The vast sums of money invested in children’s education
since Labour came to power in 1997 have resulted in only
“modest” gains in terms of attainment, new research
A study carried out by academics at the Curriculum, Evaluation
and Management centre at Durham University questions whether the
“hundreds of millions of pounds spread across hundreds of
initiatives” in education could have been better spent.
“The gains have been modest but the efforts have been
massive,” the authors conclude. “It is our opinion that
many changes were put into place without sufficient evidence of
their effectiveness before they were released into
Calling for ideas to be properly tested before becoming policy,
the authors criticise the launch of the National Literacy Strategy
before pilot sites could be fully evaluated and the roll-out of
Sure Start without good evaluation mechanisms in place to monitor
“There is good evidence that initiatives in the early
years can have long-term positive impacts, but we also know that
the impact varies from project to project,” they explain.
“We are not well-placed to systematically learn from the
experiences of the Sure Start initiative.”
The report claims that, although there have been some clear
gains in primary schools since 1997, these have been overstated in
official statistics and there has been very little growth since
At secondary school level, “steady and modest” gains
have been made – but did not start suddenly in 1997.
Although the number of people taking A-levels and moving on to
higher education has clearly increased, the authors warn that this
may be at the expense of standards.
Standards in English schools from