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The impact of the National Strategies in education

Published: 25th February 2010 22:09

In a recently published report by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, identifies lessons from programmes including literacy and numeracy.

Any Child Can Learn

The report found that the frequent introduction of new initiatives led to overload and diminished their potential effectiveness. Evaluation of the impact of the National Strategies' many programmes was also a weakness at national and local level.

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert, said:
'The National Strategies have been at the forefront of improving teaching in the core subjects. However, improvement has been too slow over the last four years and this report finds the potential effectiveness of the strategies is much diminished.

'From next year, when the National Strategies come to an end, there will be greater devolution of funding and responsibility for improvement to schools. It's important we learn from what worked well in the National Strategies and ensure pupils continue to benefit from high quality programmes.'

Local authorities such as Barking and Dagenham, and those covering Romford areas such as Chadwell Heath, considered that skilled consultants working directly with teachers and curriculum leaders were the National Strategies' most significant contribution to raising standards. They were also learning how to manage these strategies by tailoring the them to individual schools' requirements.

The report recommends that the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and National Strategies should:
• prioritise fewer school improvement initiatives and identify those that are demonstrably effective
• give schools and local authorities more time to implement, consolidate and evaluate these, as well as opportunities to tailor them to the specific needs of their schools
• increase the emphasis on intensive periods of school based, high quality professional development.
DCSF should now commission systematic and independent evaluation of existing programmes delivered through the National Strategies so that the most effective activities can be continued beyond 2011.

. The National Strategies, first introduced in 1998, are professional programmes for school children and young people delivered on behalf of the Department for Children, Schools and Families. The programmes have been a key national delivery vehicle for many new government learning priorities, providing a mix of resources and services that support improvements in the quality of learning and teaching in schools, colleges and early years settings. A key aim of The National Strategies is to help these educational settings raise children's standards of attainment and improve their life chances.

The National Strategies mission is: 'To raise standards of achievement and rates of progression for children and young people in all phases and settings through personalised learning with a particular focus on the core subjects and early years'.

2.The aim of this survey was to evaluate the impact of the National Strategies on standards and progress. Inspectors visited 12 local authorities during the autumn term 2008 and held discussions with nine senior regional directors of the National Strategies. Common themes emerging from this stage were followed up by visits to 33 primary schools and 21 secondary schools in the same authorities between December 2008 and March 2009. The local authorities and schools were chosen to provide a geographically diverse sample.

3. The report evaluates which aspects of the National Strategies' programmes had been effective and which less so, and how leaders and managers at all levels of the National Strategies judged their impact. The recent schools' White Paper, Your child, your schools, our future, signalled major changes to arrangements for school improvement support, involving a move away from national programmes, as well as greater devolution of funding and responsibility to individual schools. A key purpose of the report, therefore, is to inform the development of future arrangements for school support, particularly for raising standards in English and mathematics

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