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Strategies for success

Diane Hofkins highlights points from the recent OFSTED reports which show that quality not quantity counts

he national literacy and numeracy strategies have raised standards in other subjects because teachers have adapted their techniques, bringing clearer focus to lessons, says the Office for Standards in Education. However, some teachers are spending too much time on literacy and numeracy lessons, "often occupying more than an hour with no corresponding gains in what is being achievedI It is important that schools are disciplined in their use of time for mathematics and English in order not to erode the rest of the curriculum."

Launching OFSTED's latest reports on the strategies, Chris Woodhead, who has now left his post as HM Chief Inspector of Schools, praised the hard work of teachers. Mr Woodhead was a driving force behind the national introduction of the two strategies.

Overall, the reports bring familiar messages, in line with the national test results published in December. The teaching of reading has been transformed, but writing still lags behind. Boys are doing less well than girls, especially in writing. Phonics should be taught more systematically in Years 1 to 4. Children are enjoying maths lessons, and teaching is improving, especially in Reception and Year 6. "The energy, determination and skill with which Year 6 teachers have approached the need to raise standards should not be underestimated," says the report. Both subjects appear to be on course to meet David Blunkett's targets for 11-year-olds in 2002.

Mr Woodhead said the teachingof writing must improve if further progress is to be made.

Teachers are modifying the structure of the literacy hour to allow more extended writing; when pupils write about subjects such as history and geography, progress is made in both subjects, the report says. More time is being spent on writing, but there is an over-concentration on pupils practising it rather than being taught how to improve it. Some teachers also rely too much on undemanding worksheets.

Teachers who alter the literacy hour to teach spelling and grammar before looking at whole texts are helping pupils to use them more accurately in their writing.

In schools where boys' underachievement is being tackled: lboys are encouraged to write about their out-of-school interests; lgood use is made of ICT, practical activities and investigations; and lboys are encouraged to take risks.

Copies of the reports are being sent to all schools in England. They are also available on www.ofsted.gov.uk.

NOT IN FRONT OF THE CHILDREN, PLEASE

Guidelines for learning support assistants, those crucial but often overlooked members of staff, have been published by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, in conjunction with the National Literacy Association. A Class Act includes an outline of what LSAs can reasonably expect to do, guidance on training, and a summary of rights and responsibilities.

Do's and don'ts remind us that classroom clashes between teacher and LSA "unsettle" children.

A Class Act, pound;4.99, is available from the ATL, 7Northumberland Street, London WC2N 5RD

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