BOYS are to get extra writing lessons in a series of out-of-hours crammer classes for 11-year-olds, writes Karen Thornton.
Schools will get an average of pound;1,100 each for out-of-hours sessions, due to start this month, to push borderline performers up to the standard expected for their age.
The classes will be open to both sexes, but boys' poor performance in English, particularly in writing, has been picked out for special attention in the Department for Education and Employment's revision guidance.
Extra writing lessons for boys were first suggested last November by Michael Barber, head of the Government's standards and effectiveness unit. He admitted that the National Literacy Strategy would do little to close the gap between boys and girls.
But teaching unions have questioned the long-term educational benefits of the crammers, and accused the Government of ignor- ing the need to boost standards for all pupils.
Education Secretary David Blunkett has staked his job on 80 and 75 per cent of 11-year-olds achieving the expected standard in, respectively, English and maths. But last summer's disappointing test results showed a growing literacy divide between boys and girls, and between scores in reading and writing.
The new revision guidance focuses on these areas. Boys should be encouraged, kept on task, and offered work based on the non-fiction they prefer. Teachers should emphasise guided writing rather than guided reading in the literacy hour - and find time for independent writing.
In his foreword, Professor Barber says the guidance will help those pupils who have not had the full benefit of the literacy hour and are struggling to achieve level 4, the expected standard.
But the unions are warning they will resist members being forced to take out-of-hours sessions to help schools meet their targets.
"The Government has got so much tunnel vision about targets, it's forgotten that it's equally important for level 2 pupils to get 3, and level 4 pupils to get level 5," said John Bangs, of the National Union of Teachers.