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Mouse deletes literacy hour

The literacy hour is to be scrapped under proposed changes to primary lessons that will also require six-year-olds to learn to type their names and children to memorise times-tables a year earlier.

Tougher lessons for infants will be introduced to improve standards at age 11. Last year, only 57 per cent of pupils reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in their key stage 2 tests.

Teachers will still have to teach English and maths each day, but the step-by-step literacy hour has been dropped. It was piloted by the Conservative government in 1996 but became one of Labour's big ideas and was introduced to every primary two years later.

In the draft proposals, pupils will be expected to know times-tables up to 10 x 10 by the age of nine, rather than 10. By age six they will have to understand the symbols for greater than, less than and equals, currently taught at age nine.

Paul Wagstaff, director of the primary national strategy, said: "We are encouraging schools to look at the organisation of the literacy hour and to plan literacy over a longer period so it is not as formulaic, although a discrete literacy lesson will remain."

English in reception classes will include more synthetic phonics (blending sounds to make words). At seven, pupils will have to spell words with prefixes and suffixes, for example un-happy or hope-ful. This is currently expected of eight-year-olds.

Sue Palmer, literacy consultant, said: "It is real improvement. It allows teachers to break out of seeing the literacy strategy as a straitjacket and puts them in charge of the classroom again."

The new primary framework also emphasises reading independently and story time in class. Michael Morpurgo, former children's laureate, said: "If you are enjoying a book and then someone says 'Why did the writer do that?' it becomes a test."

The draft proposals are being sent to local authorities this week, but teachers are expected to cover much of the same ground. The most obvious change is a pruning of detail. For example, in Year 1, when children begin to learn punctuation there are six requirements in the use of capital letters and full-stops, including knowing the personal pronoun, "...". This is to be condensed to: "use capital letters and full stops when punctuating simple sentences".

Calculation in maths now has a clearer route starting with pupils mentally adding one-digit numbers at age six to using written methods to multiply and divide decimals by age 11.

Local authorities will offer training to subject leaders in areas including synthetic phonics, a system advocated in the Rose review last month.

At eight, pupils should be able to type, edit and redraft a text, and by 11 use various word processing packages. The frameworks will be available on a website and CD-Rom with a booklet, rather than the current ring binders.

Consultation will end on June 2. The framework is due in schools in September. For more details see: Give them a big hand: under proposed changes to lessons in primary schools, children will expected to learn a range of skills at an earlier age than at present. They will be required to type their names by age six, to edit and re-draft a text by eight, and use a variety of word processing packages by 11

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