Heads reject Labour's secondary maths and literacy hours

25th February 2011 at 00:00

Heads' leaders are warning they will oppose Labour's plan to bring back numeracy and literacy hours - this time for secondary pupils - because they would mean a return to the micro-management of schools.

The idea was unveiled by shadow education secretary Andy Burnham last week as he launched the party's education policy review.

The introduction of daily literacy and numeracy hours in every primary school, along with detailed instructions on how to teach them, was initially seen as one of New Labour's biggest policy successes.

Now Mr Burnham has revealed he wants to return to the idea - with a twist. "It would be a guarantee at 16 - every young person needs to be strong in both English and maths," he told The Independent.

"I'm thinking you would bring that back at the end of education. You would have to have clarity about the minimum requirements for everybody.

"There should be one-to-one tuition. I know it's expensive, but if you're struggling you get self-conscious about it, and one-to-one tuition helps with learning."

But Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "We would not welcome a return to the days of that sort of level of prescription and micro-management.

"Professionals should have the freedom to decide how best to raise literacy and numeracy."

The original numeracy and literacy hours, introduced in 1998, were applauded after initial gains in national test scores, but were later perceived to have major downsides.

Targets were missed and an official independent evaluation found "considerable disparity" in teachers' understanding of the strategies.

Mr Lightman warned that the secondary curriculum was "already increasingly overcrowded" and that secondary numeracy and literacy hours "could not possibly replace" all the work needed in primaries.

Mr Burnham also said he would "look again" at the Tomlinson report, which recommended an overarching diploma covering GCSEs and A-levels. Labour rejected the idea in 2005, amid reported fears that it would play badly in the press in the run-up to the general election.

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