach said.

The city is expanding its extension of day nursery provision from 8am-5pm to all 13 centres. Research showed many parents were using childminders at the beginning of the day.

A new post of senior nursery nurse has been created.

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