The road ahead;Briefing
Primary schools will be expected to spend a dedicated hour every day teaching reading and writing to all children as part of the national literacy strategy. The "literacy hour" includes whole-class and group teaching and covers phonics, spelling, vocabulary, handwriting and grammar, as well as a wide range of fiction and non-fiction texts.
The hour is intended to give a focus for literacy teaching throughout the school. The Government expects teachers to follow the national framework detailing the material to be covered each term, which elaborates on national curriculum programmes of study for reading and writing, and to set clear targets for each term.
However, under the law, it is not mandatory for schools to teach the literacy hour.
A structured daily maths lesson - actually less than an hour for most pupils - is being road-tested and is due to be taught nationally from September 1999. A detailed teaching framework and training materials will reach schools during the coming school year.
In the mean time, the Government has asked primary schools to plan and teach dedicated daily maths lessons of 40 minutes to an hour in length, depending upon children's ages, beginning this September.
"Maths lesson" tips - see page 22 BASELINE ASSESSMENT
Four and five-year-olds joining reception classes will have to be assessed by their teachers from September. The "baseline" assessment will cover language and literacy, mathematics and personal and social development. It is supposed to take place in a friendly and informal way - by looking at a book with the child, for example - within the child's first seven weeks at school.
Baseline assessment is aimed at providing a clear picture of each child's knowledge, understanding, attitudes and skills, and a reference point for the measurement of future school performance.
NATIONAL YEAR OF READING
An attractive logo, television soap opera story lines and dozens of smaller projects will be part of the National Year of Reading, due to be launched by Prime Minister Tony Blair on September 16.
Brookside and Hollyoaks are among the television programmes set to feature reading as part of their plots.
The aim is of the year is to make reading fun. Projects include backing for a school information pack to mark National Poetry Day in October, development of a computer package for inmates of a London prison, and a campaign to encourage family reading.
All school governing bodies and local education authorities will be required to draw up targets to improve pupil performance. Schools will be expected to take account of national targets set by the Government for literacy and numeracy at age 11, information on other schools' results and evidence from inspections. Local education authorities will agree targets with schools covering three-year periods, which will be reviewed annually. Individual schools' targets will then be included in authorities' education development plans.
Primary schools will have an easier time with the national curriculum from September. Relaxation of the curriculum's requirements will give teachers more time to concentrate on reading, writing and maths.
Schools will no longer be required to follow prescribed programmes of study in design and technology, history, geography, music, art and physical education. But they will still have to provide a "broad and balanced" curriculum that includes coverage of the non-core subject areas.
A full review of the curriculum has been launched with a view to changes in 2000.
EDUCATION ACTION ZONES
Teachers in the Education Action Zones could find the national curriculum suspended and their pay and conditions changed by the forums that run them.
Innovation and flexibility will be key words in the zones, the first 12 of which will start in September, with 13 more starting in January.
Each forum - which can be made up of businesses, councils, colleges, parents,community groups and others - needs to attract pound;250,000 a year in private capital. The Government will put in pound;750,000 a year for the three to five years of the zones' existence. Zones will be expected to address local problems and focus on teaching and learning. They are, Labour says, a good opportunity for business to play a direct and central role in the management and leadership of education.