The impact of the National Strategies in education – Ofsted
Ofsted today published a report, The National Strategies: a review of impact, in advance of new arrangements due to replace the National Strategies in 2011. It identifies lessons from programmes ranging from literacy and numeracy, to pupil behaviour and the development of a more highly skilled workforce.
Almost all the schools visited considered that the National Strategies had contributed to improving the quality of teaching and learning, including the use of assessment by tracking, and they valued their training and support materials.
However, 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.'
The majority of local authorities visited considered that skilled consultants working directly with teachers and curriculum leaders were the National Strategies’ most significant contribution to raising standards.
National agencies, working within the National Strategies, provided a considerable number of diverse programmes. But it was often difficult for the schools and local authorities visited to assess which initiatives worked and which did not. Local authorities were learning how to manage this by tailoring the National Strategies 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.
Notes for Editors
1. 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.
4. Links and related reports:
- The National Strategies: a review of impact
- The National Strategies Annual Plan Summary 2008-09, DCSF, 2008
- The overarching reports and reports on individual programmes are available on Ofsted's website in the publications section.
- The core subjects of the National Curriculum are English, mathematics, science, and information and communication technology (ICT).
The Government’s White Paper for changes beyond National Strategies is
Your child, your schools, our future: building a 21st century schools system, DCSF, 2009.
The field work for this survey was concluded before the publication of the White Paper.
5.The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.
6. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 020 7421 5866 or via Ofsted's enquiry line 0300 1231231 between 8.30am - 6.30pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359.