And the fairest of them all is...

17th February 2006 at 00:00
. . . the UKteacher. But their Spanish counterparts are said to be prone to favouritism. Sophie Kirkham looks at an international survey of pupil attitudes.

UK teachers are among the fairest in Europe when it comes to marking work, according to pupils.

More than four out of five UK children questioned in an international survey felt the marks that teachers gave them were fair and reflected the effort put in to a piece of work.

More than 5,000 pupils aged 13 to 14 were surveyed in France, Spain, Italy, Belgium and the UK to find out what they thought of their education systems.

Eight out of 10 UK children felt pupils got fair marks at school, compared to just 64 per cent in Italy, 72 per cent in France and Spain, and 73 per cent in Belgium.

Secondary pupils also overwhelmingly (81 per cent) said that an education system should give all children, regardless of ability, the same attention from their teachers. Only 53 per cent of Italians, 45 per cent of Belgians, 59 per cent of French and 65 per cent of Spanish pupils thought the same.

Pupils from the UK were generally satisfied about fairness in schools, with 78 per cent saying that they were treated well. But only 48 per cent felt teachers treated all pupils fairly and they thought many had pets.

Only a third felt their teacher did not bear grudges against pupils for past behaviour and did not have favourites.

One boy said: "I think that pupils who have been bad before should have a second chance. Teachers think they are still like it and they get blamed straight away when something bad happens."

Teachers' pets, they said, tended to be girls, or the particularly bright students, with class or ethnicity making no difference to their attitude.

Just 8 per cent of pupils felt teachers treated UK children better than those from abroad, compared to 19 per cent of French students and 14 per cent of Belgian pupils (Spain, 11 per cent and Italy, 6 per cent.) Pupils at The Meadow primary school in Balsham, Cambridge, said their teachers were fair and full of encouragement when handing back homework.

"I do try quite hard," said William Kenzie, 11. "The teacher can tell when you have tried hard, so when I get good marks it is an inspiration."

Natasha Danischewski, also 11, said: "My teacher is very fair and if I have not done well she will say things like 'You should have put this in or try harder next time' but when you have worked hard she will say 'well done'

and give us merits. She treats us all the same."

Year 4 pupil Lucy Sleeman, eight, added: "I try quite hard because it makes you feel happy when you get good marks, but if you have rushed, the teacher can tell and just says 'try and slow down next time'."

Year 10 pupils at Trinity comprehensive, in Newbury, (check) Berkshire, agreed. Abi Kalonga, 15, said: "You know teachers are fair, because as soon as you stop working, your grades get lower. You get the score you deserve.

"When I started in Year 7, I didn't work as hard as I should. But my teachers forgot about it, and gave me a chance. So I started to shine properly, and work as I should."

Libby Davis, 15, said her teachers were fair in all things: "If you don't do your homework, or you're messing around, you get a detention. Teachers don't give detentions out because they have a grudge on you.

"There are always instances where you think something is unfair. But usually that's just because it's happened to you, not to other people."

Researchers from York university found that the UK education system was generally more comprehensive "in intake, provision and outcomes", with the lowest levels of segregation according to family background.

Dr Emma Smith and Professor Stephen Gorard also pointed out that the UK had the highest reading test scores of the five countries studied, and the smallest gap between social groups on reading tests.

They concluded: "This relatively successful comprehensive system could be part of the reason for the elements of relative satisfaction with their experiences of justice reported by UK pupils.

"Perhaps we should be more concerned with the experience of schooling as something in its own right."

* Teachers in Germany have been branded "human failures" in a book which has been given support by parents across the country.

Gerlinde Unverzagt, a journalist and mother, has received hundreds of emails of support after publishing the bestselling The Teacher Hate Book in which she accuses geography teachers of muddling continents. She described elementary maths teaching as incomprehensible.


International 20

"Pupils' views on equity in schools" by Emma Smith and Stephen Gorard is published in the March edition of Compare

International comparisons

* Belgian teachers are least likely to have pets (says 44 per cent of their pupils).

* Teachers in France are most likely to favour the clever pupils (56 per cent said so).

* Spanish teachers favour hard workers (78 per cent) but are more likely to punish some pupils more than others for similar offences ( 71 per cent).

* Italian teachers are the fairest at handing out punishments (63 per cent) and least likely to treat rich children better.

* UK teachers give pupils the fairest marks for work (82 per cent) but are most likely to favour girls over boys (35 per cent.)

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today