Labour looks to Scottish Model
In helping to devise Labour's literacy strategy, Aodhan O'Riordain has looked at a Scottish programme that helped to push up standards of reading and writing.
The scheme in West Dunbartonshire, north of Glasgow, was devised by an educational psychologist, Tommy MacKay, and introduced in 1997.
Dr MacKay persuaded his local council to take a "zero tolerance'' approach to illiteracy.
The psychologist advocated the use of Synthetic Phonics, where children learn the sounds of letters on their own, and then combined with other letters.
The council has a crack team of centrally employed literacy teachers who go from school to work with young children.
There is a strong emphasis on work with parents. Parents go to the school for reading workshops and are encouraged to read to their children before they have reached school age.
Inevitably there are pupils who do not learn to read during the early years of primary schools. These children are given intensive one-to-one tuition in the later stages of primary school.
According to reports on the West Dunbartonshire scheme, functional illiteracy declined from 28% to 6% within a decade.