Standards in English primary schools have risen over five years, but some 3 per cent of teachers - about 6,000 - remain weak, according to Chief Inspector Chris Woodhead's annual report, published this month. The figures support his claim made five years ago that there were 15,000 bad teachers in the school system. His report also says one in eight primaries has weak leadership.
But much of the news was good. "Teaching is now deemed to be good in over half of the lessons observed in each key stage," said Mr Woodhead. "More headteachers are monitoring the quality of teaching in their schools. More pupils are as a consequence achieving their potential."
Only 8 per cent of primary lessons were unsatisfactory, compared with between 25 and 30 per cent five years ago. Literacy and numeracy standards are going up but the greatest improvements are being made in the core subjects of English, maths and science. Achievement in writing remains weaker than in reading, with boys' work much more variable than girls'. "Many boys enter secondary schools with seriously weak writing skills," says the report.
Information technology remains the worst-taught subject. More than a quarter of primary schools have inadequate resources. The Government's investment in hardware has yet to bear fruit because teachers lack training. However, the Government hopes its pound;230 million lottery-funded programme for IT training, announced last year, will address this problem.
The report says that despite overall improvement, the smallest gains are still being made by pupils in Year 3, where standards have been problematic for at least two decades. The greatest gains are made by children in Y6, Reception and nursery.
It says teachers' expectations of pupils are still too low, but they are high in four out of 10 schools. Setting is increasingly used to try to pitch work to the right level of demand - but teachers did not always adapt lessons to target these narrower ability bands. About six in 10 junior schools set for English or maths.
In Scotland, senior chief inspector Douglas Osler's school standards report points to poor leadership in one in five primary schools. Leadership was "unsatisfactory" in 100 schools. Overall teaching quality was good or better in 70 per cent of schools, but weaknesses were found in writing, science, technology and information technology.