Tuesday, 30 March 2004
Department of Education and Science
Question 271: To ask the Minister for Education and Science the progress made to date in implementing the literacy target to halve the number of pupils with serious literacy difficulties in schools designated disadvantaged by 2006, as declared in the NAPS 2002; the measures he has put in place with which he plans to meet the target; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9949/04]
I remain fully committed to achieving the headline NAPS target relating to literacy at school level, namely, halving the proportion of pupils with serious literacy difficulties by 2006. My concern to improve literacy levels is reflected in commitments given under the National Action Plan Against Poverty and Social Exclusion, 2003-2005, and under the latest social partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress, which contains a special initiative on tackling educational disadvantage — literacy, numeracy and early school leavers.
My Department has a range of measures in place to prevent and ameliorate literacy difficulties at primary and second level. Learning support teaching is provided in all primary schools by more than 1,500 teachers who give intensive support to children with literacy difficulties. At second level, in excess of 540 learning support teachers are employed. In addition, resource teachers are provided for students with more severe learning difficulties and disabilities. My Department provides additional supports for schools serving areas that are designated as disadvantaged. These supports include the reading recovery programme in primary schools, reduced class sizes, home-school liaison schemes and additional grants, all of which assist in improving literacy levels.
At post-primary level, the junior certificate school programme focuses specifically on developing literacy skills while schools participating in the school completion programme are given considerable financial resources to provide targeted students with opportunities to improve their literacy skills in accordance with their identified needs. In May 2003, the Educational Research Centre carried out, on behalf of my Department, a survey of reading literacy in primary schools designated as disadvantaged. The aim of this study is to benchmark the progress of children in first, third and sixth classes in acquiring literacy skills against national norms and to identify factors associated with literacy achievement. I look forward to receiving the results of this research, which are due to be available this summer. A national assessment of reading in first and fifth classes is also taking place in 2004.
Continuing assistance will be given to disadvantaged primary schools in implementing my Department's learning support guidelines, including adoption of a whole school approach to supporting children with literacy difficulties and development and implementation of a literacy plan by each school. One-day seminars on literacy and the learning support guidelines were delivered by learning support trainers to staffs of all designated disadvantaged schools from March to June 2003.