It was refreshing to read the views of my onetime colleague, Jim Dalziel (TESS, last week), all the more so because his present post allows him a perspective on the educational scene which few others are privileged to share. I hope, however, that he will return at a future date to tease out some of the implications of his observations because they are particularly relevant at this time when the whole structure of the curriculum and its delivery are ripe for review.
Above all, I am certain that he is correct when he says that "literacy is the key to success" and that the early years are where resources must be concentrated. But what resources? It is extremely unlikely that Santa Jack will deliver this year or in any Christmas to come a bumper bundle of goodies to enrich current provision.
As with the recent job-sizing exercise, we are much more likely to see a redistribution which will go some way to addressing the gross disparity which currently exists in staffing levels and per capita funding between the primary and secondary sectors.
The reaction to any such equalisation from secondary staff is all too predictable. But what, I wonder, would be the response from a head of a learning community embracing both sectors?
If some such rebalancing of resources were to take place then I believe that we could look forward with some confidence to narrowing, if not eliminating, that two year gap between reading and chronological ages which Mr Dalziel records. But where to then after the transfer to the secondary sector?
Twenty-five years ago, when there was a sustained but ultimately failing effort to heighten the awareness of secondary teachers to the importance of language "across the curriculum" and to have them modify their classroom practices accordingly, the research evidence of the time indicated that many pupils in secondary failed to sustain the levels of reading competence reached in P7 and regressed over the four compulsory secondary years. And that was at a time when few questioned the imbalance in resource provision which saw the secondary school so much better provided for than the primary.
Can the idea of the learning community and the structures which underpin it overcome that tendency to regression in the context of a redistribution of resources between sectors? I suspect it could, but the price might be a major transformation of secondary school structures.