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Policies that had Conservative roots

IN praising the success of the literacy and numeracy strategies, Chris Woodhead modestly underplayed his own role.

Without pressure from the chief inspector, the last Conservative government would probably not have begun to focus on the work of primary schools in improving the basics.

The case for national centres for literacy and numeracy was put to the then Education Secretary, Gillian Shephard, in 1995 and to ensure it had the support of Number 10, Mr Woodhead went to John Major.

In 1996, Mrs Shephard announced the creation of 13 literacy and 12 numeracy centres in areas where maths and English scores were poor.

Work began on frameworks for teaching basic skills, which included more mental arithmetic and greater use of phonics in schools. The Conservatives allotted pound;25 million to pay for it.

Meanwhile, in Oposition, David Blunkett set up his own task forces in numeracy and literacy, whose members also saw a need for a Government-driven programme in primary schools.

Within days of winning the election, Mr Blunkett set national targets for literacy and numeracy.

Over the past three years the Government has spent almost pound;300 million putting its strategies in place and it will go on spending until 2004.

As Mr Woodhead acknowledged, much is owed to the two directors, John Stannard for literacy, and Anita Straker, numeracy.

David Blunkett welcomed the report and paid tribute to the hard work of teachers.

However, in a statement he issued this week out lining the history of strategies he failed to acknowledge that the Tories, on the advice of Mr Woodhead, may have had a hand in their creation.

NEIL TURNER

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