Hours rise fails to lift standards;Exclusive

17th December 1999 at 00:00
Leaked Woodhead study says results don't reflect the extra effort. Sarah Cassidy reports.

THERE is no clear link between increased teaching time and higher standards, chief inspector Chris Woodhead is expected to say in his new year annual report.

Many secondary pupils are spending more time at their desks but there has been no corresponding improvement in their results, according to a draft of Mr Woodhead's annual analysis of schools, seen by The TES.

Teaching time has increased dramatically in the past year - 60 per cent of secondaries were found to teach 25 hours a week compared with 40 per cent at previous inspections, the report will say.

The findings, based on thousands of school visits and inspections in 199899, counter Education Secretary David Blunkett's assertion earlier this year that more teaching time is needed to raise standards.

Unveiling proposals for a new national curriculum in May, Mr Blunkett said:

"The higher the number of taught hours, the richer a curriculum schools can offer. Such variation must have an impact on schools' ability to deliver the improvement in standards that is needed."

Mr Blunkett warned that some schools were spending less than the recommended time on teaching. The average English teaching week was 25 hours a week compared with 27 in Scotland. Guidance on taught time is due to be issued by the Department for Education and Employment in February.

Mr Woodhead's annual report is also expected to reflect ministers' concerns about the early years of secondary schooling.

His report will warn that although the quality of teaching was good in more than half of lessons in 199899, the quality at key stage 3 is still lower than at key stage 4.

Ministers have already focused their attention on transforming the early secondary years, often referred to as the "forgotten" key stage. Mr Blunkett is due to announce new measures to improve key stage 3 at the north of England conference next month.

Mr Woodhead's report will warn that too little attention is being given to foundation subjects in the early years of secondary school. Inspection evidence for 199899 suggests that time spent on music and the arts has been cut while some schools expect pupils to study two modern foreign languages. This results in insufficient time for either, the report is expected to say.

The curriculum for 14 to 16-year-olds was found to be sufficiently broad in most schools in 199899. However, pupils' GCSE choices have been unduly limited by some schools, inspectors found.

Few schools have made use of relaxation of national curriculum, some only for one or two pupils. The relaxation is leading to some experimentation, but not radical change in the curriculum, Mr Woodhead will say. Most schools have the used the opportunity to provide well-organised work experience.

The annual report is also expected to say that attendance is still below 90 per cent in one quarter of schools. Nine out of 10 of the schools reinspected in the past year had a higher proportion of good teaching compared with their previous inspection.

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