Literacy guru goes her own way

26th June 1998 at 01:00
The chief inspector's headteacher partner will not teach the stipulated Literacy Hour. Nadene Ghouri reports

A KEY consultant to the National Literacy Strategy - and partner of Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools - says she will not teach the official literacy hour.

Ruth Miskin, head of Kobi Nazrul primary in east London, claims good heads "know in their hearts" what works best in their own schools.

She told The TES she will not follow the official guidelines when the strategy is implemented nationally in September.

"I will not abandon my own highly successful methods just because an inspector comes into the room. And I will justify that to the end," she said.

Several heads of successful schools acted as consultants in the formation of the strategy. Mrs Miskin's influence was strongest in the phonics - sounds and spelling - sections.

John Stannard, director of the National Literacy Strategy, who commissioned Mrs Miskin to advise on the strategy, said: "This is news to me. Ruth was a consultant and I would look for everyone to be consistent. But at the end of the day it is down to heads' individual judgments. However, I expect any alternative methods to be as good as, if not better than, the NLS. We will be watching very closely to see."

Mrs Miskin already teaches an hour of literacy a day, but it is of her own design and radically different from the one outlined in the strategy. She places a greater emphasis on phonics and said she will ignore the 15 minutes of whole-class shared reading and 20 minutes of independent learning recommended in the literacy hour.

She said: "Children at that age don't learn independently. Filling out worksheets is a waste of time. If they can do them, they don't need them. If they can't do them, they need oral work."

Mrs Miskin deploys up to four trained classroom assistants in one class, splitting into small groups. Although 95 per cent of Kobi Nazrul's pupils speak English as a second language, and over half qualify for free school meals, she claims her pupils "whizz through targets".

In last year's national curriculum reading tests, all of Kobi Nazrul's pupils reached level 2 - the standard expected for their age - and half reached level 3. Nationally, one-quarter of all pupils failed to reach level 2, with only 26 per cent reaching level 3. Moreover, 92 per cent of Mrs Miskin's pupils level scored the higher level 2 grade A, compared with less than one-third of pupils nationally.

Her methods are already familiar to many teachers: last year Mrs Miskin's school was chosen to feature in Literacy Matters, an OFSTED video highlighting best practice.

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