Literacy hour hit by lack of training

22nd January 1999 at 00:00
A second teachers' union has uncovered bureaucratic problems with the Government's drive to improve reading, Karen Thornton reports.

TEACHERS buckling under the pressures of the literacy hour are being urged to tell bureaucrats to "push off" and let them get on with their job.

The second largest teaching union says that primary staff have been pressured into over-preparation by headteachers and local education authorities.

The findings follow a consultation exercise by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. It reveals that some staff were still waiting to be trained in the national literacy strategy four months after its introduction last September.

The NASUWT has taken soundings from around 400 members about the literacy hour at regional seminars and meetings.

It says members' biggest concerns are about training and workload - with some teachers complaining that training is patronising and, occasionally, non-existent. Poor planning by some headteachers is making matters worse, says the NASUWT.

The union is the second to highlight primary teachers' concerns about the literacy hour. Last week, the initial findings from a National Union of Teachers' questionnaire showed that 68 per cent of respondents felt they had not had enough training for the literacy hour, and 90 per cent said it had caused "a lot" of extra work.

Nigel de Gruchy, the NASUWT's general secretary, said: "It's a very mixed picture. There are too many schools being poorly managed and teachers coming under ridiculous pressure to prepare everything every day.

"In other schools, it's been much better managed, and some teachers have said the literacy hour is the best thing since sliced bread.

"Teachers are afraid to continue what they are already doing, even if they are already doing well. They ought to be a lot more belligerent, and tell interfering education authorities and bureaucrats and inspectors to push off and let them get on with the job - and judge them by their results."

Other problems reported by members included insufficient resources to implement the hour, and problems with mixed-age year groups covering a wide ability range.

But inadequate training and lack of planning time were the biggest problems, with some schools still waiting for training in December - four months after the introduction of the literacy hour. "Cascade" training - where a co-ordinator disseminates what he or she has learned to school colleagues - is proving ineffective because of lack of time.

One group of teachers said: "The training we feel has been rushed and has served only to confuse and irritate staff. At times, it seems as if we are doing a linguistics degree - yet other aspects of it are patronising."

Another said: "Our job is stressful and thankless enough without having these additional pressures put upon us. It is plainly obvious that headteachers and the education authorities are bowing to government pressure so we look to the union to support us.

"We do not necessarily want to see the back of the literacy hour but we feel we should be able to decide which parts of it will be of benefit to our school and organise it as we see fit."

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