Thursday, 21 June 2012

National Literacy & Numeracy Framework

The new criteria and testing in primary and secondary
schools aims to improve standards, which have come under
increased criticism from the likes of Estyn.
(Pic: Guardian)

It's often been quoted by the mainstream media – that "kids today" don't have the requisite skills in literacy and numeracy to please prospective employers, flagged up by Estyn's report last year, and with recently-reported ongoing concerns. In response, Education Minister Leighton Andrews (Lab, Rhondda) produced the Welsh Government's brand new National Literacy and Numeracy Framework for 5-14 years olds.

The documents are out for consultation until 12th October. It's anticipated that the new regime will be brought in for the 2013/14 school year, and Welsh Labour's words could soon be backed with NUCLEAR WEAPONS!

The key aims are:

  • Assist teachers in all subjects to "identify and provide opportunities" for learners to improve their literacy and numeracy
  • Create an "annual national expectation" – by which pupils will be monitored on their progress
  • Create clearer definitions of how pupils are doing, including annual reports for parents/carers based on teacher assessment.

What's involved?

The new framework sets out, in some detail, what literacy and numeracy skills pupils will be expected to develop throughout their time in school.

For literacy, skills are split into:

  1. Reading for information
  2. Writing for information
  3. Oracy

The numeracy skills are:

  1. Numerical reasoning
  2. Number skills
  3. Measuring skills
  4. Data skills

These are the same for both English and Welsh medium.

The focus is on acquiring and being able to use these skills, with good integration across subjects, while taking into consideration those with special needs as well as "more able" pupils.

How will standards be monitored?

There are several "indicators" that pupils are expected to achieve though each year of school up to and including year 9. It doesn't appear to be that "top heavy", and the indicators are pretty clear cut and not bogged down in minutiae.

For example, in Reception classes, for "Reading for information", children will be expected to be able to "choose a book" and "recognise words and their meaning".

While at the other end, Year 9 pupils will be expected to "understand texts that are new to them" and "make full, but selective use of the internet to deepen understanding of a topic".

The new framework is mainly for curriculum planning, as well as a guide as to what teachers should be assessing. As mentioned earlier, this is a cross-curricular framework, so it applies to all subjects. In fact, some of the example materials for literacy are taken from geography and history work.

One of the more important developments, is the introduction of national literacy and numeracy tests. These will "provide data, collected and analysed nationally". I remember having these at school too. They were called "SATS", but the Welsh Government got rid of them.

However, the SATS were at the end of every Key Stage. These new tests will be annual, and it'll be a statutory requirement for schools to test pupils. It looks as if the same test will be used across Wales to ensure consistency. The tests will be piloted in 2012 & 2013, being introduced across all the skills by May 2014.

The tests will be:

  • A maximum of 60 minutes in length
  • Tests will have a "window", not a single national date
  • Designed to be administered in groups (small groups, class or year group)
  • Flexible, to allow testing in smaller groups for younger pupils and take special needs into consideration
  • Have comparable tests in English and Welsh, but not translations
  • Will be marked within the schools


I swear we used to have something similar to this when I was a lad. I think it was called "being a teacher". By and large, I'd say they did a pretty good job.

I realise there are plenty of people my age who are walking adverts for a human cull, perhaps why Carwyn wants his hands on nukes so much, but what on Earth do people think we did in lessons all day?

We were tested - quite extensively. We were corrected when we were wrong. We had in-class spelling, maths and reading tests. We worked with graphs, formulae, maps and geometry. There was a "SPAG mark" in all exams - regardless of subject - where marks were taken off for poor spelling, punctuation and grammar.

There's a lot here that I had to go through as a pupil myself - and not that long ago either. This isn't radical or groundbreaking. Teachers should be, and I hope they are, already doing this. I hope that this is a "tidying up exercise" to ensure that literacy and numeracy standards are applied equally across Wales, because if it isn't....

If an Education Minister has to draw up guidelines for qualified teachers on something like this – we're doomed. That's not hyperbole, we really are up certain creeks without a paddle if Leighton doesn't succeed with this.

Leighton is clearly attempting to stop some significant rot - it isn't his fault, and should be welcomed - but this must be one of the most embarrassing documents ever produced by a government on education, not for its content but for its necessity.

The introduction of national literacy and numeracy testing is - while not a complete U-turn on scrapping SATS – perhaps a quiet acceptance that, in principle, it probably wasn't the best thing to do.

If there's one iota of moaning from the teaching unions on this, they should hang their heads in shame, or think of a career change, because they clearly don't want to do the job anymore.


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