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Vital hour helps transfer from primary

Local councils and central government are working hand-in-hand to help secondary-school pupils who have poor literacy skills.

Pilot projects to improve literacy at key stage 3 are being run in 22 local authorities. The Department for Education and Employment, which is providing Pounds 3 million for the schemes, insists it is not an extension of the National Literacy Strategy. But in an echo of the work started this month in primaries, several councils are now running a literacy hour for pupils starting secondary school.

Literacy slots have been designated at the beginning of each lesson for Year 7 classes in Derbyshire. In North Lincolnshire, there is 30-minute daily support for targeted pupils and in Sheffield a Year 7 literacy hour in English.

At Myrtle Springs school in Sheffield, headteacher Ed Wydenbach has re-scheduled the timetable, taking an hour off humanities each week for Year 7 pupils and putting in extra help from English teachers.

A summer school at Myrtle Springs attended by 27 transferring primary pupils revealed several were level 3 (with expected attainment level 4) or lower. Two-thirds improved significantly, said Mr Wydenbach.

Myrtle Springs is in special measures and half of its pupils are entitled to free school meals.

The literacy hour began last week. Mr Wydenbach said: "I am very confident that it will work.

"We (as a profession) haven't done well enough on this so we have got to be prepared to try.

"I don't believe that it is a lack of effort on the part of teachers but I think there is a mismatch between youngsters' ability and what they are able to demonstrate formally."

In the London borough of Islington, literacy-buster clubs are being set up in selected schools.

Designed to give extra curricular support to pupils, particularly boys, who enter secondary school with reading ages below their chronological age, they are due to start in the second half of term.

Other authorities taking part include Lancashire, Birmingham, Manchester and the London boroughs of Newham, Barking and Ealing.

John Stannard, director of the National Literacy Strategy, said that key-stage teachers liked its framework and objectives "They want to look for ways to create continuity between those objectives and what they are doing in English departments and across the curriculum."


* First 30 minutes. Whole-class shared text work where contributions are expected and encouraged. Teacher support helps students to work with text beyond their independent reading.

* Approximately 20 minutes. Guided group and independent work. Guided reading - groups of four to six with individual copies of the same text. Teachers introduce the text and familiarise pupils , pointing out key words or features. The aim is to focus on independent reading. Guided writing - work will normally be linked to reading and often follow whole-class work.

* The final 10 minutes. Whole-class session to enable teachers to re-emphasise points and enable students to revise skills, develop an atmosphere of constructive criticism.

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