One in five in-service masters' courses designed to improve teachers' performance is a waste of time, the Office for Standards in Education said this week.
Inspectors said many postgraduate courses, which teachers take in the evenings or at weekends to boost their expertise in management or subject knowledge, were failing to improve professionals' knowledge or raise pupil performance.
The worst programmes failed to identify the participants' needs. Some struggled to accommodate different groups in the same class, such as qualified teachers alongside nursery nurses and classroom assistants. And some of the work was too academic, the inspectorate said. However, 80 per cent of the 204 courses inspected did a good job.
The modular courses lead ultimately to a masters' degree. They are run by universities, colleges and some local authorities, and are funded by the Teacher Training Agency.
But OFSTEDsays initial teacher training providers have responded well to the Government's decree that all new primary teachers should have a subject specialism. Having inspected 75 primary specialist subject courses from 1998-2000, inspectors said trainees on three-quarters of the courses had good subject knowledge.
Training in universities and colleges was good, but that for teachers on placement in individual schools was less so. Trainees often ended up in schools with no expertise in their specialism, said inspectors.
Another OFSTED report has said that many hard-pressed newly qualified teachers are spending their allocated non-contact time on marking and preparation rather than personal development, as intended. But the report also said that most induction work by NQTs was effective.