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Maths and reading take to the high road

Highland is the latest council to report major advances as a result of early intervention - with schools in deprived areas improving in maths by seven times the Highland and national average and in reading by double the average.

Comparisons of P2 pupils in the 56 primaries taking part at the end of the session in 1998 and 2001 using national test results show:

* Double the number of children reaching level A in reading.

* A fivefold increase in the numbers at level A in writing.

* Almost double the number of pupils reaching level A in maths.

Improvements are most marked in small schools and performance in reading and maths in the most deprived schools is now more in line with those in other schools. Achievements in writing are less notable although the council is initiating a major training programme for teachers.

A report to this week's education committee by Jack Findlay, head of school and curriculum development, described the findings as "a resounding confirmation of teachers' impressions of major improvements".

Mr Findlay, making his last report before retirement, identified a number of factors including whole-class, direct teaching and new methods of teaching. Classroom assistants and a concerted approach to improve learning were also important.

The report underlines progress in Gaelic-medium classes. Of 90 pupils involved, 25 per cent had reached level A in reading by the end of P2, 20 per cent in writing and 65 per cent in maths. The report notes: "Bearing in mind the fact that most of these children came from non-Gaelic speaking homes, this is a remarkable achievement."

The council now plans to extend the early intervention programme into the middle and upper primary stages so that "no pupil enters secondary school with inadequate literacy and numeracy skills".

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