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Targeted in-service boosts writing skills

SCHOOLS in East Dunbartonshire appear to be bucking the trend in tackling one of the weakest areas of pupil performance, writing in primary schools. The results are being attributed to a series of in-service conferences which targeted all primary staff.

Christine Symington, the council's head of educational development, said in a report last week that schools had greatly exceeded both national and local authority attainment targets for 1999, and some had already surpassed their targets for 2001.

Last year 60 per cent of primary pupils nationally attained their expected 5 14 level in writing, compared with 56 per cent in 1998. East Dunbartonshire's primaries notched an increase from 44 per cent to 70 per cent, 6 per cent more than the council's target for next year. Thirty out of 37 primaries raised their performance in writing.

Ms Symington stated: "It is clear that this has been helped by the programme of in-service which has been going on for the past 18 months and which is nearing completion.

"We have had three one-day conferences for all our primary staff, at which high-profile naional speakers have presented the latest in innovative thinking at the cutting edge of good practice. Workshops focused on how to take these forward and individual schools then developed their policies, supported by additional resources from the authority."

Ms Symington added that the improvements had appeared sooner than expected "because schools took up developments with such enthusiasm".

In reading and maths, East Dunbartonshire primaries are just three percentage points adrift of their targets and 14 of the 37 schools showed "a substantial level of additional achievement in all three areas".

In common with other authorities, however, 5-14 performance in secondary schools is less positive. The number of pupils attaining their expected levels in reading is "slightly down" to 39 per cent from 40 per cent, against a target for next year of 55 per cent. In writing, there has been a drop from 35 per cent to 33 per cent, against a target of 49 per cent. Performance in maths showed "slight progress" from 42 per cent to 44 per cent, but still some way short of the 55 per cent target.

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