All consulted as national strategies branch out

3rd March 2006 at 00:00
Since starting as chief executive of the national strategies in April 2005 I have toured the country to talk to teachers and other practitioners to find out what they think.

Almost everyone has welcomed the structure and the support from consultants the strategies have provided, the high-quality and relevant materials and most, although not all, found the training really useful. However, some say the sheer quantity of materials is daunting and that it's not always easy to find what you want.

Headteachers and local authority staff say that it is increasingly difficult to take staff out of school for training and support isn't always available when needed.

Professionals tell us they want more flexibility to interpret and develop materials themselves. Local authorities want us to be more responsive to local priorities. It's also apparent that we need to clarify how the strategies fit with other education policy.

We feel we've already moved some way towards addressing these anxieties; but want to go further. In particular, we want to maximise engagement with practitioners and to make best use of their expertise and leadership.

In these pages a few weeks ago, John Bangs of the National Union of Teachers criticised the short period of consultation on the development of our plans for the future.

We acknowledge this could have been longer. However, this is the first time there has been a consultation on the direction of the strategies and we liaised with key partners including the teacher associations, and a sample of authorities (and through them schools) in each region. We are keen to ensure the broadest consulatation to ensure the strategies meets the needs of those at the sharp end.

Our first big chance to put some of this into practice will be with the renewal and extension of the primary literacy and mathematics frameworks and the creation of the early years foundation stage for nought to five-year-olds.

Building on the strengths of the current frameworks, we have listened carefully to practitioners and partners, including Ofsted and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, to make sure the revised frameworks are useful, respond to the needs of learners and teachers, and help us all raise standards.

They will come in an electronic format that takes the key objectives, provides guidance on assessment, and examples of links with other subjects.

This means that it will be easy to access much of the good existing support material without having to find information in different places as at present.

Training and support will not be one- size-fits-all but will recognise that people are at different stages. Consultation starts in April and the new frameworks will be available from September.

A significant change will be the extension of the frameworks to cover the whole three-to-five foundation stage. This not only ensures smoother progression into key stage 1 but means the relevant sections of the early-years foundation stage and the frameworks mirror each other. The renewed frameworks will integrate speaking and listening and use of ICT with better signposting.

For the foundation stage, they will show how literacy and maths can be delivered in a broad, balanced, play-based curriculum. The frameworks will of course incorporate the Rose review findings.

It's vital we keep listening to your views. If you would like to contribute email NSconsultation@capita.co.uk or write to Consultation, The National Strategies, 1 New Century Place, East Street, Reading RG1 4QH.

Mark Pattison

Mark Pattison is chief executive of the National Strategies

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