The Executive is promoting a variety of initiatives including the home reading initiative, Scotland reads, and number partners. In addition, bookstart Scotland aims to support pre-school children. Good examples in West Dunbartonshire include Aitkenbar primary school and St Peter's primary school, which have set up a joint homework club to develop numeracy skills using technology.
The development of literacy and numeracy will be a key theme across the curriculum, with all teachers having responsibility for promoting language, literacy and numeracy development.
I thank the minister for highlighting the success in West Dunbartonshire. He will also be aware of the council's literacy initiative. Recent evaluations tell us that the initiative is succeeding in completely wiping out illiteracy, particularly in disadvantaged areas. For example, in 1997, 5 per cent of primary 1 children had very high scores on word reading, but today the figure is 45 per cent and still improving. Among primary 2 children, 11 per cent had very low reading scores, but today the figure is less than 1 per cent and still decreasing.
One in three children leaving primary school was functionally illiterate, but now virtually none is. Will the minister commend all the staff involved and learn from the approach so that children from across Scotland, and not only those in West Dunbartonshire, can get the best possible start in life?
I certainly commend the staff for their dedication and enthusiasm and for the results achieved. I am aware of a number of initiatives in different parts of Scotland. We leave it to people locally to decide on how to develop those initiatives.
We are willing to learn from good experiences. There are different views in different parts of Scotland about different initiatives and their merits. What has been achieved in West Dunbartonshire is interesting and I will certainly want to reflect on it. I am aware of initiatives such as one in Clackmannanshire that have achieved good results too. The professionals in each local area are best placed to make the relevant decisions for the children in their schools. However, I join Jackie Baillie in commending the significant improvements in West Dunbartonshire.