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Secondary literacy hour to be introduced;Curriculum 2000

Sarah Cassidy reports on plans to help struggling 11 to 14-year-olds and shorten 'the long tail of underachievement'

THE literacy strategy is to be extended to secondary schools in September to improve struggling teenagers' reading and writing, according to one of the scheme's regional directors.

Teenagers still lacking basic reading or writing skills will be expected to follow the literacy strategy, Sue Hackman, the strategy's south-east regional director announced at the annual conference of the National Association for the Teaching of English.

The strategy, which started in primary schools last year, is to be extended to "bring up the long tail of underachievement", Mrs Hackman told the National Association for the Teaching of English annual conference last week.

Teachers will be trained in the summer term and schools will nominate the staff to go on the courses.

Eleven to 14-year-olds whose reading and writing are still below level 4, the standard expected of primary pupils, are to receive a version of the literacy hour tailored to suit the timetable.

Mrs Hackman said: "We are not looking at introducing the literacy strategy for the whole of key stage 3. But we are going to see a strong continuing desire to bring up the tail of underachievement."

However, she highlighted problems with the strategy which had so far failed to improve children's writing as much had been hoped.

She said the strategy was partly to blame for not providing teachers with adequate training or enough examples of how writing should be taught, particularly in guided writing where a teacher works with a small group of children on a story.

But national confusion about the mechanics of writing was also responsible, she said.

"We have a theory of how reading develops in this country, but I am not sure we have a theory of writing.

"We teach separate skills in separate compartments but it is the orchestration of the moment where it all comes together where we have the problem.

"How does the teacher get into the private moment when a child puts pen to paper and starts to write?

"We do not have the complete answer because it is a tremendously difficult problem.

"We have had a national moral panic about reading, but in a sense reading is much easier than writing."

However Mrs Hackman confirmed there would be no changes to the literacy framework in its second year.

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