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Strategy's effect remains on hold

The Statistics Commission is right to insist that improvements in primary literacy have not been as spectacular as the Government has claimed.

The literacy strategy was introduced in September 1998 for key stage 1 only. It could therefore not have any effect on KS2 results in 1999, yet these jumped by a spectacular seven points - from 64 per cent in 1998 to 71 per cent in 1999 - and rose again to 75 per cent in 2000, where they remained until 2003.

The first of these improvements was due entirely to the new tests; the second to teachers getting better at teaching to them. When the limit for improvement by the teachers was reached, the results did not budge.

The only KS2 tests which the literacy strategy could have had much effect on were those of 2004. These were the first to be taken by a cohort of pupils who had been taught through the strategy from the start, and they rose from 75 per cent in 2003 to 78 per cent in 2004.

Unfortunately, these tests were also meddled with to make them more boy-friendly. So, only by carefully monitoring both the tests and results for a few more years will we know how big a difference, if any, the strategy has really made, assuming the tests remain unchanged.

Masha Bell Author of Understanding English Spelling Wareham, Dorset

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