A third of schools bore their classes

9th January 2009 at 00:00
Swinging from chandeliers may be going too far, but a key Ofsted adviser spoke out this week about the dull lessons taught in over 7,000 schools

Teaching is often boring and fails to inspire the pupils in more than 7,000 of England's schools, Ofsted suggested this week.

Schools where teaching is only judged to be satisfactory are likely to be delivering dull lessons that fail to motivate children, leading to poor behaviour, said a top official.

Tim Key, an adviser to Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector, said that teaching and learning needed to be improved in more than a third of schools where standards are satisfactory or inadequate.

"I look back at the data and see that one third of schools have teaching that is only satisfactory," Mr Key told The TES. "Those are going to be the lessons where children have not been stimulated, where children were bored and where teaching was dull.

"It doesn't have to be like that. We have some 13 per cent of schools in which teaching was outstanding. That doesn't mean every lesson had high- octane excitement buzzing through it; it does mean that the building blocks of good, well-prepared lessons that motivate children will be there. By and large, that is what we see in two-thirds of schools in this country."

Mr Key was speaking following controversial comments by Ms Gilbert that Ofsted was going to crack down on boring teachers.

The Ofsted annual report, published in November, said that standards of teaching were satisfactory in 33 per cent of schools, with a further 3 per cent described as inadequate. The proportion of secondaries with inadequate teaching rose to 5 per cent.

"The problem is dull lessons that lack challenge and fail to engage pupils," said Mr Key. "When that is what you are dealing with, is it any wonder that the result is bad behaviour?"

He said the link between merely satisfactory teaching and poor behaviour was a particular problem for vulnerable children, who could be difficult to engage in lessons.

While Mr Key conceded that it was a "tall order" to say children would never be bored, he said that good lessons could be delivered in a range of styles.

"We have been in lessons where teachers swing from the chandeliers, but not an awful lot is being learnt," he said.

Ofsted has admitted that teachers can be discouraged from delivering creative lessons because they feel under pressure to drill pupils for high-stakes tests.

Ms Gilbert has highlighted the issue in a number of reports, including her first annual report in November 2006, in which she said that exam preparation was hindering pupil development.

In separate reports on maths and science last year, Ms Gilbert said that an emphasis on passing exams created too many repetitive lessons that failed to inspire children.

Professor Sir Tim Brighouse, knighted in the New Year's honours list, questioned whether Ofsted had a true picture of what went on in schools: "It's a very brave teacher who takes risks when Ofsted comes calling. But the best teachers are always taking risks.

"I think Ofsted doesn't see outstanding practice very often because, unless a teacher feels they are extremely outstanding, they are going to play safe when Ofsted is around."

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