Teaching gets better and better

Chief inspector's final report gives staff a pat on the head, says Carolyn O'Grady

The amount of "unsatisfactory" or "poor" teaching observed in primary schools during inspections is the lowest ever, said Mike Tomlinson in his last report as chief inspector of schools. "Primary schools are doing a better and better job at educating childrenI, particularly in literacy and numeracy," he said.

Nearly half of all schools had no "unsatisfactory" lessons and in about nine out of 10 there was more "good" or "better" teaching. In 199495, only four out of 10 primary lessons were judged to be "good".

The trend at key stage 1 was clearly upward, but at KS2 there was a pause in attainment in English and maths, the report said. The proportion of 11-year-olds gaining level 4 in English stayed at 75 per cent in 2001 while in mathematics it fell by one point to 71 per cent. The Government's targets (75 per cent for maths and 80 per cent English) were still within reach, says the report, but closing the gap represents a challenge.

Pupil attainment in science at KS2 has continued to improve (from 85 to 87 per cent) and achievement was "good" or "better" in English, maths and science in about half of primary schools. In all other foundation subjects and religious education, attainment was said to be "good" or "better" in fewer than four schools in 10. There was particular concern about geography and design technology. The greatest improvement was in ICT at KS1 and 2, but attainment remained "unsatisfactory" in just over one-quarter of schools. The report also concludes that: lthere has been a substantial increase in the proportion of schools where gifted and talented pupils make good progress; ltime available for teaching foundation subjects is under pressure from the drive to raise standards in English and maths; lthe attainment gap between girls and boys in English at the age of 11 has increased with girls doing significantly better; lthe quality of leadership and management of primary schools improved last year. But, while headteachers and senior staff are better at analysing and responding to assessment data, the setting of curricular targets remains weak.

Mr Tomlinson also highlighted teacher shortages - warning that these were a threat to standards - and lack of transparency and fairness in the funding of schools throughout England.

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