Why Reading Should Be a Primary Concern
Ryan, Conor, The Independent (London, England)
We should know soon whether 80 per cent of 11-year-olds have reached the expected level four in English and whether 75 per cent have done so in maths. An Independent survey last week suggests that the Government will miss these two targets. It will be close to meeting its numeracy target, but will miss its more ambitious literacy goal by as much as four points - hardly surprising, given last year's five-point English shortfall.
Estelle Morris, the Education Secretary, must be nervous as she awaits their publication. Her predecessor David Blunkett raised the stakes when he told a BBC interviewer five years ago that his head would be on the block if Labour's primary school targets were not met. I was with him when he gave that interview, and contrary to later reports, he didn't actually promise to resign: he argued that the voters would judge whether he had succeeded or failed just as teachers were being judged by new targets.
Such remarks sought to counter the prevailing scepticism about the literacy strategy. And such scepticism proved misplaced. Teachers rose to the challenge. Even if the government targets now seem over-ambitious, most English and maths lessons have been transformed. Secondary teachers see a real difference in pupils. It would be absurd to regard a near miss on the targets as a failure. But the Government cannot afford to relax. Indeed, the lesson of this month's results should be that primary schools matter as much as secondaries. And while ministers need to be seen delivering improvements in secondary schools, it cannot be at the expense of younger pupils. By setting the near-impossible target of 85 per cent of pupils reaching level four in 2004, the Government instinctively knows this. Raising the game of the remaining 25 per cent of pupils will be tougher than earlier improvements. But given the big variations in progress between local authorities and schools, there remains plenty of room for improvement.
Furthermore, the DfES has recognised the need for extra help for underachievers with a range of intensive …
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Publication information: Article title: Why Reading Should Be a Primary Concern. Contributors: Ryan, Conor - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: September 5, 2002. Page number: 3. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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