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Strengthen the teaching of literacy and numeracy in the early years

Last updated: 04:59pm 9 January 2019

A Conservative government will strengthen the teaching of literacy and numeracy in the early years so that all pupils – regardless of background – get the best possible start in life.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.51

Our verdict

More than a quarter of four- and five-year-olds (27.6%) are below the “expected level” for Communication & Language and Literacy skills at the end of the Reception, according to the 2018 EYFS Profile results, with a slightly higher percentage for numeracy.  This policy is a promise to improve the quality of literacy and numeracy teaching.

The government has definitely been taking steps to fulfil this promise with a number of initiatives:

  1. To facilitate the spread of best practice, the government introduced funding for several programmes encouraging partnering between schools. The government unveiled the Centre of Excellence for Literacy Teaching in early 2018, tasked with establishing 35 English Hubs across the country.
  2. Curriculum Fund of £7.7 million has been set up, open to leading cultural and scientific institutions, to help them develop teaching resources.
  3. Six new Opportunity Areas have been identified in the worst performing 20% of local authorities in terms of social mobility. In each area, the government and the Education Endowment Foundation are funding a high-performing, evidence-based school to develop and share best practice with nearby challenged schools.
  4. Some existing funds have been modified to make it more likely they will be used for early years teaching. Emphasis on professional development to support early years learning was included on projects eligible for grants from the second round of Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund (TLIF) applications and the Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF).

Is it working? 

We’ll be looking for evidence of a positive change in literacy and numeracy teaching since June 2017. That could be a report like this one, but with a focus on early years education, some time before the next election.  The opinions of experts in the field,  education regulators, teachers, parents and pupils all need to be considered, and improvements in teaching and learning are hard to quantify. We’ll keep monitoring, but we recognise efforts are being made to deliver on this policy so we’re marking it as ‘in progress’.

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