Page last updated at 12:51 GMT, Friday, 26 June 2009 13:51 UK

Key schools policy to be amended

Primary school children in classroom
The centralised guidelines have been in place for more than 10 years

The government is to dismantle one of its most significant education policies in primary schools in England.

From 2011 schools will no longer have to rely on centralised national strategies for support in teaching literacy and numeracy.

Instead they will have money to choose from other suppliers or work together to improve pupils' basic skills.

The plans are part of wider reforms to be announced by Schools Secretary Ed Balls next week.

Slowed improvement

Primary schools in England have been expected to teach English and maths according to centralised guidelines set down by national literacy and numeracy strategies for more than 10 years.

These give detailed plans for teachers on what to convey to pupils throughout the school year, with an expectation that there should be daily lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic.

They are not compulsory, but schools whose results are not good face awkward questions from Ofsted inspectors if they are not using them.

Standards - as measured by national curriculum test results - improved rapidly at first but have risen only slowly in recent years.


Mr Balls is expected to say that from 2011 he is ending the multi-million pound contract with private company Capita to deliver the strategies.

He told the World at One on BBC Radio 4 he was emphatically not saying schools would move away from having daily literacy and numeracy hours.

The strategies had been needed to get school leaders to focus on improving standards - but they could now choose for themselves how best to spend the money these were costing.

The changes will be part of a wide-ranging White Paper expected to be published on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said this would set out a new approach to local authority and school accountability and support, making the support that schools could access even more tailored to their individual needs and circumstances.

"We must continue to do the very best to ensure that all children get the reading and writing skills they need to succeed in later life.

"This is not about getting rid of rid of the literacy and numeracy hours but a renewed push to raise standards and provide new forms of support and challenge for schools who need it."

Classroom overhaul

Earlier this year former Ofsted director of inspection Sir Jim Rose produced a report for the government on a proposed overhaul of primary schooling in England.

He recommended that information and communication technology should be central to the curriculum alongside English, maths and personal skills - instead of science.

And ministers have agreed to the findings of a group of educationists and head teachers who said formal Sats tests for 10 and 11-year-olds might eventually be replaced by teacher assessments of their pupils.

The leader of the National Union of Teachers, Christine Blower, said many would welcome "the dropping of the top down imposed strategies".

"Ed Balls' recognition that teachers' professional judgement can be trusted to deliver the curriculum is long overdue," she said.

"The government needs now to accept and promote the same ethos for assessment."

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