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Ofsted admits some are unteachable

Chief inspector David Bell now recognises that nearly every school has its impossible children. Michael Shaw reports

ALMOST every school in England contains a group of children whose behaviour is so bad that they are impossible to teach, the chief inspector says.

They have no social skills, use offensive language and seem to have no idea how to behave, David Bell said in his first annual report.

He also said that secondary teacher shortages were making the problem worse and that "satisfactory" teaching was no longer good enough. The proportion of teachers and support staff taking subjects for which they are not properly qualified increased by almost a third last year from 18 to 23 per cent.

Mr Bell said: "There remain some groups of pupils and some schools for whom raising standards is an almost intractable challenge."

Many schools had to cope with unsupportive parents, high pupil mobility and staffing problems. These problems were particularly bad in the 700 schools identified by the Government as the most challenging.

The former primary head said:"I know the relentless draining of staff morale and the sapping of energy and initiative that insubordination and cynicism from groups of disaffected pupils can cause."

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the findings vindicated schools vilified for excluding unruly students.

But Mr Bell insisted that good teaching and behaviour went hand in hand.

"Pupils respond positively to high expectations... Of course, things will go wrong ... and some pupils will tax the skills of even the most brilliant teacher. But we find that good behaviour and good classroom work go together."

Behaviour is poor in one in 12 schools. Pupils are naughtiest in language and music lessons.

The report says standards of teaching are at a record high: 70 per cent of lessons are good or better, while just 4 per cent are unsatisfactory or poor. But Mr Bell said: "Our system continues to fall short for a significant number of pupils and students, particularly those for whom academic learning does not come easily."

Teachers will have to try even harder, he said. "Is 'satisfactory' good enough given the demands of pupils and the rising expectations of wider society?" In challenging schools, he said: "Satisfactory may not be sufficient to achieve high standards, a point often acknowledged by the teachers themselves in such schools."

For the first time for five years, the gap between the best and worst performing primaries widened and that between the GCSE results of the best and worst performing secondaries increased again.

Mr Bell expressed disappointment that a quarter of pupils arrived at secondary schools without reaching expected standards in English and maths.

In addition, around a fifth of 14-year-olds were failing to reach even the standards expected of 11-year-olds in core subjects.

He also said refugee children often put pressure on resources and disrupted teaching continuity.

The report was the first to contain detailed verdicts on early years providers and further education colleges.

FE Focus, 31; David Bell interview, FE Focus, 34

Full chief inspector's report on web at



* Almost two-thirds of schools improved satisfact-orily since their last inspection; only one in 12 has not improved, or has deteriorated

* The gap between the best and worst performing schools has widened

* Teaching is good or better in 76 per cent of schools, up from 74 per cent last year

* The proportion of 11-year-olds who pass English and maths tests remains stuck at 75 per cent. National targets for 2002 were missed


* Recruitment difficulties have hit teaching quality, which remains the same at key stage 3, but is slightly worse at key stage 4

* Schools with a high proportion of poor pupils have improved more than others

* Between inspections, teaching quality remained the same in half of schools, improved in more than a third, and deteriorated in three in 20

* Teaching is good or better in 77 per cent of schools, down from 80 per cent last year

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