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When every minute counts

What do you think of the literacy hour so far? Among teachers I've met while presenting in-service training in more than 50 local authorities around Britain, opinion has been broadly favourable. There are areas of concern, of course - some common problems are outlined in the box, along with answers from the National Literacy Strategy's director. But there are also many areas of contentment.

One surprise hit is the Framework for Teaching Objectives, the folder detailing what is to be taught in each term of each year. Most teachers, after decades of knitting their own schemes of work (only to hear time and again from the Office for Standards in Education that they've done it wrong), actually welcome this level of prescription. "At least we know what they want us to do," is the general opinion, "so we can get on and do it." Indeed, most agree that it frees you up to find the best ways of doing it. The framework has also led many teachers to discover the rewards of an objectives-based approach. The challenge is choosing the best resources and teaching strategies for whatever objective you are pursuing, then adding the extra sparkle that will get results with your class on that particular day of the week.

As long as it is not applied to rigidly, the structure of the hour itself has many fans. I liked one young teacher's description of it as "base camp": she made occasional exploratory forays up the mountain, but it was always there, cosy and familiar, when she returned. Comments like that are on the increase.

It seems that, secure in the knowledge of what to teach, and provided with the factual content about the English language that was for so long denied them, teachers are growing in confidence. After the long dark years of the OFSTED inquisition they are making exploratory forays again, and remembering that the experts in teaching are the people who actually do the job. The strategy certainly acknowledges this: its consultants collect good teaching ideas from classrooms around the country, which are then circulated back through in-service training and publications.

Posters on writing and books on phonics and spelling will be distributed to schools during this term. Three fliers on interactive teaching strategies and three on writing are available from the National Literacy Strategy office.

So far so good, then?

Sue Palmer is a former primary head, and is now a writer, teacher, and inset trainer.National Literacy Strategy, tel: 01189 527500

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