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Couch potatoes spoil top marks

Welsh schools doing well, but PE and IT still below par. David McNab reports.

MORE than half of all lessons in Welsh schools are now officially good, but computing and PE remain a cause for concern.

So says Susan Lewis, the chief inspector of education and training in Wales. Her newly-published annual report also reveals that primary schools have made particularly encouraging progress.

In 2000-1, primary pupils achieved good or very good standards in more than half of classes - a leap of 20 percentage points on five years ago.

But standards in information technology remain disappointing while a perceived lack of interest in PE backs up recent studies suggesting Britain's children are in danger of becoming couch potatoes.

The annual report covers the work Estyn - the Welsh equivalent of the Office for Standards in Education - carries out for the National Assembly for Wales. It will be seen as a further vindication of the distinctive education policies being pursued by the assembly's education minister Jane Davidson.

Ms Davidson has championed the traditional comprehensive school, avoiding the kind of changes proposed by England's Education Secretary Estelle Morris.

Tests and exam results show that the overall attainment of Welsh pupils of all ages is better than in 1999-2000. There has also been a slight reduction in the number of pupils who leave school without any qualifications.

Primary pupils achieved good or very good standards in 55 per cent of mathematics and science classes. The figures for English, art and history were almost as promising.

The improvement was linked to the good quality of in-service training for teachers and the increased emphasis on developing pupils' reading, writing and numeracy.

The report says: "As in previous years, the largest amounts of unsatisfactory work are in information technology. Across both key stages, standards in IT are unsatisfactory in 18 per cent of classes."

At key stage 2, standards were lowest in design and technology, geography and Welsh as a second language.

In secondary schools, standards were high in history, geography and RE. Pupils who studied Welsh as a first language performed well but - as in primary schools - Welsh suffered as a second language.

Secondary PE also remains a worry. The report says: "Some pupils show little interest. Some avoid lessons by not bringing the clothes they need to wear."

Once again girls achieved better results than boys at Welsh secondary schools.

Ms Davidson welcomed the report but said there was no room for complacency. "I am delighted that the report concludes that once again there has been an improvement in the standards achieved by learners."

The report is available online at www.estyn.gov.uk or from The Stationery Office, Oriel Bookshop, 18-19 High Street, Cardiff, CF1 2BZ, pound;21.50

WELSH SUCCESS

* Standards good or very good in 50 per cent of lessons.

* Girls outperform boys. At key stage 2, 72 per cent of girls but only 63 per cent of boys reach level 4.

* Standards of numeracy good or very good in a quarter of secondaries and there is less unsatisfactory work.

* Of 35,000 pupils in Year 11, 1,100 leave school without a recognised qualification - down 400 on five years ago.

* About 10 per cent of teaching is now very good, but 5 per cent is still unsatisfactory.

* Three-quarters of schools are well-managed by senior staff, but middle managers are not doing enough to make sure pupils in every class are making good progress.

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