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Primaries 'teach too little'

MORE THAN half of Welsh primary schools are giving less teaching time to their seven to 11-year-old pupils than the Government recommends. This makes it hard for them to cover the national curriculum effectively, according to a discussion paper from Estyn, the Welsh inspectorate, writes Biddy Passmore.

The Welsh Assembly recommends that primary schools should teach their five to seven--year-old pupils for at least 21 hours a week, and their seven to nine-year-olds for at least 23.5 hours. Only a few do not meet the minimum requirement for younger pupils, but 54 per cent are teaching their older primary pupils for only 23 hours or less.

Teachers in schools where teaching time falls below the weekly minimum have difficulty in hearing all their younger pupils read, the report says. At key stage 2, schools skimping on teaching time tend to cover important aspects of the work superficially , especially in non-core foundation subjects and religious education, and do not pay enough attention to pupils' literacy and numeracy skills.

But schools providing at least the recommended amount of teaching time do not always organise it well - and sometimes less effectively than schools providing less than the minimum, the report says.

Some schools spend too much time supervising their pupils rather than actually teaching them. "In others, the pace of work is not as brisk as it might be," says Susan Lewis, the chief inspector.

In a second discussion paper, about standards of reading in primary schools, Estyn finds that teachers of seven to 11-year-olds are often failing to build on the progress made by pupils at KS1.

Based on inspection evidence from nearly 600 primary schools throughout Wales between 1997 and 1999, the inspectors found poor work associated with insufficient direct teaching of phonics and a range of other strategies, and inadequately challenging texts for good readers.

The Management of Teaching Time in Primary Schools and Raising Standards of Reading in Primary Schools are available from Estyn, Phase 1, Government Buildings, Ty Glas Road, Llanishen, Cardiff CF14 5FQ.

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