Breaking the link between poverty and poor literacy has been a long- held goal in education. So the aspirations laid out this week in the Scottish Government's Literacy Action Plan do not chart new territory; they simply reiterate many of the ambitions laid out in Curriculum for Excellence with its cross-curricular, whole-school focus on literacy. Many of the respondents to the Donaldson review of initial teacher education, from secondary headteachers to HMIE, have expressed their concerns that new teachers are not sufficiently well prepared to teach literacy. The action plan appears to have taken on board the need to renew the focus on literacy at all levels of teachers' professional development.
Yet its worthy aims will come to nought if some of the threatened cuts to education services come to fruition. With the Children's Commissioner's warning ringing in local authorities' ears that if they do not take a stronger lead on early intervention, some children's lives will continue to be blighted by abuse and behavioural problems (p7), it seems incredible that authorities are contemplating the removal of pre-school education and learning support (p1). The argument applies to literacy: how can the foundations for learning to read and write be laid, if pre-school education is swept away alongside pupil support for the most vulnerable, as Aberdeen City suggests?
Education authorities are entering new territory. Up till now, we have had generalised warnings of stormy weather ahead; now those threats are taking on a sombre reality as councils list their potential targets. It may be that some of their options fall into the "nuclear" category and that councils will not push the button to exterminate certain areas of provision. But one thing is almost certain - teachers' current working conditions are unlikely to survive intact (p3).
Neil Munro, editor of the year (business and professional magazine).