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Working for improvement but no quick fix

In "Verdict on trainees spells trouble for literacy goal" (2 November), it was disappointing to read that union leader Philip Dixon suggests the answer is to "challenge some of the students more". One of the good features identified in the report on the South West Wales Centre of Teacher Education was "the wide variety of challenging and stimulating learning experiences" provided by the centre. The Estyn report acknowledged that the prospects for improvement at the centre are good. Nonetheless we do need to improve trainees' literacy skills and have in place a robust plan to do so.

Debate around how to raise literacy standards is controversial. And we need to ask uncomfortable questions. Fundamentally, what are the underlying reasons for significant minorities in education and society at large continuing to face difficulties in acquiring acceptable levels of literacy (and numeracy)?

Estyn identifies challenges in raising literacy standards across all sectors in education. But there is no quick fix, as our inspection report of 1852 illustrated: "Students' penmanship is imperfect and contains many mistakes in spelling. Many of the Welsh students also read English very imperfectly". However, the inspector significantly added: "The blame of this is not to be visited, altogether, on the college." We all need to engage in a purposeful debate about how to raise literacy standards.

Dr Russell Grigg, Head of the South West Wales Centre of Teacher Education.

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