Alarm at secondary literacy strategy

6th October 2000 at 01:00
A key player behind the trials of literacy and numeracy strategies for older pupils says the pilot scheme is too inflexible and bureaucratic. Sarah Cassidy reports.

ONE of the architects of the Government's new strategy for transforming secondary schools has protested about the heavy-handed way it is being implemented.

David Hawker, director of education at Brighton and Hove, has complained to school standards minister Estelle Morris that the strategy, currently being trialled in 200 schools in 17 authorities, has become excessively bureaucratic and inflexible.

The pilot scheme, launched last month, extends the literacy and numeracy strategies to the early secondary years to tackle the dip in pupil performance at this level.

Three more authorities, which asked not to be named, told The TES that the scheme was too inflexible.

One project manager reported that some schools dropped out of the scheme when they saw how prescriptive it was. Another said she was extremely concerned about the pilot's imminent extension to special schools.

Mr Hawker, who in his previous job as head of curriculum and assessment for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority designed the tests that form a crucial part of the pilot, says he still supports the content of the strategy but is concerned about the way it is being implemented.

He said: "We want to make sure it goes well. I would stress that it is a pilot an you would expect teething problems but it is vital that this is a learning experience on both sides."

Janet Tomlinson, assistant director for school effectiveness who is managing the Brighton pilot, added: "The pilot should give basic structures and ideas to schools and let them experiment. We should let schools see what works and let this be a real pilot."

The authority is also concerned about the pilot's impact on teachers' workload during the continuing union action over paperwork.

Others echo its concerns about the training demands of the pilot which can take whole departments out of school at once.

One officer said: "The (DFEE) unit assumes we can go to London at the drop of a hat for meetings. While our priorities are the same in terms of this age group, we still have three to 19-year-olds coming to school everyday."

Meanwhile, staff in another authority are considering a rebellion against the new national tests which are an integral part of the pilot. English teachers in Tower Hamlets are considering boycotting the tests. Although the tests will be optional when the scheme is extended nationwide, they are compulsory for pilot schools.

A DFEE spokesman said: "This is a pilot scheme and it is necessary for a range of criteria to be tested so that a solid evaluation can be made.

"Obviously pilots are meant to throw up problems. We will be listening to all the comments made."

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