Headlines: August 23rd, 2004

The primary leadership programme launched in summer 2003 was badly flawed and failed to meet expectations. Ofsted, the education watchdog, has analysed why the aim of strengthening leadership and responsibility for teaching and learning in English and maths in primary schools was not achieved.Under the programme experienced primary headteachers acted as consultant leaders to support and provide expert guidance for headteachers and their leadership teams, working closely with local education authorities’ literacy and mathematics consultants, schools’ advisers and other LEA staff.

The culture of the programme was identified as the principal weakness. The National College of School Leadership advocates a ‘client-centred consultancy’ approach which focused on the school identifying its own problems and developing ways of solving them. There was a limited focus on the programme’s key aim of raising standards. Some of the headteacher consultants were unwilling to challenge schools about their expectations and low standards, even when clear evidence was available.

The problem was compounded by the failure of local education authorities to make a firm enough requirement for schools to establish clear rigorous action plans to raise their numerical targets for English and mathematics and to improve teaching and learning generally. The outcome was that schools rarely raised their expectations of the numbers of pupils who would gain Level 4 or above and a small number of them actually lowered their numerical targets. The overall verdict of Ofsted is that the programme lacked a sense of urgency, had a limited impact and failed to achieve the aim of raising standards.