Labour sets out plan for better levels of literacy

EITHNE DONNELLAN, Health Correspondent

A PLAN published by the Labour Party yesterday proposes to make it mandatory for primary schools to spend a specific amount of time each day on improving literacy levels among pupils.

Under the plan, which the party says will be incorporated into any programme for government in which it is involved, regular primary schools will have to devote a minimum of 90 minutes of class time to literacy instruction each day. Disadvantaged primary schools will be required to teach literacy for 120 to 180 minutes a day.

“If schools are not delivering improved literacy results, consideration will be given to extending the primary school day by half an hour in those schools, to allow for an extension of the time available to teaching literacy,” its policy document Reading as a Right states.

It envisages each primary school having a literacy plan with target outcomes for class groups and “a comprehensive, regularised and universal pre-school year” for all children.

Each secondary school will also have to draw up a plan to improve literacy levels. Responsibility for improving literacy in each school will be vested in the principal.

Literacy summer camps would also be provided in disadvantaged areas while whole community literacy projects would be initiated to target literacy “blackspots”.

Labour’s education spokesman Ruairí Quinn said no child should leave school unable to read and write, yet every year thousands do.

He said child literacy rates in Ireland had not improved since 1980 despite more investment and smaller classes. “One in 10 primary school children – that is 50,000 pupils – has serious literacy difficulties. Radical action to break this plateau is long overdue.”

An OECD skills survey from 2009 found almost one in six Irish 15-year-olds did not have the literacy skills to cope with further education or the demands of today’s workplace, Mr Quinn added.

“Literacy is the foundation on which education is built. If we don’t get that right, all of our subsequent investment in education is compromised.”

Young people with poor literacy levels are more likely to leave school early, experience poverty, be unemployed and to encounter the criminal justice system.

The Irish Times – Monday, January 24, 2011

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