Skip to content

Written Statement - Update on the National Numeracy and National Literacy Programmes

Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills

My objectives are breaking the link between deprivation and poor educational outcomes, and improving standards of literacy and numeracy. I am pleased to update you today on the progress of activities to improve literacy and numeracy.

The Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) was launched in January this year in readiness for its statutory implementation in September 2013. We have also been busy rolling out a suite of on-line bilingual guidance and training materials to help schools implement the LNF. From the feedback received so far, the LNF has been well-received, and I am encouraged by reports of how schools are embedding it across the curriculum so that all teachers become teachers of literacy and numeracy. The interactive LNF on Learning Wales offers comprehensive support for practitioners.

Schools will be reassured by Estyn’s note, included in supplementary guidance on literacy and numeracy, that rather than expecting schools to have fully integrated the LNF into all their lesson planning and delivery from September 2013 they will want to be reassured that schools are making good progress towards that aim. The Welsh Government is absolutely committed to supporting schools in achieving this and that is why we put in place the National Support Programme (NSP) for literacy and numeracy.  The NSP is a four year programme offering direct support to schools and teachers to help them implement the LNF effectively to bring about improvements in the teaching and learning of literacy and numeracy.  The NSP will complement the role of consortia before handing over to the consortia fully at the end of the programme.  

May 2012 saw the first sitting of the reading and numeracy procedural tests for pupils in Years 2 to 9. We published sample materials prior to that to enable schools to have a sense of what to expect, and the results of those tests were published in August. This first year of results provides a foundation on which to build and reveals some early patterns, such as the gender gap in reading ability.

Test results, along with teacher assessment, are intended to provide schools and teachers, parents, and let’s not forget our learners, with important information about their progress in literacy and numeracy. This is why in July we published a pilot diagnostic tool to be used in conjunction with the numeracy procedural tests, which maps each test question to the relevant statement(s) in the LNF. The tool allows teachers to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of pupils, classes and year groups, at a reasonably detailed level. In September, we published a similar tool for the reading test. I hope schools have found this approach helpful.

In May 2014, pupils will sit numerical reasoning tests for the first time. We knew when we were developing these tests that the skills involved had not been subject to testing previously, and that teaching and learning may not therefore have been focused on the kind of reasoning and problem-solving approaches involved. However, it is right that we ensure that these essential life-skills are developed during pupils’ education.

Findings from the numerical reasoning pre-test have revealed that the scores for the test items were lower than might otherwise have been expected for the relevant age groups, and that a number of factors appeared to have contributed to these. In response, I am announcing that I will provide a comprehensive package of support to be delivered through an increase in funding of £800,000 to the National Support Programme for literacy and numeracy. This support package will be bespoke to the needs of schools, and contribute to the on-going, long-term improvement of teaching and learning in numerical reasoning.

The 2014 numerical reasoning tests are a baseline of where schools are now.  For the future, the key focus must be on how learners progress over time. The expectation that schools will support their learners to reason numerically is not a new requirement imposed by the LNF but has been implicit in the curriculum for some time through the Skills Framework. In terms of preparation for the first set of reasoning tests, there have been sample materials for reasoning available since Feb 2012 which are useful preparation. These will be enhanced in the New Year, with the release of further sample materials. Our support for improving literacy and numeracy skills extends beyond the LNF, tests and NSP. The Numeracy Employer Engagement Programme will help pupils develop strong numeracy skills and motivate and prepare them for future employment, and I trust that secondary schools and businesses will all benefit from involvement in this programme. The Literacy and Numeracy Expert Panels have also provided useful support for the development of literacy and numeracy activity.  

The last 18 months have seen a number of changes in the education landscape, all principally aimed at raising performance in literacy and numeracy. It is right that we review assessment and the National Curriculum in Wales to ensure that these changes are embedded and streamlined. To that end, on 22 October we published phase 1 of a consultation which seeks views on proposed changes to curriculum and assessment arrangements that are aimed at strengthening and supporting the teaching of literacy, numeracy and wider skills in Wales.  We remain committed to improving standards of literacy and numeracy, which will form a key part of the curriculum and assessment review.

The ‘Summary report on the numeracy reasoning pre-tests taken in May 2013’ can be found at:

http://learning.wales.gov.uk/resources/numeracy-test-trials-summary-report/?lang=en