Action 1.21: Reflecting upon the impact of national literacy strategies
To what extent do your own national literacy policies impact upon your professional practice?
I generally work with students who have good functional literacy as I am based in higher education. There are exceptions to this with students who are diagnosed with dyslexia or have English as a second language. In this way national literacy policies do not have much impact.
What impact could national literacy strategies and national literacy policies have upon educators working in areas other than primary schooling?
I think that national strategies/policies will have an impact on secondary and FE college educators because they have been used to being able to remediate a percentage of those learners who are struggling with functional literacy. If the policies work as advertised, then secondary support workers will need to have specialist knowledge and techniques to help those learners with more resistant problems.
With a lower percentage of learners reaching secondary school with literacy difficulties, there will be more of a stigma attached to having difficulties and thus barriers will increase. Secondary teachers will also become accustomed to classes where the nearly all the learners can access the material and they are likely to reduce their efforts to ensure it is accessible to all.
Drawing upon your own experiences and your reading of this section identify any of the themes and issues explored above which are relevant to your own professional contexts
Very difficult to do as I work in higher education. I am concerned about some of the reports about learners having functional literacy but not reading for pleasure. One University has high entry levels and has identified problems with literacy standards of students studying history and geography. I have recently started work at another university which has lower entry levels and more practical courses. I will be interested to see how they address the literacy levels of their students, many of whom have taken NVQ and vocational A-levels where they can submit work and have it corrected and resubmit it again until the teacher is happy with it.
What do you think are the positive and negative aspects of national literacy strategies?
I think that one of the major positive effects is that they set a teaching standard and give educators strict guidelines to follow. This reduces the effect of poor teaching and there are still plenty of poor teachers out there. The strict guidelines also restrict good teachers from giving individual treatment to learners and helping them all follow individualised learning programmes.
Comparisons between teachers and schools do serve to drive up standards but it is likely that schools will insist on teachers teaching students to reach the standards rather than encouraging them to develop a wide range of skills.
To what extent do you think national policies need to allow flexibility in the ways in which educators can address difficulties in literacy?
In order to meet the standard the government requires, the policies cannot be too flexible. I think this is wrong for individual learners but will meet the political agenda.
Make a note of any other issues and tensions related to meeting the needs of students who experience difficulties in literacy development that are related to your national or institutional policies and initiatives.
I worry that the target of a certain percentage of learners meeting functional literacy standards for their age group will allow educators to 'give up' on the students with most severe difficulties as they do not need them to meet the percentage.