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Advisers sent in pursuit of targets

Consultants hired to heighten the impact of national strategies. Warwick Mansell reports.

Thousands of schools performing below government expectations are to receive visits from advisers in a new drive to raise test results.

Heads of secondary subject departments which have low value-added scores at key stage 3 and GCSE are to have termly meetings with consultants, and more primaries will get support.

The drive is being organised through the revamped primary and secondary national strategies. Since April, the strategies have been under new management after Capita, the private firm, which won the pound;178 million, five-year contract.

In its annual plan for 20056, Capita proposes to send consultants to work with secondaries where results are low in individual subjects. It intends to work with 1,500 schools in English, maths, science, computing and foundation subjects.

Every term, meetings will be held with subject leaders to address key issues, with half the time devoted to disseminating training material provided by the national strategies, and half addressing local issues.

Capita aims to raise English results in secondaries receiving the extra help in the subject to 81 per cent of pupils at level 5 or above next year.

The same figure is quoted for maths.

Nationally, 74 per cent of pupils achieved this benchmark in both subjects this year. The strategies will also trial intensive work with 10 underperforming secondaries to "identify effective ways to enable more pupils to achieve at least five A*-C" grades at GCSE.

Advisers have been working with primaries where fewer than 65 per cent of pupils achieve the expected level at KS2 for three years. This intensifying support programme is being expanded from 855 schools to 1,000 this year.

Capita will also take over the primary leadership programme, which targets primaries with low value-added scores, providing 4,500 schools with training in leadership and teaching and learning.

The moves underline the importance of improving results to the Government.

According to the annual plan, the strategies' first aim is to "help the Government fulfill its targets".

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: "If this approach is going to be successful, the people visiting schools will need to be supportive of teachers. The danger is that the strategies are too tied up with Government pressures to hit national targets.

"If it amounts to telling teachers what to do, it will not be helpful."

However, The TES spoke to several heads with experience of the programme who said it was supportive.

Lana Coy, of Springfield juniors in Swadlingate, Derbyshire, which worked with the programme for 18 months, said: "I found the programme very useful.

It focused our thinking and improved some of the target-setting process we have in the school."

Last week, Capita advertised for a director of the secondary national strategy, a post with a salary of up to pound;100,000 a year.

The move comes with Sue Hackman, the previous director, about to become the Government's chief adviser on school standards.


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