Making the Implicit Explicit Literacy in the Children�s Plan by whattaman

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									Making the implicit explicit: literacy in the Children’s Plan

The Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF) has stated that it wants
England to be the best place in the world to grow up in. To achieve this they have
worked with other government departments, advisory panels and the Time to Talk
consultation to create a unified policy for all children aged 0-19. The outcome is the
Children’s Plan; rooted in the five strands of Every Child Matters, the Children’s Plan
sets out the Government’s strategy for improving the lives of children and young
people over the next ten years. The Children’s Plan is also written using a positive
concept of childhood, aiming to prevent children falling behind rather than tackling
problems that have already arisen. This outlook is both significant and welcome, as
too often media and policy documents revert to a deficit-model of childhood
preferring to concentrate on young people’s shortcomings rather than their potential.

The Children’s Plan contains very few explicit references to literacy. The National
Literacy Trust (NLT) believes that the challenge for the lifetime of the Children’s
Plan is not only to deliver on the few explicit promises regarding literacy, but to
realise the implicit references to literacy and help foster a reading culture. A culture
that will have far wider benefits for children and young people than just school
attainment.

Most of the explicit references to literacy relate to the affirmation that English is one
of the two core subjects for all school pupils. This involves ensuring schools both
facilitate success and also provide extensive support networks for pupils at risk of
falling behind. As part of this drive the Every Child A Reader scheme will be rolled
out nationally with the aim of helping 30,000 pupils who struggle with the
fundamentals of reading. This will be complemented by an Every Child A Writer
programme, which will provide a similar support network for children who struggle
with writing. The NLT welcomes the roll out of Every Child A Reader, and looks
forward to the details of Every Child A Writer.

Alongside this traditional view of literacy and its place in schools the Children’s Plan
should also provide the opportunity to draw literacy out of the classroom and realise
its wider benefits. As the Children’s Plan is rooted in the framework laid down by
Every Child Matters it has the same five outcomes: be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and
achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being. Literacy can
be relevant to all of these five outcomes and this relevance needs to be embedded in
the delivery of the Children’s Plan.

The enjoy and achieve outcome of Every Child Matters stresses that fun as well as
attainment is vital to childhood. Often children read more than their teachers, parents,
or even they, sometimes realise, and much of this reading is for pleasure. A recent
study by the NLT showed that even amongst children who consider themselves to be
non-readers, readership of magazines, graphic novels and particularly websites is
high.1 A significant proportion of this online reading is made up of blogs and other
social networking and the link between websites and young peoples’ social lives is an
indicator of the vital role literacy plays in children and young peoples’ lives.


1
    National Literacy Trust (2008) Young People’s Self Perception as Readers
The Children’s Plan also builds on a statement made by the Secretary of State for
Children Schools and Families, Ed Balls, that by 2010 every school will provide some
kind of extended service. If the wider benefits of literacy are to be realised during the
delivery of the Children’s Plan then the extended school setting will be essential, as it
presents very practical opportunities for a reading culture to be developed and
fostered.

However, there are significant challenges associated with the extended schools model.
Recent studies have shown that children in English schools have a relatively negative
attitude towards school and literacy, and do not read as much as their international
counterparts.2 This is particularly prevalent amongst lower achieving children, those
that the Children’s Plan particularly seeks to engage. Therefore it is essential that the
extended school model provides something genuinely different to the school
curriculum. This can be achieved in two ways; through practical ideas and also
through partnerships with other local service providers.3

The priority for any practical solutions should be to provide an environment that
facilitates reading without placing pressure on children. Ideas could be as simple as
placing newspapers, comic books and other reading materials in a book corner or
school library so that there is a wider choice of reading material, a choice that matches
what children already say they are reading. Extended schools will also need to work
with a range of other services such as libraries and youth centres. This will provide
settings that are both physically removed from school, and also present further
opportunities for interactive learning. Reading groups, author visits and other schemes
are already available in libraries and close links between these and extended schools
will provide huge benefits.

Along with other service providers families will also be a central partner for extended
schools, as they provide the majority of a child’s informal education. A recent
Fatherhood Institute survey found that 67 percent of people agree that dads should be
encouraged to spend more time in school reading with their child,4 and the Children’s
Plan seeks to build on these attitudes by extending the family literacy, language and
numeracy programme. Involving parents has already proved effective in a number of
local schemes. In Rochdale the ‘literacy changes lives’ programme has seen the
borough raise literacy standards with a focus on the family. Commenting in the
National Literacy Trust magazine Family Reading Matters, Terry Piggott, executive
director at Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council, says it is crucial to understand
that success isn’t about ‘having a programme that families have to fit into, but one
that follows their interests and needs’. This is the major challenge facing the delivery
of the family literacy programme; remaining flexible enough to suit the needs of those
it is designed to help, rather than imposing a traditional teaching model on children
and adults who have found such models difficult.



2
  NfER (2007) Progress in International Reading Literacy Study: readers and reading national report
for England 2006
3
  For information and ideas see the Family Reading Campaign website:
http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/familyreading/index.html
4
  Dex, S. & Ward, K. (2007) Parental care and employment in early childhood
The DCSF describes the Children’s Plan as an aspirational action plan, not a delivery
plan. It is therefore vital that as the plan moves from aspiration to delivery, through its
numerous public service agreements, the Government’s commitment to literacy is not
lost. The NLT believes that this commitment relies not only on the realisation of
explicit literacy policies and targets, but also the more subtle, implicit, literacy
opportunities.

								
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