In countries like the UK and the US, a significant and challenging problem facing educators is how to ensure that future generations do not suffer from the severe basic skills problems that currently hinder a sizeable group of adults. We look at a primary school programme introduced into English schools, the literacy hour, to work out whether changing the structure and content of teaching can enhance literacy skills, thus acting as a tool to alleviate problems of low literacy. Our results point to a significant impact of the literacy hour with there being around a 2–3 percentage point improvement in the reading and English skills of primary school children affected by the introduction of the policy. The literacy hour fares well when compared to other policies in terms of cost effectiveness. These findings are of strong significance when placed into the wider education debate about what works best in schools for improving pupil performance. The evidence reported here suggests that public policy aimed at changing the content and structure of teaching can significantly raise pupil achievement. The literacy hour therefore has practical implications for raising literacy standards in many countries
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