The Cruel Illusion

What has been the result of the introduction of the National Strategies, ask the authors of the Policy Exchange report Tom Richmond and Sam Freedman? Despite claims that major improvements have taken place, they claim that ‘… in retrospect it is clear that much of this success was a cruel illusion.’ This is because many of the claimed improvements in SATs had already taken place before the strategies were introduced. They go on to argue: ‘[b]y the time that the National Strategies were first assessed in 1999 and 2000 in English and maths respectively, the initial burst in performance had already begun to tail off, though incremental increases continued…

In short, the majority of the progress towards the Government’s targets happened before the National Literacy Strategy and National Numeracy Strategy were introduced. Moreover, this progress was largely artificial: partly due to teachers acclimatising to the tests and partly due to a reduction in testing standards that was first picked up in 2001 by researchers at Durham University.’

These remarks would appear to be borne out in the figures they quote earlier in the report. One of the more shocking statistics to come out is that, after all the money spent on raising standards (over £2 billion) ‘[o]nly 56% of boys and 66% of girls who left primary school in 2008 could read, write and count to the current minimum standard’.

It has got to be the right of every child leaving primary school to have been taught well enough to achieve functional literacy for life that ensures they can fully participate in their forthcoming high school curriculum.(In terms of current reading and spelling tests that would mean age equivalent scores above an average 10 year-old level!!) It is frankly amazing that there is, in this and every other English-speaking country, such complacency. Were parents to express the kind of anger about the situation that we have seen recently expressed towards politicians, things might be as likely to change as fast as we’ve seen some MPs resign.