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Shaping Literacy in the Secondary School: Policy, Practice and Agency in the Age of the National Literacy Strategy

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This article examines the definitions of literacy in operation in secondary schools, and the relationship between official literacy policy and the practices of the agents responsible for implementing this policy. We trace the history of national ‘policy’ back to the Language Across the Curriculum movement of the 1970s as it provides an illustrative point of comparison with the first five years of the National Literacy Strategy. Drawing on empirical data which illuminate the views, perceptions and practices of key agents on a number of levels, we critically review the concept of ‘school literacy’ promoted in government policy, defining it as ‘school–centric literacy’ and question its ability to facilitate participation in the practices associated with the media and technological literacies which are increasingly a feature of school life. There is evidence of some unplanned effects of the current national policy but also that levels of agency, for literacy teachers in particular, may be rapidly diminishing.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Reading

Publication date: 2003-03-01

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