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Friday, 2 April, 1999, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
Literacy hour training 'inadequate'
The ATL's John Beattie
The ATL's John Beattie: Pupils will suffer
By Gary Eason in Harrogate

Teachers are being asked to adopt new education policies without adequate training, resources and support, says the president of one of the biggest classroom teachers' unions.

Unions 99
John Beattie, President of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said that in 1,700 responses to a survey only 32% of the teachers felt their training had been adequate to carry out the literacy hour introduced in England's primary schools last September. Almost half did not feel professionally skilled to teach it.

A big majority - 72% - found the associated paperwork unmanageable. Almost half had had to undertake training in their own time.

Almost a third said they did not get enough support from their own managers and two thirds felt local authority support was inadequate.

"Ministers say the literacy hour is fully funded. Our survey shows it is not," Mr Beattie told the association's conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. "The government can't innovate on the cheap."

"Dedication, dedication, dedication."

He had been struck throughout his year as president by the commitment of teachers he had visited - "a commitment so widespread and so evident that I can only sum it up in three words: dedication, dedication, dedication."

Mr Beattie said people were wrong if they thought teachers were cynical - they could not turn up every day and do their job if they were cynical.

"But we are sceptical and that's another matter," he said. "Sceptical of politicians and their plans and promises. Increasingly sceptical of a government which appears to listen but doesn't always hear.

"Teaching is our territory," he told ministers. "We know in practice the terrain that you only know from maps, we live the culture that you only know from guide books."

The School Standards Minister, Estelle Morris, rejected the criticism, arguing that the literacy and numeracy hours were evidence that the government was investing in improving standards.

"I would expect any teaching union seriously concerned about standards to recognise that, just as tens of thousands of ordinary classroom teachers already do.

"For the first time in a generation, we are doing this and backing our programmes with money, training and support for teachers."

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