There has been lots of excited commentary in the edublogosphere on the the pre-announced demise of the National Strategies. The reality is that this Government's White Paper declaring this as a stated aim and "ringfencing" the £110 million pounds thus saved to go directly into school budgets is never likely to come to pass. Surely there will be a general election before Ed Balls' paper could be translated into law. It doesn't mean to say that the end of the National Strategies won't still happen under a Tory government as it is such an easy symbol of New Labour to knock down. Don't count on the money finding its way into school budgets, though.
Reading the TES forum on the announcement, one gets the impression that a form of institutionalised child-abuse was being abandoned (and this phrase actually appears in the thread), however, I think they protest too much. What really annoyed me about the whole National Strategies thing was not the abomination of the "stopwatch" lessons that you were forced to teach, but the way in which advisors and teachers adopted the new orthodoxy with such zeal. It appeared that no critical thinking was employed to question the academic validity of the approach. They soon realised their mistake and the Framework documents came out offering a slightly more flexible approach. The mistake, however, was compunded by producing such detailed lesson planning within it, reinforcing the orthodox view that this was the expected approach. To those that say it was always "optional", I would say yes, it was, for those whose SAT results allowed it to be.
My own opinion of the Literacy Hour was formed by my son, now in Year 8. He was always an avid reader and completed The Lord of the Rings by the time he was nine. He hated the literacy hour complaining that they picked on random passages from classic books to illustrate a given learning objective. "You never got to find out what happened in the end." was his summary. It has failed completely to switch children on to reading.
And, the teaching of formula writing (yes, I know the year 6 teachers are scanning examples of their SATs writing tests right now to see if their charges have used connectives, sub clauses and metaphor) did produce a jump in "attainment", but it has clearly not been embedded. How else could you explain the fact that secondary children have routinely done worse than their Year 6 counterparts in testing the single level tests?
So the National Strategies will surely die at the hands of the Tories if not at the hands of Ed Balls, and good riddance to a horrible centralised approach to attempt to hit a policy target, but let's just hope that next time someone comes up with such an approach we have the courage of our convictions to stand up and say no.