Headline should have broadcast good news

14th March 1997 at 00:00
As a member of the Literacy Task Force (but not of the Labour party), I am disappointed and angry at your front-page headline "Anger at Labour rethink" (TES, February 28), which should have read "Good news story for teachers and children".

I am also surprised that Harvey Goldstein and Carol Fitzgibbon, two highly respected academics, have apparently fallen into the trap of responding to accounts of a piece of work rather than considering the full report for themselves.

If they bother to read our preliminary report in full, they will see that there is no foundation to their accusation of promoting raw league tables or of misusing statistics. Contrary to misinformation, which your article exacerbated, our report draws heavily on evidence of good practice that has been proved to work abroad as well as in this country.

Although I am an experienced primary school headteacher, I am also undertaking a part-time doctorate within the field of school improvement and resent the implication that I, and other members of the task force, are guilty of "statistical sleight of hand", of being unfamiliar with research evidence or of ignoring school effectiveness research "in the interests of publicity".

The preliminary report has been welcomed in principle by many practitioners and their unions as well as by employers' representatives. The conference launching the initiative on February 27 was very positive and recognised the value of our work. It acknowledges that in order to achieve our ambitious and challenging target, there needs to be a wholesale change of culture and raised expectations across the board.

The task force recognises that we are only at the beginning of the consultation and development process.

In contrast to recent imposed education policies, the Labour party has entered into a commitment to support the initiative throughout a 10-year period. The task force developed the strategy. We have set a challenging absolute target but, with the help of everyone, I believe this country can achieve it.

The strategy is designed to support teachers and children, not pressurise them.

The document is an interim report and the task force welcomes considered comments and suggestions from informed academics as well as teachers and parents.

ANNE WATERHOUSE Tennyson Drive Ormskirk Lancs

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