Action plan to focus trainees on literacy

29th October 2010 at 01:00
Government attempts to improve new teachers' literacy skills after they come under scrutiny

Literacy will become a major focus of teacher training, a new literacy action plan reveals.

The poor literacy skills of new teachers have come under fire from headteachers and the inspectorate; now the Scottish Government looks set to try and improve them.

Former HMIE senior chief inspector of education Graham Donaldson's review of teacher education is not due to be published until the end of the year. However, the Government's Literacy Action Plan, published this week, gives a taste of what may be to come. It states that literacy will feature as a priority in both initial teacher education and ongoing professional development.

The "overarching vision" of the new plan is to raise standards of literacy for all, from early years to adulthood, it states, with a major focus on breaking the long-standing link between poverty and poor literacy skills. Around a quarter of Scottish adults would benefit from improving their literacy skills, and those who have issues are more likely to have low income and lower-level employment.

Curriculum for Excellence is a major plank of the Literacy Action Plan, and should be used by everyone, from early years practitioners to secondary teachers of all subjects, as the basis for supporting the development of pupils' literacy skills, it says.

When a child moves from nursery to P1 early information should be provided on progress in learning, including literacy, and all children should have their literacy skills assessed on an ongoing basis from P1 onwards, it states. Also, all local authorities will be encouraged to put in place early identification of support needs.

Reports to parents from the beginning of primary should include information on literacy achievement, and their development needs for the next year, it continues.

The focus on raising standards of literacy skills should continue "into and throughout" every stage of secondary, where a key focus will be advanced literacy skills - understanding, interpreting and analysing texts.

All new national qualifications will be designed to support the development of literacy skills across the curriculum and new units in literacy at SCQF levels 3, 4 and 5 will be developed.

Tommy MacKay, who sat on the Literacy Commission, set up by Labour, which reported last year with a call for "zero tolerance on illiteracy", welcomed the action plan. It signified the nation's commitment to literacy and provided a much-needed vision, he said.

Professor MacKay praised the use of assessment from the early years onwards to track children's progress. But the Literacy Action Plan would stand or fall on how well delivery was co-ordinated and monitored at a national level, he warned.

"If the common policy of having a national plan and devolving responsibility to local authorities is followed, there will be patchy results. Some local authorities will go the whole hog and get excellent results; others won't make much of a show of it," he said.

The delivery of the plan is to be overseen by a Standing Literacy Commission, and a progress report will be provided to Parliament after three years, said the Government.

Education Secretary Michael Russell said: "Poor literacy levels, even among a minority, are unacceptable and this plan is designed to improve the literacy of all who need support."

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