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Too early for complacency

The Government's national strategies have the potential to change levels of literacy and numeracy in schools. But building on their early gains may be more difficult than achieving them in the first place.

This is the implication of an independent report from a Canadian team led by school improvement expert Michael Fullan, and commissioned by the Department for Education and Employment. The study, Watching and Learning, highlights the strength of political will behind the projects. "To an extent that has rarely been achieved in other jurisdictions, other education policies have been aligned with the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies." This includes inspection, tests and teacher training. However; "The coherence is not yet being experienced by all those in LEAs and schools."

The projects' organisers are working hard o create the right balance between prescriptiveness and flexibility, and have made changes in response to feedback - but this is an ongoing challenge. Improved test results at this stage probably result from a combination of the strategies' content and training; schools' increased emphasis on language and maths; and pressure to meet targets. However, schools and local authorities may have reached the extent of their capacity for change and more effort will be needed to expand it. Long-term gains will need teachers, heads and local authorities to feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for the goals the strategies represent.

"Deep change depends on changing the learning culture", says the report.

Watching amp; Learning is available from DfEE Publications. Tel: 0845 6022260 or visit www.standards.dfee.gov.uk

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