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Primary review praise is misplaced;Letter

IN ITS recently published review of primary schools in England (TES, July 9) the Office for Standards in Education is almost certainly right to report that more pupils are achieving higher standards and that the quality of teaching has improved not just over the four years of the first inspection cycle 1994-98.

What should be a cause for cautious congratulation for primary schools is paraded by OFSTED as a cause for self-congratulation.

Though welcome in its long-overdue recognition of many positive aspects of primary education the report has a number of flaws.

It fails to acknowledge the evidence from pre-Woodhead inspections that many primary schools have successfully engaged in "school improvement" at least since the introduction of the national curriculum in 1989.

It operates with a very restricted view of what constitutes the "standards" that were supposedly "woefully low" in terms of test results at the end of key stages in aspects of only three subjects, rather than standards in the full range of subjects.

It relies heavily on judgment of "progress" applied to pupils, without acknowledging the unsound nature of the judgments it forces inspectors to make on the basis of at best partial and at worst worthless evidence.

The report also fails to acknowledge the major weaknesses of many inspections especially in the early part of the cycle, which render comparisons over time within that cycle invalid.

Professor Colin Richards

1 Bobbin Mill

Spark Bridge

Cumbria

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