Don't be fooled by the madding crowd

27th February 1998 at 00:00
The Publishing Village at the Education Show will be dominated by the National Literacy Project, but be cautious about opening your purse too soon, writes Sue Palmer No prizes for guessing one of the big themes at this year's Education Show. We hover on the brink of a revolution in primary reading practice as the National Literacy Project's "framework" is applied nationwide - so literacy issues dominate the proceedings.

The subject is at the heart of Thursday's seminar programme, and the Publishing Village is the showcase for a plethora of re-sources for the literacy hour.

The Government has allocated pound;19 million this year for primary literacy resources, so educational publishers are naturally anxious to show off their wares. Here we outline some of the materials which 11 major publishers would like to draw to teachers' attention. Despite fears that the NLP would lead to greater homogeneity in educational publishing, so far at least there seems to be a commendable variety.

Beware, however, of spending your share of the literacy windfall in too much of a hurry. It is early days yet and materials reflecting the most recent update of the "framework" are still little more than gleams in their authors' eyes. Here are some tips to bear in mind as you check out the literacy bonanza.

* Don't be panicked into spending by any feelings of insecurity at this time. The programme of in-service training which starts this summer will help you to see more clearly what your school's needs are. Now is the time to get an overview of the materials available.

* If you have money that must be spent before April, concentrate on: 1) Big Books (for shared reading). Look at the range of genres required in the NLP framework to decide where to invest.

2) Sets of group readers - educational publishers produce plenty of good fiction, plays and poetry by established children's writers and a growing range of non-fiction. These are often cheaper than bookshop equivalents (such as Puffin's). You will need a minimum of six copies but, if possible, buy eight to allow for a teacher's copy and a spare.

These items are needed at both key stages 1 and 2, and it is probably impossible to have too many.

* If you decide to buy a complete literacy hour package for the whole school, introduce it gradually, starting with key stage 1. The needs of pupils in Years 2 to 6 next year will be different from those in the future, as hopefully the cumulative effects of NLP teaching will start to show soon.

For the time being, you may have to adjust the framework's demands to meet the current levels of knowledge of key stage 2 children.

* Once you feel familiar with the NLP, organise an audit of the materials you already have - then plug any gaps. Educational publishers are producing guidelines on how materials currently in schools fit the demands of the NLP. Remember that many materials published in the past five years were influenced by the same educational trends as the NLP and shouldn't need too much changing to fit the framework.

* Above all, don't be fooled into thinking that resources can teach the literacy hour for you. At the heart of the NLP framework is the re-establishment of the teacher's centrality to primary practice. The right resources are important, but they are merely tools. In the end, it is the commitment, enthusiasm and professionalism of teachers on which the national literacy strategy depends.

* Sue Palmer is an education consultant andgeneral editor of the Longman Book Project

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