Bad teaching hits 14-year-olds hardest

17th March 2000 at 00:00
THE nation's 14-year-olds are getting the worst deal when it comes to poor and unsatisfactory teaching, writes John Howson.

Looking at the results of Office for Standards in Education inspections over the past two years, the greatest incidence of unsatisfactory lessons has been among key stage 3 classes. In fact in key stage 3 geography and PE there was actually a small rise in the percentage of schools where the teaching was poor or unsatisfactory.

In general, however, there was little change in the proportion of secondaries where the teaching was not up to scratch. In fact, in most subjects, there was either no change or an improvement.

For example, in religious education this time only 6 per cent of schools assessed had inadequate teaching - compared with 11 per cent of schools inspected in the previous year.

Science, PE and IT were the three subjects that saw either the same or worse percentages at all three modern stages. History, music, RE and lnguages saw improvements at all three stages.

The smallest incidence of poor or unsatisfactory teaching is among post-16 lessons, where only in information technology and science was there more than 2 per cent of schools that underperformed.

It is difficult to attribute the variation in the standard of teaching of subjects to any one factor. There seems to be no relationship between recruitment problems in certain subjects and the levels of poor teaching.

However, the most obvious concern is the high level of poor teaching in IT, where competition for recruits from industry remains fierce. Hopefully, this will be addressed through in-service training or innovative ideas imported from the growing number of private IT companies.

John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University. E-mail:

Graph showing percentage of schools where poor teaching seen by OFSTED inspectors NOT available on this database.

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