Carping about literacy is unjust;Letter

24th December 1999 at 00:00
WHAT a pity you finished the term with a mean-spirited and ill-informed editorial on the literacy strategy (TES, December 17).

It was surely right to celebrate the progress primaries have made, yet all The TES can do is carp.

Your editorial was ill-informed in two respects. First, you wrongly claim that "there is nothing to prove that is the strategy which improved test results." In fact, the strategy is based on a pilot which has consistently shown pupils in the pilot achieving better than those outside it.

Second, you claim that the literacy strategy is "less successful" with boys, and yet the year after its introduction we saw boys making a much greater improvement than girls. This hardly suggests that it is "less successful"!

Why not acknowledge teachers' success fulsomely? Indeed, you could join Marilyn Jager Adams, the world's leading expert on literacy who is reported elsewhere in the same issue as saying: "The progress you've made with your literacy strategy is real. And it's wonderful."

Professor Michael Barber

Head of Standards and Effectiveness Unit

Department for Education and Employment,

Sanctuary Buildings

Great Smith Street, London SW1

The editor writes: We have been celebrating teachers' success at key stage 2 since we published the test results in September.

Our editorial last week simply noted that OFSTED's useful evaluation of the literacy strategy provided no evidence for the chief inspector's assertion that it was the strategy he claims to have inspired (rather than teachers' efforts) which improved test results.

Like Mr Woodhead and Ms Jager Adams, The TES supports the literacy strategy. But even our combined enthusiasms do not constitute proof that the encouraging results of the pilot will be reproduced nationally, or that the strategy alone can counter boys' underperformance. That is sensible caution, not carping.

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