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Gaps in the foundations

A series of reports from the Office for Standards in Education show that "foundation" national curriculum subjects such as PE, history and technology have never been fully implemented, writes Diane Hofkins.

The last six reports on 1993-94 inspection findings, combined with an earlier tranche of reports show that some foundation subjects have suffered under the pressure of the overcrowded curriculum. They came on board later than the core subjects of maths, English and science, and have not been subject to national testing for 7, 11 or 14-year-olds.

Technology was quickly found problematic, and the 1992 decision to rewrite the Order meant that many schools did not bother to implement it.

The new, slimmer subject Orders which were revised under the Dearing review take effect in September for primary and lower secondary classes. Foundation, non-core subjects have undergone the heaviest pruning.

Information technology, which is now to be treated as a distinct subject, has fared badly, despite children's enthusiasm.

In both primary and secondary schools, standards are largely satisfactory, but "modest" compared to other subjects. "In most primary schools IT is being marginalised, especially at key stage 2, because of other pressures and a lack of teacher expertise," says the report.

It says that in both primary and secondary schools most teachers are not qualified to teach more than a limited range of the national curriculum requirements. "Their command of IT is generally poor compared with other subjects".

Familiar themes which emerge throughout the six subject reports published last week include the need for primary subject coordinators to have more non-contact time to work with other teachers, and the need for secondary teachers to build on primary work.

Art Thirty per cent of lessons in primary schools are unsatisfactory but "almost without exception the pupils are enthusiastic about learning in art". Work is often lively, but too often skills, knowledge and understanding are not developed systematically. In secondary schools standards are satisfactory or better in more than four-fifths of classes, and nine-tenths in post-16 classes.

History Resources were rarely adequate in primary schools, says the report. Books were often bought only in single copies to provide the teacher with ideas. Good use was made of artefacts.

Resources were also inadequate in many secondary schools. Few had enough appropriate textbooks.

Planning was difficult for many primary schools, and the full curriculum was often not taught at KS1. Standards at key stage 2 were significantly better in middle schools than primaries.

PE Access to PE is not always equal for boys and girls. The programme for boys at KS3 is often more limited than that for girls. Indoor and outdoor accommodation ranges from very good to poor a few surfaces were dangerous.

But resources are generally satisfactory. Good work at KS1 should be maintained in KS2. "Some of the poorest work was seen in Years 3 and 4. " Primary teachers need more in-service training to give them confidence.

Standards are satisfactory or better in 85 per cent of lessons in secondary schools.

Modern languages Standards are lower in key stage 4 than in lower secondary or sixth form. The target language is used more by teachers in KS3 than KS4, but its use by pupils is underdeveloped in both key stages.

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