London crisis of confidence

8th July 2005 at 01:00
One in three teachers in capital would not recommend their own secondary. Jon Slater reports.

More than a third of secondary teachers in London would not recommend their own school to family and friends, according to a survey for the Department for Education and Skills.

The poll reveals a crisis of confidence among staff in the capital with little evidence they believe schools are improving, despite their own hard work, pressure from government and massive additional investment. Average spending per London pupil rose by 16 per cent in real terms between 19992000 and 20023.

The survey of 2,400 teachers and 26,700 pupils at 114 secondaries in the capital revealed that teachers believe standards are undermined by pupils'

behaviour and a "them and us" divide between management and staff.

Pupils complained lessons were uninteresting and often so noisy they found it difficult to work.

Against the 65 per cent of London teachers who would recommend their school for friends' children, 85 per cent who would do so nationally. One London teacher said: "Many staff are demoralised. Pupil behaviour has deteriorated. Teachers are blatantly ignored by pupils and yet teachers work harder and harder to help them succeed. Fewer parents thank teachers for helping their children. Teachers are treated with less respect than when I started teaching." Another complained: "I am shocked by the ineffectual nature of school management and the 'them and us' attitudes that pervades both teachers' and managers' relationships."

Three out of ten teachers said they did not believe they would be adequately supported if confronted by a difficult pupil.

Almost nine in ten teachers (85 per cent) said their school was working hard to improve but they admitted the results were mixed.

Less than half (42 per cent) said their school had improved in the past year, compared to 22 per cent who said it had got worse. Overall, one in five said schools in the capital had deteriorated in the past 12 months with a similar number believing they had improved.

Teachers' views come even though schools in London have improved GCSE results faster than elsewhere. Overall, just over half (51.7 per cent) of 15-year-olds in London gained five good GCSEs last year, up from 30.4 per cent in 1997. During the same period, national results increased from 45.1 to 53.7 per cent.

Despite the fact that more than a third of pupils would prefer not to attend lessons, three quarters of pupils believed they were getting a good education and two thirds thought they attended a good school. But pupils became increasingly disaffected as they progressed through their secondary years. Only 32 per cent of 14-year-olds said most of the work they did was interesting, against 49 per cent of 11-year-olds.

Pupils shared teachers' concerns about behaviour. Only a third believed teachers were generally respected by pupils.

Almost half (47 per cent) said lessons were often so noisy they found it difficult to work and only two out of five said most teachers dealt with bad behaviour well .

One Year 10 boy said: "Some of the teachers can't control the class and everyone shouts and talks." A third of pupils said bullying was a particular problem in their school, double the number of teachers who thought it was an issue.

* Andrew Adonis, the minister in charge of the government's academies programme, has intervened after the resignation of 10 staff from a London secondary that is being turned into two academies. North Westminster school, which occupies three sites, will be transformed into the Paddington and Westminster academies. Lord Adonis helped organise a recruitment drive through London Challenge, a government programme to raise school standards, after staff resigned months before the academies are to open in September.


London Challenge: Surveys of Pupils and Teachers 2004 by Helen Adams and Mike Johnson, Keele University is available from

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