Literacy hour was invented by Labour

8th December 2000 at 00:00
YOUR report on the political history of the literacy and numeracy strategies (TES, December 1) is not only at odds with your editorial's welcome recognition of our achievement, it is at odds with reality.

First, the problem of poor standards of literacy and numeracy was identified as far back as 1992 with the "Three Wise Men" report, as I have acknowledged. It is also worth remembering that just 250 primary schools had a literacy strategy approach in 1997 - - out of 19,000 schools.

Second, the Tories had no intention of introducing a daily literacy and numeracy hour nationally. They scorned it as "bureaucratic" and "initiativitis". Now they are trying to claim it was all their idea.

A national drive such as we have achieved over the past two years requires more than good intentions. It meant a more flexible curriculum and the retraining of hundreds of thousands of teachers. It also required a new teacher-training curriculum, because the lack of one had left teachers ill-equipped to teach reading and fearful of teaching maths.

There are new teaching materials, including the latest grammar guide, denounced as "red tape" and "prescription" by a Conservative front bench whose understanding of why we have succeeded is zero. There has ben hard work by 750 literacy and 700 numeracy consultants at local education authority level. And there has been year-on-year high-quality professional development for all primary teachers and extra help for those schools facing the greatest challenge.

The national drive has been led by the DFEE's standards and effectiveness unit, with strong support from the Office for Standards in Education. Targeted resources for the 3Rs have been provided through the Standards Fund, and we have introduced smaller classes, more classroom assistants, summer schools, booster classes and homework clubs, the National Year of Reading and Maths Year 2000.

None of these was in place in 1997. Had we followed the Tories' pound;5 million-a-year policy it would have taken another 60 years to get to the degree of primary-school change we have today. It has meant an enormous amount of hard work by heads and teachers, as well as pupils - and they deserve the most credit. But don't let us pretend that the election of Labour didn't make a difference.

Estelle Morris

School standards minister

Great Smith Street

Westminster, London SW1 Letters sent via e-mail

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