Blunkett's literacy 'crusade' nets #163;59m

26th December 1997 at 00:00
The Government has allocated #163;59 million to schools and local authorities in its drive to improve children's reading and writing.

David Blunkett, the Education and Employment Secretary, hailed the campaign as a "crusade for higher standards", which would ensure that schools, LEAs and parents all had a role.

The largest chunk of the money, #163;49 million, will pay for books, teacher training, the dedicated reading hour, and the recruitment of consultants.

A further #163;4m will go to the Family Literacy Project, aimed at encouraging parents to help their children with reading at home, and #163;3.3m will address the literacy problems of children transferring from primary to secondary schools.

In addition, #163;3m will be pumped into the Premier League Support scheme - football clubs providing homework centres for disaffected teenagers.

Schools and local authorities bid for the cash, which has come from the Government's Standards Fund.

Education chiefs are looking at plans to train adults as paid-for classroom assistants to bring pupil-adult ratios down to one to 15. It means that a class of 30 pupils would have a teacher and a full-time helper to work at supplementing literacy and numeracy work.

The allocations to schools and local authorities were announced as the School Standards and Framework Bill was receiving its Second Reading in the Commons.

Mr Blunkett said that the "substantial boost" in funding for literacy schemes would underpin the Year of Reading.

"The Government has set clear literacy and numeracy targets for 2002. We are determined to see a significant improvement in the unacceptably low achievement of 11-year-olds in the 3Rs."

A further #163;353m will be distributed from the Standards Fund over the coming months to support other areas of school improvement.

Two months ago, education chiefs warned that the Government's literacy targets would be achievable only if financial support was available.

Graham Lane, education chairman at the Local Government Association, welcomed the funding. "We are delighted because this is new money and it has been proved that targeting funding carefully can be extremely valuable indeed."

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