Catch the coasters;Opinion

5th June 1998 at 01:00
Where does The TES stand on underachievement? The answer to Chris Woodhead's challenge (opposite) is that, like most of our readers, we stand alongside David Blunkett in condemning it and the causes of it. Schools which carelessly hazard their pupils' learning should not be tolerated for two days - let alone two years. Social disadvantage creates a steeper mountain to climb, not an excuse.

The TES, furthermore, supports regular inspections which highlight where children are not reaching their potential and why. But one serious problem with those we have is that currently they are neither as precise nor as searching as they could be. Discrepancies between inspectors' judgments and the QCA benchmarks in one in six failing primaries may well be an indication of this.

Contrary to Mr Woodhead's assertion, most failing schools do have above average levels of free school meals. But only 4 per cent or so of schools actually fail. Most underachievement, therefore, is likely to be in the other 96 per cent - where it too often goes overlooked by OFSTED.

So why has Mr Woodhead withheld from inspectors his own researchers' more systematic analysis of school performance, which could have identified more accurately the schools which are coasting?

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