Friday 23 February 2018

Labour drops plan to improve literacy for the poor

John Walshe Education Editor

LABOUR has dropped a controversial plan to keep poorer pupils in school for an extra half-an-hour a day to improve their reading and writing, the Irish Independent has learned.

Last month, the party published a literacy policy, which would force 600 disadvantaged primary schools to teach literacy for 120-180 minutes per day -- while other schools would be asked to devote a minimum of 90 minutes.

Crucially, the document then added: "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."

However, this sentence has been removed from the revised document, issued yesterday. And the amount of time for literacy across the curriculum has been reduced to 120 minutes per day in disadvantaged schools, in what is called the DEIS scheme (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools).

The party's education spokesman, Ruairi Quinn, confirmed the change last night.

He said: "We were advised that it might be misinterpreted and we did not want to be seen as punishing the parents."

The launch of the policy was marked by an attack on Fine Gael -- the party's likely partner in the next government -- over its proposals to cut public-sector jobs by 30,000.

Mr Quinn claimed that the proposals would have a "devastating impact on services".

However, Fine Gael hit back last night. Frontbencher Frances Fitzgerald claimed that the party was committed to employing an extra 2,500 teachers by 2014 in order to maintain current pupil-teacher ratios.

Labour's plan:

Will it work?

l More time teaching literacy

Verdict: Won't work unless teachers update their skills.

  • All schools to set literacy targets

Verdict: Uncosted and vague commitments to provide more resources but no penalties if targets not met.

  • Longer library opening hours

Verdict: Good idea, but - again - uncosted.

Irish Independent

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