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Primary heads urged to admit weaknesses

Primary teachers should acknowledge that there is substantial room for improvement in what they have to offer, according to the chief inspector of schools.

Chris Woodhead said the primary years were "the most important" in schooling, and that heads should recognise weaknesses in their provision. Last week, he presented figures suggesting that more than 7,000 primary teachers are incompetent and said that they should be replaced.

The same analysis, based on a survey of 100,000 lessons, showed that there are 18,000 teachers producing excellent lessons - but this is dramatically below the 30,000 top-ranked teachers in the secondary sector, and works out at less than one per school.

In a report published by the Office for Standards in Education this week, Mr Woodhead characterised successful primary schools as those with: * strong headteachers who lead the school well and who know the strengths and weaknesses of staff; * schools with teachers who know about the subjects they teach, have high expectations of pupils, and deploy a range of teaching methods; * those which as organisations are confident and self-critical.

These are all factors mentioned in the 11 case studies of successful schools published last week by the National Commission on Education, Success Against the Odds.

The OFSTED report lists the concerns of primary heads which included the difficulty of training their staff to be subject specialists; doubt about the value of whole-class teaching; and concern that judgments made by OFSTED are invalid and inconsistent.

Teaching Quality - the Primary Debate, is available from OFSTED Publications Centre, PO Box 6927, London E3 3NZ.

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