Ofsted raises 'serious concerns' over key stage 3 teaching

Richard Vaughan

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The quality of teaching and leadership at key stage 3 is a serious cause for concern, Ofsted’s chief inspector has said.

Launching a report into the effectiveness of key stage 3 provision, Sir Michael Wilshaw warned that schools needed to show key stage 3 the "priority it deserves" or they would not see an improvement in GCSE results.

According to the watchdog, the deployment of staff and resources is too often “skewed” to key stages 4 and 5, leading to one in five Ofsted reports finding that education in Years 7, 8 and 9 needed to improve.

“Inspectors have found that pupils often leave primary school with good literacy and numeracy skills, confident and eager to learn, but their progress then stalls when they start secondary school,” Sir Michael said.

“In too many schools, the quality of teaching is not adequately preparing children for their next stage in education.”

Inspectors found that progress made by key stage 3 students was “often slow”, particularly in English and maths, while teachers did not build on pupils’ prior knowledge and challenge the most able students enough.

Of particular concern was the quality of teaching in modern foreign languages, history and geography, which was putting students off taking the subjects at key stage 4.

Sir Michael said the problem would have a significant impact on the government’s aim to make the English Baccalaureate mandatory for every student.   

“This is a serious concern, given the government’s ambition for all pupils starting secondary school this month to enter the EBac subjects in five years’ time,” he said.

And he added: “Key stage 4 results will not improve until key stage 3 is given a greater priority by school leaders.”

The report, called Key Stage 3 – The Wasted Years also found that too often homework set for students in Years 7 to 9 was not sufficient, while the pupil premium was not being used to the greatest effect.

The Association of School and College Leaders described the findings as “disappointing” and criticised the inspectorate for the “negative” title of its report.

Brian Lightman, ASCL’s general secretary, said: “The reality is that schools are working hard on ensuring a good transition from primary to secondary and the education of 11 to 14-year-olds. It should also be noted that a vast amount of good practice is not seen by Ofsted because it does not routinely inspect outstanding schools.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said:“It is vital that all pupils receive an excellent standard of education at every stage of their school career – and we will not tolerate a single day wasted.

“That is why our new Progress 8 measure will change the way that we hold secondary schools to account - by measuring the progress that all pupils, including the most able and those who have struggled, make throughout key stage 3 and 4.”

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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

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