All teachers in Wales are to become teachers of literacy with the introduction of the government’s National Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) later this year.
The Minister for Education and Skills, Leighton Andrews, launched the LNF last month as part of a £7 million national support programme, which aims to address Wales’ falling standards.
Concern over literacy and numeracy skills is nothing new; Andrews’ predecessors all attempted to raise standards yet Wales has been falling behind for over a decade and the statistics are shocking: 25% of the Welsh working age population lack even basic literacy skills and when compared with students internationally, Wales’ rank among the worst in the developed world – considerably lower than those from the rest of the UK. In 2010, Estyn reported that 40% of Welsh students entering secondary school have a reading age below their chronological age.
Clearly something’s been going wrong.
Andrews has blamed a ‘lack of consistency’ in the Welsh Education System. The LNF attempts to address this by setting clear annual expectations and making the Framework a statutory requirement. Designed as a planning tool, it aims to ‘support and challenge’ students but Andrews has also talked of teacher ‘accountability’, leading to union concerns about its impact upon teacher workload.
Hopefully, these concerns will be unfounded as the Framework is just one component in Andrews’ 20-point school improvement plan and investment in terms of both money and resources is being made.
The LNF becomes statutory in September 2013, giving teachers a full academic year to embed it into their planning and teaching before assessment becomes statutory in September 2014. National reading and numeracy tests will begin in May.
So is the LNF likely to succeed where other policies have failed (I’m looking at you, 2008 Skills Framework)? Only time will tell, of course, but Welsh teachers don’t need to be daunted.
What is certain is that changes do need to be made so that Welsh students can sit comfortably next to their international peers.
Sam Sheppard is a literacy specialist, currently working closely with the Welsh Assembly Government on their implementation of the National Literacy Framework. A Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Glamorgan and freelance educational consultant, Sam has previously been Head of English and was consistently rated ‘outstanding’ throughout her teaching career
She currently presents New Literacy Framework 2013 for Welsh Primaries and Secondaries for Osiris Educational. For more details on Sam’s courses, click here