Strategy needs broader research

7th January 2000 at 00:00
YOUR leader on Chris Woodhead's predictably "lavish claims" about the national literacy strategy (TES, December 17) is right to strike a cautionary note.

For Mr Woodhead's superficial positivism combined with New Labour's relentless utilitarianism in educational policy together constitute a lethally misleading cocktail when used to evaluate this (or any other) policy initiative.

Any thoughtful and realistic evaluation of the literacy strategy must take full account of the costs and unintended focus on narrow statistical test results. To name just two of the more obvious confounding variables, there is the literacy hour's ousting of other subjects (TES, November 26) and the heavy toll it is demonstrably taking on teachers' already battere morale (TES, October 8).

Nor should the wider context be ignored, with the creativity-stifling absurdity of some 800 separate standards to be met in primary school teaching (TES, November 26), the escalating decline in teacher-training applications, yet more centralised testing on the horizon with children's spelling (TES, December 17), and record levels of stress-related illness among young people.

Any such wide-ranging research project into the literacy strategy's efficacy will very likely reach conclusions far less sanguine than those of either Mr Woodhead or of a Government intent on steam-rollering through its sound-bite manifesto commitments at any price.

Dr Richard House

13 Denbigh Road

Norwich, Norfolk

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