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Part I Descriptive Section


The United Kingdom participated in the " World Conference on Education for All: Meeting Basic Learning Needs" held in Jomtien, Thailand, March 1990.

The objective of the conference was to secure the commitment of all countries to the development of policies to secure the provision of basic education for their young people and of adult literacy and education programmes appropriate to their needs. Countries were asked to adopt targets and an action programme for the implementation of these policies. These were more fully described in the ‘Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs’ contained in the World Declaration on Education for All which was adopted by the Conference.

Following the Conference the United Kingdom (UK) did not set itself plans or targets for the 1990s in terms of the six proposed ‘Education for All’ dimensions (which are described below). However in the intervening years there have been many initiatives undertaken by successive Governments which have had a particular relevance to EFA strategies. This has ensured that the UK, at this end of decade Assessment, has an impressive story to tell.

Of particular note has been the development of target-setting and of performance tables to enable parents and other partners in education to measure the achievement of pupils throughout the period of their basic, or in UK terms, their compulsory schooling. These and other policies designed to raise school standards are outlined below in the chapter on Dimension 3 ‘Improvement in Learning Achievement’. Worth highlighting also are the Government’s policies aimed at tackling social exclusion. Equipping people with the education, skills and opportunities they need to succeed at work and life more generally is the key to preventing social exclusion and tackling disadvantage at source. Policies and programmes designed to address the needs of the disadvantaged at all age levels are described throughout this report.

Structure of the UK Education System

The constituent parts of the UK; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - each have responsibility for their own education service. Policy and overall funding for education is determined in England by the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE), in Scotland by the Scottish Executive Education Department, in Wales by the National Assembly Education Department and in Northern Ireland by the Department of Education for Northern Ireland. They dispense funding for education, either directly or through other bodies, such as Local Education Authorities (LEAs, referred to in Scotland as Scottish Local Authorities - SLAs), agencies and funding councils. In practice the education systems in England and Wales are quite similar and the policies identical.

In all education institutions in the United Kingdom, from the most basic to the most advanced level of provision, there exist unique systems of virtually complete self-management. This ensures that important decision making is carried out close to the level of delivery.

Distinctive initiatives and policies of each country relevant to the EFA Framework for Action are described separately.

A Statistical Summary accompanies this report and should be read in conjunction with the tables and other data on the EFA Indicators set out in the Statistical Annex. Whilst every attempt has been made to provide statistical information for the Indicators in line with the technical guidance provided by the EFA Secretariat, it has not been possible in all a cases to match the description of the indicator in a way which is compatible with the UK education system and thus with the type of data which is available for inclusion in this report.

Dimension 1: Expansion of early childhood care and developmental activities, including family and community interventions, especially for the poor, disadvantaged and disabled children.

At the end of the decade the UK Government has in place a comprehensive range of programmes and policies designed to ensure that good quality, affordable early childhood care is made available in every neighbourhood. Particular attention has been paid to local communities in areas of need where young children are being given better access to healthcare, early education and practical support for their families. Some of these policies are described below.


In England, the Government’s early-years policy is to provide a range of services for young children, including integrated early years education and child care provision, which will make a positive contribution to their lives. Better quality care and education for young children will also give parents peace of mind and help them to balance their work and family lives. The main policies and initiatives designed to address the issues covered in the first dimension are described below.

The Sure Start initiative launched in 1998 will provide young children with better access to childcare, health, and early education and practical support for their families. The initiative will complement other health, education, housing , regeneration and crime prevention initiatives introduced by the Government to improve the quality of life for local communities in areas of need.

Sure Start is an innovative cross-departmental programme which is pioneering ways to improve support for families and their children before and from birth until the age of four. The Sure Start Unit is working together with local community groups, local education authorities, social services, health services and voluntary and private sector bodies concerned with services for parent and young children to develop 250 local Sure Start programmes in England by 2002. The Government has set aside 450 million to achieve this. These programmes will add value and reshape existing services and fill gaps in provision to improve support for families in ensuring their children get the best start in life. Sure Start has 5 objectives - these are to:

Improve social and emotional development; in particular, by supporting early bonding between parents and their children, helping families to function and through early identification and support of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Improve health; in particular, by supporting parents in caring for their children to promote healthy development before and after birth.

Improving the ability to learn; in particular, by encouraging stimulating and enjoyable play, improving language skills, and through early identification and support of children with learning difficulties.

Strengthening families and communities; in particular, by enhancing families’ opportunities for involvement in the community, and improving the sensitivity of existing services to local needs.

Improving the productivity of operations by ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in the use of Sure Start resources and improving the use of existing resources devoted to young children.

Targets have been set for each objective and an evaluation strategy will be in place by 2000-01.

The National Childcare Strategy

In May 1998, the DfEE, the Department of Social Security (DSS) and the Government’s Minister for Women published jointly Meeting the Childcare Challenge , a Green Paper proposing a framework for the National Childcare Strategy.

The Green Paper set out the Government’s aim of making available good quality, affordable childcare for children aged 0 to 14 in every neighbourhood, including both formal childcare and support for informal arrangements. Proposals were grouped under the themes of quality, affordability, accessibility and delivering a strategy. These were developed as a result of joint working across Government, looking at childcare in the round. Many policies and actions contributing to the national strategy, such as the childcare tax credit in the ‘Working Families Tax Credit’, are the responsibility of other Government Departments.

The Government has announced funding of some 470 million to support a National Childcare Strategy in England over the five years from April 1998. 170 million of these resources will, from April 1999, come from the New Opportunities Fund (NOF), and will fund start-up costs for new out of school hours childcare places. The NOF aims to provide childcare for around 865,000 children across the UK by 2003. Funding will normally be for one year, but NOF is able to provide funding for up to three years, and in areas of particular disadvantage, some projects may require support beyond one year to secure their sustainability and viability.

The National Childcare Strategy will be planned locally through 150 Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships (EYDCPs). Planning guidance for Partnerships was published in October 1998, setting out what is expected of Partnerships, who should be involved and what they must include in their first Early Years Development and Childcare Plan for 1999-00, building on their Early Years Development Plans from 1998-99.

The DfEE is investing substantial resources to improve the accessibility and quality of childcare. A 57 million package was available to implement the Strategy in 1998-99. It supported:

Some 54 million has been allocated for childcare in 1999-2000, which includes 33 million to be spent through Partnerships in that year (a further 11 million will be paid in the following financial year); 7 million via Training Enterprise Councils (TECs) for training, and 5 million through Further Education institutions for childcare places.

To improve the accessibility of childcare, the DfEE is working with the DSS on a project to develop databases to support an England-wide network of Children’s Information Services (CISs).

Early Years

Early years services are planned by each local authority in partnership with all the early years interests in their area. All local authorities had an Early Years Development Plan for 1998-99. The plan set out how the authority would - in collaboration with the private and voluntary sectors - guarantee a free, high quality, at least part time early education place from September 1998 for all eligible four year old children whose parents wanted one.

The 1999-2000 Plans will build on the Early Years development Plan for 1998-99. In addition from April 1999:

The effectiveness of the Partnerships in working co-operatively to identify local needs, set priorities and implement plans will be evaluated in a staged process starting in 1999 and ending in spring 2000. The evaluation will also examine how well the partnerships have met the Government’s policy objectives.

Expansion of early education for three year olds

The Government has set aside 390 million over three years from 1999 fund an additional 190,000 early education places for three year olds. 40 million is available in 1999-2000 for distribution between the 57 LEAs with the greatest social need. The additional places will be found in the maintained, private and voluntary sectors through the Early Years Development and Childcare Plans. From 2000-2001 and 2000-2002 funding will extend across all LEAs.

Raising the quality of early years education

All settings providing Government-funded early education must provide an early years curriculum which allows children to progress towards the Government’s Desirable Outcomes for Children’s Learning on Entering Compulsory Education. Early education settings are inspected by OFSTED, to monitor and seek improvements to quality.

Following a review of the Desirable Outcomes by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), a new Foundation Stage of early education is to be introduced from September 2000. This includes early learning goals covering six areas of learning. The goals set out what most children are expected to achieve by the end of their primary school reception year. The early learning goals will replace the Desirable Outcomes from September 2000. The Government announced this development on 4 October 1999.

The Government also announced on 4 October a framework of nationally accredited qualifications for the early years education, childcare and playwork sector. This helps to explain to people in the sector and their employers the skills and standards expected of them in different job roles and the qualifications that recognise those levels of achievement. This is a key part of the quality improvement strategy.

Regulation of Early Education and Day Care

The Government is committed to establishing a more uniform system of regulation of both early education and day care. In 1998 the DfEE, which has policy responsibility for the regulation of day care under Part X of the Children Act 1989, conducted a joint consultation with the Department of Health on the regulation of early education and day care.

A summary of responses to this consultation was published in December 1998. Following on from this the DfEE issued a press notice on 12 January 1999, which outlined an initial four point plan for action:

  1. a circular to be issued to Local Authorities on the regulation of childminders (Circular issued January 1999);
  2. a working group, representative of the nanny agency industry, to be established to draw up a voluntary Code of Practice for nanny agencies (the draft version of the Code was consulted on in July and August. It is intended that the final version will issue before the end of the year);
  3. guidance for parents employing nannies (Need a Nanny? A parent’s guide was published in April 1999); and
  4. proposals to establish a Criminal Records Bureau which will make it easier to carry out the necessary checks on people who want to work with children.

On 2 August the DfEE announced new arrangements for the regulation of early years education and day care, which are to include:

  1. making available an additional 30 million over two years (through a 75% grant, with LEAs to meet the remainder) to provide 3,000 more staff in reception classes. By 2001, this will deliver a maximum adult:child ratio of 1:15 and benefit over 75,000 pupils in the 60 LEAs highest on the DfEE Deprivation Index;
  2. further development work on adult:child ratios to help level the playing field across early years settings. The work will include testing approaches in 50 settings providing sessional care to allow private and voluntary providers to move to a ratio of 2:26 (as in the maintained sector) where staff have the appropriate qualifications;
  3. establishing a separate arm of OFSTED which shall bring together the regulation (i.e. registration, investigation, enforcement and inspection) of both early education and day care. Although the new arm will be a national organisation operating with new national standards and producing national documentation, it is envisaged that it will maintain the regional structure and local presence of the existing arrangements.

Other related issues still under consideration include:

Early Excellence Centres

29 pilot Early Excellence Centres have now been designated. They will provide high quality integrated early years services including education, childcare and family support in response to local needs. They will work together with other providers to raise standards, extend opportunities and provide models of good practice. DfEE is providing pump-priming funding including capital funding from the New Deal for Schools programme.

The DfEE is preparing an evaluation and dissemination strategy so that Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships and others can take account of this pilot work in planning the development of early years services in their areas.

Help for Pre-schools and Playgroups

A total of up to 500,000 in small grants was made available in 1998-99 to help good quality pre-schools and playgroups which were threatened with closure for financial reasons. This was intended to give a breathing space and allow groups time to secure their financial future.

Out of School Childcare Initiative

The Out of School Childcare Initiative (OSCI) was launched in 1993. By the end of March 1999, 122,856 new childcare places had been created. Since its launch, responsibility for delivering the Initiative and promoting out of school childcare locally has fallen to Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs).

During 1998-99 the DfEE continued to support childcare through OSCI to work towards its target of creating 40,000 new childcare places. This target was exceeded, up to 30 May 1999, 41,487 new places had been created. As well as providing support for new places, the DFEE has also made available limited support to help schemes threatened with closure.

The arrangements for the use of OSCI funding in England were reviewed in the light of the outcome of the Green Paper consultation Meeting the Childcare Challenge and the role of the new Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships (EYDCPs). OSCI funding in England will now be used for essential infrastructure support to ensure the quality and sustainability of both new and existing out of school childcare provision. Funding will be channelled through local authorities to carry out the EYDCP’s plans, as part of the Government’s strategic approach to create good quality, affordable and accessible childcare in every neighbourhood. TECs will continue to be key players in childcare through the new EYDCPs.

DfEE’s funding will complement the Lottery resources available through New Opportunities Fund to support out-of-school hours childcare.

Training and qualifications framework

The availability of skilled, competent staff is key to providing good quality services. The DfEE has worked with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), the National Training Organisations (NTOs) for Early Years and Playwork, and others to develop a framework for qualifications and training for the early years, childcare and playwork sector. This is founded on agreed national occupational standards setting out the knowledge and skills required for all the job roles in the sector. It sets out the appropriate qualifications which demonstrate competence at different levels for these roles and the different training routes through which they can be achieved. The Framework will eventually provide everyone in the sector with a consistent understanding of what training and qualifications are available and to what jobs they will lead. It will also list the training and qualifications courses which are eligible for public funding.

QCA issued a draft framework for consultation in November 1998 and issue the initial Framework of nationally accredited qualifications was issued in October 1999. The full Framework is expected to issue in Spring 2000. Awarding bodies were asked to submit qualifications for accreditation against the framework from April 1999. Training providers will have the opportunity to have their training programmes endorsed by the NTOs, so that it is clear which courses can lead towards framework qualifications.

Family Friendly Working Practices

The Government is committed to helping working parents to spend more time with their children The legislative provisions set out in the Fairness at Work White Paper provide a basic framework of family friendly employee rights on working hours, flexible working arrangements, unpaid parental leave and time off to deal with family emergencies. Over the coming months, working in partnership with other Government Departments, employers and other key players, the DfEE will be taking forward an awareness and promotional campaign to promote the benefits of family friendly working practices. The aim is to encourage employers to go beyond the statutory minimum and recognise the business benefits in terms of staff recruitment, retention and productivity.


In Scotland the Government is committed to two goals for pre-school education. The first is to provide a quality part-time education place for every child in the pre-school year whose parents want one. The second goal is to provide, by 2002, a quality part-time education place for every three-year old whose parents want one.

Local authorities have a power to provide pre-school education. All the funding for pre-school education is channelled through local authorities who are responsible for planning, co-ordinating and delivering the service. They are funded by specific grant under the Education (Scotland) Act, 1996 to provide pre-school education. Resources ( inclusive of central overheads carried by the Department) available in the next three financial years are 112 million (1999-2000), 134 million (2000-2001) and 138 million (2001-2002). The expectation is that the grant will be reintegrated into mainstream local authority finance once the expansion of service has been achieved.

About 60,000 children currently attend pre-school in Scotland. Education is provided in public, private and voluntary centres and a pre-school curriculum framework has been devised to develop key aspects of children’s development and learning in personal and social development, communication and language, knowledge and understanding of the world, expressive and aesthetic development, and physical development and movement. Guidelines for an expanded curriculum framework for children between the ages of three and five are now available and were distributed in Summer 1999.

In May 1998 the Government launched the Scottish Childcare Strategy. The Strategy is about supporting families. The aim is to ensure good quality, affordable childcare for children aged 0 to 14 in every neighbourhood. The Government will also seek to ensure that the quality of care is improved, that more families are able to afford childcare and that there are more childcare places and better information about what is available.

The Government will also make sure that childcare is of the highest quality. Childcare should meet the needs of all children. Training will also be improved for people who work with children. Through the New Deal, up to 5,000 new childcare workers will receive training in Scotland. The way early education and day care providers are regulated and inspected will also be improved.

Increased help is also available through Family Credit. Working families with two children can get more help with their childcare costs. For parents in education and training help will be through doubling the Access Funds in further and higher education to a total of 8.6 million in 1998/99.

The Government will ensure that more childcare places are available. In Scotland almost 5 million extra was committed in 1998-1999 and a further 25 million in 1999-2003 will come on-stream from lottery funding through the New Opportunities Fund, for the development of out of school childcare. Further funding will be available to support out of school learning activities. The new childcare provision will need to meet the needs of different families. This includes those from ethnic or linguistic minorities or where the children have special needs. We will be encouraging good quality information services to help families find out what is happening in their area. A telephone helpline will assist parents in getting the information they need.

Northern Ireland

Children First - The Northern Ireland Childcare Strategy, which was issued for consultation in 19 February 1999 sought views from a wide range of interests on a range of proposals aimed at strengthening childcare services in Northern Ireland.

At present, the majority of childcare places in Northern Ireland are provided by the community, voluntary and private sectors. A total of 44,200 childcare places were available at March 1998 in day nurseries, playgroups, childminders, out-of-school clubs and holiday schemes.

Funding for childcare comes from a variety of sources. These include the Exchequer, parent’s and employers’ contributions, grants from statutory agencies. In addition, support is also available through a small number of special funds which include the European Union Childhood Fund, the International Fund for Ireland (Communities in Action) Programme and the Early Years Development Fund.

In addition to the above provision, over 13,000 children - almost 60% of children in their pre-school year - have a place in grant-aided pre-school education. By 2002 there should be pre-school education places available for 85% of children in their pre-school year. Under the Pre-School Education Expansion Programme, the Government is committed to ensuring that, over time, funded places will be available for all children in their pre-school year.

Funding Children First

Children First identifies an additional 61 million which is to be made available for the development of early years services in Northern Ireland from 1999 - 2002. Of this 27.4 million will be injected into the Pre-School Education Expansion Programme; around 10 million will be available through the New Opportunities Fund to support out-of-school childcare projects in Northern Ireland; the Training and Employment Agency has set aside 9 million for training workers for the childcare sector and childcare allowance for their trainees; and 5 million will be provided through the European Union Childhood Fund in 1999 - 2000 to support a range of childcare provision. In addition, extra cash will also be available to parents through improvements which the Government is introducing to the tax and benefit systems.

The Pre-School Education Expansion Programme

The Pre-School Education Expansion Programme in Northern Ireland, which is creating over 9,000 new free places over a 4 year period, takes account of the lower compulsory school age than in England. The programme is targeted initially on the most socially disadvantaged children and on the oldest children in the pre-school year.

The programme is designed to promote high quality pre-school provision and all providers are required, inter alia, to meet minimum staff qualification requirements. To ensure that all centres included in the programme can meet this requirement, a bursary scheme, using resources from the EU Childhood Fund and the Social Services Inspectorate, was initiated by the Inter-Departmental Group on Early Years.

In addition to the pre-school Education Expansion Programme, development of nursery and other forms of pre-school education is taking place under the regeneration initiatives in Belfast and Londonderry and the European Union Childhood Fund.

Childcare provision for school-age children

A Playcare initiative, funded through the European Union Childhood Fund (over 5 million over 5 years) has created 2,500 subsidised out-of-school childcare places in about 100 playclubs in areas of greatest need. This initiative is enabling parents to return to, or remain in work, or take up new training opportunities.

The 10 million additional funding being made available through the New Opportunities Fund will allow an expansion of about 12,000 places in out-of-school childcare over the next 3 years. The aim is to have an out-of-school project available in every community.

Childcare Training

The T&EA has taken the first steps towards a childcare training strategy for Northern Ireland. The strategy will be developed by the Government Departments concerned, in consultation with other stakeholders including employers in the sector and the National Training Organisations, and will aim to ensure that the resources available are used as effectively and efficiently as possible.

In the meantime the Agency is working towards achieving the target of providing 1,250 training opportunities in childcare through the New Deal.

Family-friendly employment

The T&EA is developing a communications strategy for promoting family-friendly employment in Northern Ireland, in co-operation with the DfEE, Opportunity Now and other agencies.

Dimension 2: Universal access to and completion of basic (compulsory) education

In common with other developed countries, access to basic education in the UK is universal and parents have a legal duty to ensure that their children obtain education between the ages of 5 and 16. Most children in this age group attend a school, though a small minority are educated by private tuition. (In Northern Ireland compulsory schooling begins at age 4).

However one of the Government’s key challenges is to create a more inclusive society, overcoming the barriers that exclude particular individuals and groups from learning (and sustained employment in later life), so that everyone has the opportunity to develop to their full potential. Policies aimed at tackling the causes of why some children underperform within an inclusive education system are described below.

Policies to Combat Truancy and School Exclusion

In late 1997, the Government recognised that truancy and school exclusion had reached a crisis point. Each year at least one million children truant and there are nearly 13,000 permanent exclusions and 100,000 fixed period exclusions. The Government’s Social Exclusion Unit report Truancy and School Exclusion, published in May 1998, set out the Government’s ambitious plans for reducing levels of truancy and school exclusion by one-third by 2002. These plans focus on meeting these targets through earlier intervention to prevent disaffection setting in and multi-agency support to help schools.

The Government is now implementing the strategy for tackling truancy and exclusion, which includes the following measures:

Ethnic and other minority pupils

There are over 0.7 million pupils from ethnic minorities in maintained primary and secondary schools. They bring cultural richness and diversity, but some are particularly at risk of underachievement. Over half a million do not have English as a first language and many start school without an adequate grasp of it. The Government is committed to breaking the cycle of disadvantage, creating genuine equal opportunities and raising standards of achievement among all ethnic groups.

The Government has also taken action to:

Education of Traveller Children

The Government is providing additional funding of some 13.7 million in the financial year 1999-2000 to ensure Traveller children have access to schools. The funding provides for Traveller Education Services in 130 local education authorities in England supporting over 3,400 schools with Traveller children. This specific grant programme is making significant progress in raising standards of achievement for Traveller children particularly at primary level.

Travelling Communities cover those identifiable groups, some of which have minority ethnic status, who either are, or have been, traditionally associated with a nomadic lifestyle, and include Gypsy Travellers, Fairground families (or Showpeople), Circus families, New Travellers and Bargees.

The Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Grant (EMTAG)

EMTAG will from April 2000 combine the current Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG) and the Traveller's Grant. The grant will provide 162.5 million for the year 2000-2001 to raise the attainment of ethnic minority pupils at risk of underachievement and those for whom English is an additional language. The grant also provides for the improved access to education and higher levels of attainment for children of Travellers and other displaced persons and the particular needs of refugee children.

Special Educational Needs

The Government is committed to raising standards for all children, including those with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and/or with disabilities.

As a result of the Education Act 1993 (re-enacted in the Education Act 1996) there is now:

In October 1997 the Government published a Green Paper on special educational needs to review existing procedures and provision for children with SEN. Following consultation, and in the light of advice from a National Advisory Group on SEN, the Government published an Action Programme for SEN on 5 November 1998. Meeting Special Educational Needs: A programme of action sets out practical steps which will be taken to support children with SEN over the next few years.

The Action Programme sets out the progress the Government wants to make in five key areas:

Implementation of the Action Programme is being supported by funding of almost 60 million in 1999-2000. The amount available for SEN under the Standards Fund has virtually doubled to 37 million and the support increased under the Schools Access Initiative from 11 million to 20 million. This is part of a 100 million programme over the next three years.

We will report regularly on progress in developing and implementing the Action Programme.


In Scotland 26 million will be available over three years from April 1999 to pilot New Community Schools in Scotland. These schools will bring together a range of services to promote social inclusion and raise attainment in education. These services will include education, social work, health promotion and family support.

Other measures for raising attainment include funding for Family Literacy schemes and for home-link teachers ( 15 million ) for pupils aged 3-6. Funding of 50 million has also been provided for study-support and 23 million for an alternatives to school exclusion programme.

The introduction of a new grants programme will support innovation in the work of voluntary and charitable organisations active in the field of SEN. In this area the Government wants to maximise the contribution of the voluntary sector and support innovative schemes designed to improve access to the curriculum and other facilities for children and young people with SEN.

Local authorities, teachers and other professionals active in the education of children with SEN, have received a valuable new resource in the SEN Manual of Good Practice. This Manual will assist all those working with children with special needs. It brings together advice and guidance across a range of activities, including inter-agency co-operation, the involvement of parents and the inclusion of children and young people in the decisions which will shape their futures.

Northern Ireland

Requirements similar to those in force in England and Wales, including a SEN Code of Practice and an independent SEN appeals tribunal, were introduced in Northern Ireland by the Education (Northern Ireland) Order 1996. Additional funding of c7m has been earmarked for SEN development in each of the next 3 years and a Regional Strategy Group for Northern Ireland is considering how progress can best be made locally on the Government’s five identified key areas.

Dimension 3: Improvement in learning achievement

All the Government’s policies for schools are aimed ultimately at raising standards. Too many children are currently failing to realise their potential, both in primary and secondary schools. International comparisons suggest particular weaknesses in mathematics. As suggested in the Jomtien Framework for Action, the Government has set challenging targets for achievement for defined cohorts and these are set out below.

The targets are that by 2002 (in England and Wales):

In Scotland there is a greater emphasis on self-evaluation by individual schools. Overall, the aim of policy for schools is to:

Additional information on Government initiatives and policies directly related to raising standards are described below; in particular relating to, school inspections, target-setting; performance tables; the literacy and numeracy strategies for primary schools and reducing infant class sizes. Other policies are designed to promote excellence and innovation in schools including Beacon Schools; Education Action Zones and specialist schools and some are designed to help individual pupils achieve in relation to special educational needs, ethnic and other minorities and disaffected pupils.

Standards Task Force

The Secretary of State for Education and Employment established the Standards Task Force in July 1997 to unite interests throughout the education service and beyond in the drive to raise standards in schools. Under his chairmanship, the Standards Task Force brings together headteachers, classroom practitioners, education experts and others from the world of business and communication. It meets four times a year and provides expert advice to the Government on the development of education policy.

OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education)

Inspections continue to provide parents with high-quality, independent information on how well their child’s school is performing. Inspection highlights schools’ strengths and weaknesses, identifies schools which are failing to deliver an acceptable standard of education, and acts as a spur to those schools which have scope for significant improvement. After publication of an inspection report, schools must draw up and publish an action plan.

The Government is committed to regular inspection of all schools. The first cycle was completed for secondary schools in 1997 and for primary and special schools in summer 1998. A differentiated system, with short inspections for the most effective schools and full inspections for other schools, will be introduced in January 2000. The interval between inspections will vary but will not be longer than six years.

Weak and Failing schools

The Government is committed to improving the education of pupils in under-performing schools. From September 1998, any school failing its OFSTED inspection will have to be turned around within two years, given a fresh start or closed. Through OFSTED inspection, approximately 3% of schools are found to be failing, or likely to fail to provide an acceptable standard of education to their pupils and are therefore in need of special measures. A further 10%, whilst not failing are found to have serious weaknesses. Once a school is identified as requiring special measures, the governing body, in consultation with the Local Education Authority (LEA), must draw up an action plan to address the key issues identified by the inspection. The LEA and the school will have access to the School Improvement Grant ( total of 251.5 million in 1999-2000) to help the school to improve.

Where necessary, the Government will take direct action to improve the education of children in failing schools. The Secretary of State will have the power to order the closure of a school to give pupils a better chance.

The DfEE is working with Local Authorities on models of good practice to recognise and deal effectively with weak and failing schools.

Education Development Plans (EDPs)

Under the School standards and Framework Act 1998 each Local Education Authority (LEA) has a duty to prepare and submit and Education Development Plan (EDP) for their area. EDPs are the main measure of how LEAs will carry out their new duty to promote high standards in education.

EDPs are 3-year plans subject to approval and regular review by the Secretary of State. Every LEA now has an approved EDP and most have been approved for the full three years. Hackney, Halton, Islington, Liverpool, Rotherham and Southwark LEAs have been given approval for one year only and asked to address a number of issues in their plans in order to strengthen them. They have been given an outline of the main points to address and more detailed feedback.

The DfEE will shortly be issuing guidance to LEAs on the updating and review of their EDPs. The Government has said that it wants time for EDPs to be implemented and will only require details of updated targets and any significant changes LEAs make to their school improvement priorities.

LEA Inspections

Inspection of Local Education Authorities is a key mechanism in raising standards. LEA inspections and published reports provide vital information on how effective LEAs are in supporting their schools. The statutory inspection regime for LEAs started in January 1998, prior to which there were some pilot LEA inspections.

The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 gave the Secretary of State powers to intervene in Local Education Authorities which were failing to perform their duties to an adequate standard. 50 LEAs have been inspected by OFSTED to date, 4 of which have warranted some form of intervention: Hackney, Islington, Liverpool and Leicester.


Research and inspection evidence shows that target-setting helps to raise standards of pupil performance. From September 1998, schools have been required to set and publish performance targets for their pupils at the end of Key Stage 2 of the National Curriculum (age eleven) and in public examinations at 15. Targets are set annually for performance five terms in advance, so that the first targets set in autumn 1998 are for performance by pupils in summer 2000. Schools are required to publish details of their governing body’s Annual Report to Parents.

Performance tables

The provision of information on school and college performance to parents and other partners in education remains key to the Government’s overall strategy for raising standards. The programme of improvements to the information published in performance tables continues, with new data in the 1998 secondary school tables on the achievements of pupils across a wider ability range and a measure of the improvements made in schools in examinations over the past three years.

In the medium term, performance tables will include measures of the value added by schools to the education of their pupils.

Literacy in Schools

To achieve the national target for literacy, the Government has introduced the National Literacy Strategy. Since September 1998, primary schools have been teaching a daily Literacy Hour, which is already having a positive impact on teaching methods and the organisation of lessons. The Literacy Hour is based on proven best teaching practice and has raised standards of achievement in schools that took part in the Government's pilot project.

To support the introduction of the Literacy Hour, all primary teachers have received training in the most effective methods of teaching literacy. The Government has provided all schools with a literacy Framework for teaching and a pack of high quality training materials, and funded a network of over 250 local literacy consultants to support schools. The Government has committed funding of over 50 million annually to the implementation of the literacy strategy.

Numeracy Targets and the National Numeracy Strategy

In the national tests in 1996 only 53% of 11 year olds achieved the standards expected for their age in mathematics. In 1997 the figure was 61% and by 1999 it had reached 69%. By the time of national tests in 2002, Government expects that: 75% of all 11 year olds will be reaching the standards expected of their age in mathematics.LEA numeracy targets for 2002 were published in January 1999. Individual schools have also set their numeracy targets for the National Curriculum tests in 2000.

A National Numeracy Strategy to raise the standards of numeracy in schools has been announced, with 55m of support. The strategy focuses on training and support for teachers so that they can teach a daily mathematics lesson to all pupils from September 1999.

The national targets set are challenging but achievable. The experience of schools which piloted the National Numeracy Strategy suggests that we can expect the strategy to have a significant impact - a recent report from the National Foundation for Educational Research shows that pupils in pilots schools achieved at a level from 12 to 16 months ahead of the equivalent pupils 2 years previously.

The DfEE will work with local authorities and schools so that teachers receive the training they need to teach daily mathematics lessons (45 minutes for Key Stage 1 (5-7 year olds) and 60 minutes for Key Stage 2 (8-11 year olds). This support includes:

A new programme of Year 6 booster classes, designed to offer more focused literacy and numeracy teaching both within and outside normal school hours, has been announced . The programme will include the Easter holidays and run into the summer term if necessary. Revision guidance has been sent to all primary schools.

Smaller Infant classes

The Government’s policy to reduce infant class sizes is central to its drive to raise standards in schools. What children learn in their first years at school underpins the rest of their education, and smaller classes can assist in those vital early years. Smaller classes are important for teachers and pupils alike where teachers are able to give their pupils more individual attention. LEAs and schools are already taking action to ensure that from September 2001 at the latest, no five, six or seven-year-old is in an infant class of more than 30 children with a single teacher.

The policy has created more posts for infant teachers, with 1500 already employed from September 1998. Some 6000 are expected to be employed by the time the policy is achieved in full. The infant class size initiative ensures that, where possible, extra places are provided by expanding good and popular schools. In fact, 620 million has been made available to implement the class size policy.

Beacon Schools

The introduction of Beacon schools in September 1998 heralded the beginning of a new initiative designed to raise standards through the spreading of good practice. Beacon schools are schools which have been identified as amongst the best performing in the country and represent examples of successful practice which are to be brought to the attention of the rest of the education service with a view to sharing the secrets of their success and spreading that practice to others.

Schools awarded Beacon status receive extra funding in exchange for an agreed programme of additional activities. Beacon status will last for an initial three years. The first 75 Beacon schools have already established strong partnerships with many schools in order to share both ideas and approaches to teaching and to pass on expertise in a wide range of curriculum subjects. 125 new schools joined the initiative from September 1999.

Methods of spreading good practice include:

The Excellence in Cities proposals, aimed at improving inner-city schools, set out further plans for a rapid expansion of Beacon schools over the next three years. A further 300 Beacon schools are due to join the network in September 2000. By 2002, the scheme will expand to around 1,000 Beacon schools, including at least 250 secondary schools. At least one in four Beacons will be in or serve an inner city area and all Beacons outside inner city areas will have specified inner city school partners written into their contracts. Beacon schools will often be the place to locate centres of excellence in supporting gifted and talented pupils.

Education Action Zones

Education Action Zones (EAZs) are clusters of schools working with local and national partners, typically including parents, schools, businesses, the LEA the local Training Enterprise Council and others to raise standards. The initiative challenges these partnerships to meet demanding targets for improvement in new and innovative ways. In return zones receive priority access to some Education Department programmes, together with an annual grant of up to 1million per annum ( split between the public and the private sector) to meet running costs.

25 EAZs were established from the first application round, each planning to raise standards in initiatives directed at early years through to post 16s. The partnerships will aim to achieve this in a number of ways, by encouraging and including multi-agency approaches. There are links to health and employment zones as well as to projects funded by the Single Regeneration Budget and other initiatives.

Of the 48 EAZ applications short-listed for development in the second round, 2 were successfully established in September 1999 and 46 are still under consideration. Following a programme of paper assessments and visits, we have now made our formal recommendations to Ministers about most of these zones. We expect to be able to announce the results by mid-late October.

A further expansion of the programme will take place in the 6 Excellence in Cities areas between April 2000 and September 2001, when we plan to establish up to 50 small EAZs. Guidance on how to apply for small zones has been issued to applicants and applications are due to be received by the end of November.

Excellence in Cities

On 22 March 1999, the Government announced a new programme, worth 350 million over the next 3 years, to raise standards in inner city schools, called Excellence in Cities. The programme will initially be focused on six target inner city areas - Inner London, Manchester/Salford, Liverpool/Knowsley, Birmingham, Leeds/Bradford and Sheffield/Rotherham. It aims to raise standards of achievement across the inner cities, tackle barriers to learning wherever they arise and create new opportunities for all inner city pupils.

The programme includes:

The programme will begin to roll out in inner city schools from September 1999.


The Government wishes to encourage and stimulate all schools in Scotland to achieve excellence by enabling them to focus on standards and on the drive for improvement. All schools have been asked, in discussion with their education authority, to identify targets in examination attainment, reading, writing, numeracy and attendance.

In the 5-14 programme, the targets express in percentage terms the number of children reaching or passing the level of attainment for children at their stage under the 5-14 guidelines. Secondary schools should set an attainment target at S4 based on the percentage of the S4 roll achieving a Standard Grade (1-6) in English language and mathematics. In this way the focus on literacy and numeracy will continue through to the statutory leaving age.

Funding will be provided over five years, commencing in 1998, for an Early Intervention Programme which aims to help education authorities develop schemes to improve basic

literacy and numeracy in the first two years of primary schooling (ages 5-7).

In addition, funding has been provided over three years, from 1999, for the development and implementation of Education Action Plans to support schools in raising performance. Funding has also been allocated over three years to employ classroom assistants to establish a ratio of one adult for every fifteen pupils in primary schools.

Northern Ireland

The School Improvement Programme (SIP), launched in February 1998, sets out the Government's plans to raise standards in Northern Ireland’s schools into the new Millennium. SIP includes various strategies, including a School Support Programme, which offers a period of intensive support to those individual schools which need and can benefit from this type of approach; and for all schools, a strategy for the promotion of literacy and numeracy. Challenging, but achievable, targets have been set for the attainments of pupils in literacy and numeracy.

The current targets are:-

Key Stage 1 - all pupils save those with special educational needs so severe as to prevent progress should be working at Level 2 and above in English and mathematics. 35 % of pupils should be working at Level 3 or above in English and mathematics.

Key Stage 2 - 80% of pupils should be working at Level 4 or above in English and in mathematics; 25% of pupils should be working at Level 5 or above in English and mathematics.

Key Stage 3 - 75% of pupils should be working at Level 5 and above in English and 85% in mathematics; 50% of pupils should be working at Level 6 and above in English and 55% in mathematics.

The literacy and numeracy strategy includes the appointment of literacy and numeracy development officers in each education and library board area, a programme of Reading Recovery training for teachers, the preparation of literacy and numeracy guidance materials, the provision of in-service training for teachers and an increase in the number of summer literacy and numeracy schemes.

Resources have also been made available to enable schools which have clearly demonstrated good practice or curricular or management innovation, particularly those schools serving areas of social deprivation, to further develop that good practice or innovation and to disseminate it within their own schools, and to other schools.

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