Literacy plan 'disaster'

14th January 2011 at 00:00
Launch delayed after first draft attracts scathing comments for errors, omissions and lack of rigour

A major initiative to improve pupil literacy has had to be significantly reworked after the first draft was branded an "embarrassment", TES Cymru can reveal.

The Assembly government's national literacy plan was due to be published last autumn, but weeks before launch its authors were told their work was "nowhere near good enough".

Senior officials at the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS) said the plan needed to be more rigorous and prescriptive if it was to have any impact on standards.

The plan was handed to a different group of DCELLS civil servants who were ordered to bring it up to scratch. It is now set to be relaunched at a major education conference next month.

TES Cymru understands the first draft contained a number of basic errors and there were several important omissions. There were also concerns over the content and tone and worries that it was not comprehensive enough in scope.

One source close to the process told TES Cymru: "Frankly, the first draft was a disaster. It would have caused embarrassment for the government. They've since done an awful lot of work and redrafted it significantly."

Another said: "Its content and tone needed drastic improvement and it needed to be more comprehensive in scope. However, it's in much better shape now and I think it's going to be really well received."

The four-year plan will set out the government's "vision and aspiration" for all children in Wales to be fully literate by the age of 11.

It will specifically target boys aged seven to 11 and aims to raise literacy standards in both Welsh and English.

Under the plan, there will be improvements in literacy training for teachers, a focus on the sharing of best practice, and extra support for under-achieving pupils.

Speaking at NAHT Cymru's annual conference last October Tony Schiavone, head of the Assembly government's basic skills unit, also revealed that catch-up reading programmes could be introduced in every primary school.

In the last academic year, catch-up literacy programmes took place involving 6,300 pupils at more than 1,000 primary schools and almost 2,000 pupils at 100 secondary schools.

On average, 87 per cent of pupils showed improvement in literacy to the expected levels.

An Assembly government spokesman dismissed the claims about the first draft of the plan as "nonsense". He said: "The final plan is due to be completed in the near future following final input from our literacy task and finish group.

"Actions identified in it to drive up standards of literacy in Wales are already being implemented, such as additional funding for one-to-one support for children aged seven to 11 [and] more funding for literacy teacher training."

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