But pupils who experienced the strategy at primary level are better independent learners and may be more capable readers by the time they reach secondary school, the preliminary conclusions of a one-year study for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority show.
They had much more experience of reading comprehension but had spent relatively little time on extended writing.
Dr Sue Beverton of Durham University was asked to investigate the impact of the strategy by questioning pupils and teachers at five secondary schools in an education authority in the North-east. Teachers were asked to contrast the attainment and attitudes of the 199899 intake (who had not followed the strategy at primary school) with the 199900 classes who had followed it for one year.
Teachers said children who had followed the strategy were much "more conversant with language terms" such as vowels, phonemes and digraphs. They concentrated better and seemed ore capable readers, although teachers were anxious about whether they were "deep" or "superficial" readers.
Children who left primary before the literacy strategy described English in terms of books they read. Pupils who followed the strategy described Year 6 English in terms of word, sentence and text-level work.
These students found secondary English lessons more flexible and enjoyable than their last year of primary. They remembered their primary lessons for reading aloud - mainly short stories and extracts - and a focus on spelling and grammar.
Their secondary lessons were very different because they "read books with no questions in" and studied whole novels and poems rather than extracts followed by comprehension questions.
Despite the reforms, secondary schools have not altered curriculum or assessment policies for pupils' changing strengths and weaknesses, the study found.
Dr Beverton's final report, which will be submitted to the QCA this term, will recommend that secondaries develop policies to respond to major initiatives such as the literacy strategy.