'Get out of your office and look';News;News amp; Opinion

12th November 1999 at 00:00
SENIOR school managements should take a much more hands-on approach to what goes on in classrooms if pupils are to make more progress as they pass from primary into secondary.

Ken Greer, HMI, who outlined the Inspectorate's latest views on the problems facing the pace of learning from primary 6 to secondary 2, commented: "We seem to go from single-track roads to dual carriageways and to motorways without any attempt to join them up."

HMI's study of pupils' transition experience, based on data from 30 primaries and 11 secondaries, suggested that senior staff involvement should form part of an "agenda for action".

In primaries, this should include monitoring the quality of teachers' assessment. "We may need to pay more attention to the means by which results are achieved rather than just the results themselves," Mr Greer said.

The Inspectorate found a need for primaries to be much clearer in assessments of reading, writing and maths. But Mr Greer acknowledged that the quality of information transferred to secondaries had improved greatly.

In an effort to improve the reliability of the information, the Scottish Executive has been holding consultations on a "national data transfer form" which will be issued to education authorities before Christmas. "Its use won't be mandatory, though the expectation is that the form will be used increasingly," Mr Greer said.

The Inspectorate also expected secondaries to play their part. Assessment evidence from primaries must be used, discrepancies in judgment must be discussed with the primaries, staff should review the quality of the feedback they give primaries, and the experience of S1 pupils in particular should be closely monitored.

Despite the enthusiasm with which pupils enter "the big school", their experience tends to be repetitive, Mr Greer said. "In science, they will again do safety in the lab. In English, they will probably undertake an autobiographical project which many of them will have done frequently in primary school.

"In history, they will commonly get an introduction to history or a session on 'what is history?' What have they been doing in environmental studies if they have to start off with what is history?"

He commented: "Despite all the rhetoric about avoiding the 'fresh start', that seems to be the only way secondary schools feel they can cope with the range of abilities facing them."

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