Keeping literacy targets in sight

26th September 1997 at 01:00
Your report on the recently-published document, The Implementation of the national literacy strategy (TES, September 19), is misleading in two respects.

First, it implies that the report is weaker on addressing disadvantage than the preliminary report of the literacy task force published in February. In fact, not least because we listened to the consultation exercise, it is substantially stronger on this theme.

Schools with disadvantaged intakes will get very substantial extra support in recognition of the challenges they face. As the document says on page 23, "our strategy is designed to help all schools but to offer intensive support to those schools which, for reasons of social disadvantage or historic underperformance, have farthest to go".

The funding to make this possible will be announced shortly. Furthermore, the literacy strategy is only one part of the Government's wider education policy in which the need to tackle social disadvantage is a vital strand. David Blunkett's speech at The TESNational Union of Teachers conference, reported elsewhere in the paper, made that very clear.

The TES report is also blatantly misleading when it says the literacy document "backtracks" from Labour's original promise to get all 11-year-olds to level 4 in reading by the end of a second term in office. The report says explicitly that "we have not lost sight of our original remit ..." It also has a whole section devoted to going beyond the 2002 target towards the "ultimate target. " Incredibly, you dismiss this three-page section as "a fleeting reference".

The national literacy strategy is ambitious. It involved the biggest-ever programme of professional development for primary teachers. It will, I believe, enable our ambitious targets to be met. If the targets are met, primary teachers will have led a major social transformation and will finally gain the public respect their efforts deserve.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL BARBER

Department for Education and Employment

Sanctuary Buildings

Great Smith Street

Westminster

London SW1

The Editor writes:

The Literacy Task Force's preliminary report included a chapter called "Addressing Disadvantage". There was no such chapter in the final report, published last week.

Professor Barber refers to a three-page section on the "ultimate target".

In fact, this section is a little over one page long, and makes no explicit reference to Labour's original promise that every child will be able to read by the year 2007.

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