'We're confident about it now'

3rd July 1998 at 01:00
* Alison Laing, head of Summerhill infants school, Bristol (began literacy hour in January 1997 as part of the pilot, and featured in training video) "We introduced literacy hour gradually, starting with the first 15 minutes, and within a term it was fully implemented.

We're very positive about it, now we've got it under our belts: children get more direct teaching and learning, and achievement has been raised. We believe that you need two adults in the classroom, and we plan to train parents and local business volunteers to help."

* Lorraine Dallimore, head of All Saints primary school, Manchester (began in September 1997 as part of the pilot) "We found the planning too detailed and have adapted it and made it simpler, and now we feel it is working well. The framework is prescriptive, but there is also quite a lot of flexibility to plan your own activities.

It would be a good investment for the Government to create posts for good practitioners to work alongside staff to implement the literacy hour."

* Mike Willsher, head of Varna Street primary school, Manchester(began literacy hour in January 1997, and now helps with training) "I don't think the 'cascade' model of training - where you train a few teachers and they pass it on - works well in schools. We worked on this as a whole school, and we dedicated time to it: we had fortnightly meetings of the whole staff, where we looked at different aspects of the literacy hour, and staff had the chance to compare notes or just to have a good moan.

It took us half a term to get it working more or less full time. Now the staff are pleased with it, the pupils appear to like it, and the range of work is much wider."

* Janet Pidgeon, head of Wellington primary school, Chingford (started literacy hour in January 1997 as part of pilot) "It's a pity there wasn't time for more feedback from the National Literacy Project before the strategy was introduced. One of the things that should have been learned from the pilot is that you need at least a term to plan effectively.

I would also have preferred to have had all the staff trained together. Another effective way of learning is to watch a good teacher doing it, but this is expensive because of having to provide cover.

Our staff are confident about literacy hour now, and I monitor them and give them feedback."

* Chris McDonnell, head of Fulfen primary school, Burntwood, Staffordshire "The headlong rush to get the new Holy Grail in place, elbowing aside whoever or whatever gets in the way, is both unseemly and unnecessary ... We would be churlish to reject out of hand the literacy venture. Equally, we would be professionally irresponsible not to question the consequences of the new direction.

The offer of high-quality inservice support is welcome. The close prescription for actual delivery should be then left to professional judgment of the teachers."

* Pat Jones, head of Henleaze infants school, Bristol "I am tempted not to adopt literacy hour rigidly. I am not sure whether it is going to be beneficial for all groups of children, and would have liked to see full results from the pilot before it was implemented by the Government. We have 92 per cent of seven-year-olds with Level 2 English or above, and are anxious not to lose our success by implementing a new initiative."

* Kathy Tyrwhitt-Drake, head of Buckland junior school, Staines "There are many excellent features in the literacy hour, but the time-scale is too rushed. We may well make mistakes that we would not have made if we'd had longer.

Resources are a problem. Staff are feeling overloaded by having to get this going in a very short space of time. If only we could have had next year to introduce it stage by stage.

Autumn half-term is too soon to have it running smoothly."

* Joy Millar, head of Earlswood infants school, Surrey "This has been pushed in much too fast: we have not had sufficient training to train the staff ourselves and this rushed pace is a nonsense.

The staff are totally demoralised. They will manage it, but it's not fair to them. But it would be a very brave head who would not try to manage it: the expectations are that we will and it would be dangerous not to."

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