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Time to subscribe to a national trust strategy

Colin Richards imagines he is in charge of the new primary strategy.

Dear Colleague

As the newly-appointed director of the National Trust Strategy - a more positive name and one likely to be remembered - I would like to echo Stephen Twigg's recent congratulations to you all on your impressive achievements in raising standards. However, our new national strategy has very different emphases.

It might almost be called a national non-strategy. It is based on an approach pioneered in the United States 30 years ago in Vietnam. It is a policy of benign neglect.

Its fundamental assumption is that primary teachers act in the best interests of children and that they know what they need to further those interests. It assumes, too, that agencies are there to support the professional judgments of those in schools.

Take literacy, for instance. Instead of the current booster-based approach of "if at first you don't succeed, fail, fail again", children in Years 1 or 2 who are not making progress will be offered an intensive reading and writing recovery programme - but only if their school requests it.

Some literacy consultants will be retained on a regional basis - but only to be used at the discretion of local schools. The same school-led approach will apply to numeracy.

The money saved from employing large numbers of numeracyliteracy consultants will be used to provide equivalent numbers of arts and humanities consultants - to be called on by schools providing richer, more locally-responsive curricula.

The practising teachers advising the NTS will use the experiences of the new foundation stage curriculum to inform a revised key stage 1 and later KS2 curriculum - at long last beginning to develop the curriculum from foundation upwards rather than university downwards.

Children, as well as teachers, will be regularly consulted, along with the Department for Education and Skills to amend legislation, making it compulsory for all schools to offer their own distinctive curriculum including, but going well beyond, a scaled-down national curriculum. All tests and league tables will be replaced by a refined version of the Scottish assessment system with its nationally-derived test items, used as and when teachers want to test out their own professional judgments.

Educational Pandas will be hunted to extinction.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Richards

Colin Richards is professor of education at St Martin's College, Lancaster What would you do if you ran the NPS? Write to

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