Reading report too strong on the weak

24th May 1996 at 01:00
The publication of the Office for Standards in Education report, The Teaching of Reading in 45 Inner London Schools, is yet another illustration of the alarming extent to which teachers are now being held responsible for the shortcomings of their own training and the inadequacy of school funding. The teachers who provided the evidence presented in the report were quite open about the fact that they were ill-prepared for some aspects of their work.

In particular, they expressed very clearly their dissatisfaction with the way that both their initial teaching training and such provision as has been available to them has prepared them to teach reading.

They also made clear their concerns about funding, which even the report concedes were so inadequate in a quarter of the schools providing evidence that the delivery of the national curriculum could not be guaranteed.

The report has much to say about the alleged weaknesses of teachers and teaching methods. It is more reticent, however, about the difficulties teachers face when their classes contain significantly high proportions of pupils with special needs, who speak English as a second language or who come from seriously deprived backgrounds.

It really is a bit rich to find teachers blamed for things of which they themselves complain and over which they have no control. Not for the first time, we are driven to conclude that OFSTED is more interested in finding scapegoats than real solutions to the problem of underachievement.

The Professional Association of Teachers is genuinely committed to the improvement of educational standards.

We should like to see an equally genuine commitment from the Government.

Such commitment is certainly not demonstrated by the setting up of a mere 13 literacy centres in the whole of England and Wales. Real commitment would make the teaching of reading - including a variety of approaches and teaching methodologies - an absolutely central part of both initial teacher training and in-service training courses.

Further, literacy centres would be available to every school in every authority in the land, not just in areas which have made successful bids.

A system which has bidders has not only winners but losers. The losers at present are children and their teachers.

OFSTED would do better if it spent less time blaming teachers and more time fighting for better teacher training, effective continuing professional development and resources to enable them to do the job.

JOHN R ANDREWS General secretary Professional Association of Teachers 2 St James' Court Friar Gate Derby

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