An Evaluation of Sunderland LEA Literacy Transition Project

From February 2002 to March 2002
Project Leader(s): Frank Hardman
Staff: Ian Hall and Jill Clark
Contact: Ian Hall
Sponsors: City of Sunderland Education and Community Services


Sunderland LEA identified a number of problems that were impacting on pupil transfer at Key Stages 2 and 3. These include, perceptions about reading skills at the start of Key Stage 3, lack of parental involvement and low levels of adult literacy. Furthermore, statistical data show that the percentages of children in the cluster schools achieving level 4 or higher were in some cases considerably below the Sunderland and National averages. All of these issues taken as a whole, prompted Sunderland LEA to develop a programme of activities to address the problems encountered in the cluster area of Pennywell specifically. The aims and objectives of the Sunderland LEA Literacy Transition Project (LTP) as presented in the original project appraisal document were:
1. To support a school-based partnership to develop a programme of activities which will enhance attainment in KS2/3;
2. To encourage individual schools to identify, develop and implement activities, which address the needs of their pupils;
3. To implement a number of activities in 2000/2004 at cluster and at school level
4. To complement the activities in the SRB 3 Quality Time Project, SRB post 16 project and the EAZ action plan.

Research Paradigm

Evaluation is a methodological area that is closely related to, but distinguishable from, more traditional social research, and utilises many of the same methodologies used in traditional social research. However, because evaluation takes place within a political and organisational context, it requires group skills, management ability, political dexterity, sensitivity to multiple stakeholders and other skills that social research in general does not rely on to the same extent.

Research Methodology

The Department of Education at Newcastle University was commissioned by Sunderland LEA to provide an interim evaluation of its Literacy Transition Project. The key aims and objectives of the interim evaluation were:
• To examine the progress and achievements of the Project; and to compare these with the original project appraisal and expectations as set out in the delivery/implementation plan.
• To explore qualitative issues relating to the impact on the pupils
• To make recommendations for improving delivery.

We have also adopted the following research questions:
• What lessons does the Project yield in terms of good practice?
• What lessons have been learnt and what are the areas of improvement for the Project’s future activity?
• Can the project, or elements of this, be used as a model for others?

The main purpose of the evaluation ws to examine the impact of the project on distinct populations:

• School and LEA staff
• Pupils and Parents
• SRB staff.

Our emphasis was on seeking an understanding of the interaction between pupils, school staff and LEA and SRB personnel, and how the experience is seen by all participants in terms of providing practical benefits and creating possibilities for bringing about changes in ways of working and raising attainment.

The findings are based on our exploration of the context of processes, outcomes and costs. They are based on the analysis of several in-depth and one-to-one interviews, which have been tape-recorded to ensure accuracy. Structured thematic analysis has formed the main approach to data analysis.


Hardman, F., Hall, I., and Clark, J., (2002) An Evaluation of the Quality Time Project. Department of Education, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

For further information about this research, please contact the team by email:


Dr Jill Clark
Senior Research Associate and Business Development Director for the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching