Labour Party's Literacy Plan
I'm very impressed with the Labour Party's Literacy Plan. Unfortunately Ireland's literacy standards have dropped dramatically in recent years and we must meet this challenge head-on.
Tim Shanahan, a US literacy expert, told a conference in Ballymun in 2009, that the amount of time a child spends learning to read, is a critical factor in success. Research in Irish schools show that primary school children are spending 16-20 minutes per day learning to read. The Labour Party is proposing that this should rise to 90 minutes per day for all schools and up to 180 minutes for disadvantaged schools. This would be a radical change, but it is backed by evidence and it should be implemented.
I've included the Executive Summary of the document below, but you can also download the full document: "Literacy as a Right" as a PDF.
Make literacy a national priority
- Develop, as an urgent national priority, a national strategy plan to improve overall youth literacy levels, with agreed national outcomes and specific targets for disadvantaged children and young people, as recommended by the NESF report Child Literacy and Social Inclusion: Implementation Issues.
- Build on the existing Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme to provide a comprehensive, regularised and universal pre-school year, with an emphasis on clear developmental goals for pre-school children.
- Change the Education Act so that the National Educational Welfare Board can address absenteeism from the time a child registers for school, rather than from the age of six.
- Provide dedicated funding to stock school libraries. ␣9m would purchase about one library book per primary and second level pupil.
- Responsibility for achieving the objectives of this national strategy will be devolved to schools. Every primary school must develop a whole- school literacy plan, with target outcomes for class groups corresponding with national objectives.
- Responsibility for achieving these outcomes will be vested in the school principal.
- Each DEIS school will have access to an experienced literacy mentor charged with the professional development of staff.
- In tandem with improved teaching practice, all non-DEIS primary schools will be mandated to devote a minimum of 90 minutes of class time to literacy instruction per day, across the curriculum. DEIS schools would be required to teach literacy across the curriculum for 120-180 minutes per 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 for teaching literacy.
- Reach out to families. Labour’s area-based approach to child poverty will incorporate family literacy and community literacy projects, according to best practice. Whole-school literacy plans will be required to incorporate more regular and structured feedback to parents about their child’s literacy standard, as it compares nationally, and as it compares with their fellow pupils.
Second Level Education
- Every school will draw up a literacy plan based on its assessment of pupils at first and third year, with targets for improvement that correspond with national objectives.
- Responsibility for improving literacy in the school will be vested in the principal.
- Pre-service and in-service for all second level teachers will include instruction on the teaching of literacy across the curriculum.
- Professional development for teachers in DEIS schools will be prioritised, where it will be required that literacy instruction be integrated into subject classes.
Adopt a whole child approach
- Target literacy black spots through an area-based response to literacy. Along the model of youngballymun, this will involve coordinated intervention by public health officials, teachers and schools, local authorities, and non-governmental organisations to address whole-community literacy.
- Work with local authorities to implement Labour’s ‘Right to Read’ policies, including minimum size guidelines for social housing, longer opening hours for libraries, and supporting library outreach policies, such as study zones and the ‘Baby Books Bundle’ to encourage new parents to read to their baby.