So much change, so little time

18th September 1998 at 01:00
It has been yet another hectic year. So many drives, initiatives and changes for schools to absorb. No wonder there's more stress as staff struggle to keep up with what's happening. And it's worse for primary schools where they're feeling the brunt of the numeracy and literacy strategies.

Heads and school managers are responsible for seeing that schools are putting into effect the Government's wishes. Here is a checklist to make sure you know what's expected of you in 1998-99.

* National Literacy Strategy: the centrepiece of this is the literacy hour, a daily requirement in all primary schools where pupils must have 15 minutes together on a shared text, 15 minutes work on spelling and grammar, group work for 20 minutes, with a final 10 minutes back as a whole class reflecting on what has been learnt. Training for this only started last term and is continuing in many schools this year so presumably teachers will become more confident as they go along. The aim is for 80 per cent of 11-year-olds to reach level 4 in national tests by 2002 (present level, 67 per cent).

* The National Year of Reading: this is a promotional drive rather than a compulsory event and covers all schools, primary and secondary, although the main thrust of the publicity seems to be concentrating on primary schools. Each month is given a theme to add some spice and give a kick start to the literacy strategy.

* National Numeracy Strategy: primary schools are supposed to be doing a daily numeracy hour, too, from this month, but the training for this doesn't start until next year. Basically, schools have to concentrate on maths for an hour every day and wait for the fuller details to arrive later.

* ICT strategy: that's information and communications technology if you weren't sure. There's a requirement to draw up a school framework by April to qualify for the Pounds 500 per teacher to make them computer literate. This is in line with the Government's commitment to have every school connected to the Internet and every teacher able to make use of it by 2002. This date has a portentous ring about it by now.

* Baseline assessment: reception class children will have to be informally assessed during their first few weeks of school, in language and literacy, maths and personal and social development.

* Target setting: each governing body and local authority must now draw up targets aimed at improving pupil performance. These targets, covering three-year periods, will be reviewed annually.

* Local management of schools: from April, schools will have greater spending power as a bigger percentage of their budgets comes under their control.

* Capability procedures: If you feel you're reeling under that lot, and your classroom performance drops below par, there are now new revised regulations that make it easier for local authorities to get rid of weak teachers. They vary between authorities but Stephen Byers, as minister for education earlier in the year, made it clear that unless schools sorted out poor classroom performers, the Government would introduce legislation. Which is why each authority has drawn up tighter procedures.

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