Gold stars for PE and English teachers

THERE ARE not many things on which teenagers and their parents agree, but the quality of school teachers is one. PE and English teachers are the best, they claim. Religious education can be hell.

Physical education teachers heartily embraced the results as recognition of the quality of their teaching, while English teachers were rhapsodic. And the vilified religious education teachers? Well, they turned the other cheek.

The figures come from surveys by Kirkland Rowell, the school self-evaluation firm, of 112,000 parents at 425 secondary schools and 296,000 pupils at 576 schools.

Parents rated PE, English and maths as the best taught subjects, but were concerned that teachers were not stretching pupils enough in English, maths and science, despite the weight placed by the Government on those subjects.

At Chesham high school, a 1,236-pupil grammar school in south Buckinghamshire, 99 per cent of GCSE pupils last year achieved five good grades in subjects including English and maths.

But that was not good enough for the school's ambitious parents.

Tim Andrew, the headteacher, said: "Exam results are a huge part of it because they're a passport to the next stage."

He said he had sometimes needed to "take action" when parents' and pupils'

doubts about a subject's teaching had matched up with other measures, such as exam results.

But he said: "Parents have a far broader and deeper understanding of what a school is for. They are also asking, what are you going to do to help my youngster be happy, successful and well-balanced?"

Simon Gibbons, the secondary committee chairman of the National Association for the Teaching of English, said parents recognised the importance of good English skills in the wider world.

However, teachers were under pressure to get as many pupils as possible to a mininum standard in narrow skills-based tests.

"I imagine most parents would like their children to have a broad experience of Shakespeare," he said, "but that's not encouraged by the way it's tested."

Mr Gibbons nonetheless welcomed the vote of confidence in English as one of the best taught subjects, with maths and PE.

Professor Margaret Talbot, chief executive of the Association for Physical Education, said PE teachers were committed and driven.

Parents' and pupils' assessments of teaching quality was influenced by the weight placed on the subjects by society, she added. PE had been well-funded in recent years because the Government and employers valued it, while religious education was less valued by an increasingly secular society.

Parents ranked citizenship, RE and information technology as the worst-taught subjects, unconsciously echoing Ofsted's finding last year that a minority of schools were not delivering those subjects to a sufficient standard.

Lat Blaylock, the editor of the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education's magazine, said England and Wales were short of 1,200 RE specialists, which meant many pupils were taught by teachers who knew little about the subject, and schools' schedules dedicated little time to it. In addition, society had a "highly negative" perception of religion.

"Religion is seen as something that is repressive, rather than liberating, although it can be both," he said.

Subjects that ...

... parents think their children are not pushed hard enough in: 1. Mathematics (16%) 2. English (15%) 3. Science (9%) 4. ICT (6%) 5.

Physics (6%)

... parents think are taught best: 1. PE; 2. English; 3. Maths

... parents think are worst taught: 1. Citizenship; 2. RE; 3. ICT

... pupils think are taught best: 1. English; 2. Psychology; 3. PE

... pupils think are worst taught: 1. RE; 2. French; 3. Physics

Source: Kirkland Rowell

What happens when the shackles come off key stage 3?

A special investigation Pages 22-23

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