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Tomlinson to kick off with good news

The new chief inspector's first annual report will give the highest recorded rating to secondary teaching. Warwick Mansell reports.

ENGLAND's new chief inspector is to highlight improvements in the standards of teaching in secondary schools in his first annual report next month.

Six out of 10 lessons at key stages 3 and 4 were judged to be at least good last year, while only one in 20 was deemed unsatisfactory, the best figures on record, Mike Tomlinson will say.

But he will also deliver a warning about the current recruitment crisis, and emphasise that new government investment in school buildings may be urgently needed.

A draft summary of the report, which has been seen by The TES, says that a quarter of 11 to 16 schools have "inadequate" accommodation. The books and equipment used by nearly one in four secondaries will also be deemed "inadequate".

But the harshest words for the Government concern teacher supply. Despite ministers' protestations that schools' recruitment difficulties have been exaggerated, the draft report appears to echo heads' fears that staff shortfalls threaten standards.

It says: "The recruitment and retention of suitably-qualified teachers is an increasing problem for schools, particularly in urban areas."

There will also be a warning about school leadership. Although management in most secondaries was described as strong, it was weak in one in eight schools.

Last year, when Mr Tomlinson's predecessor Chris Woodhead said improvements in primaries were not being matched in secondaries, 57 per cent of secondary lessons were good or better.

This year's report will show almost nine in 10 secondaries visited had improved since their previous inspection, while 90 per cent of such schools were providing at least satisfactory value for money.

But Jhn Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said the good teaching results underlined the Government's need to tread carefully in extending the strategies, which currently threatened to be "overly directive".

A key plank of Labour's election strategy will be a promise to extend its standards drive from primary to secondary schools.

Secondaries are to get their own version of the literacy and numeracy strategies from September. The report appears to support this drive, emphasising that pupil progress is still too slow between ages 12 and 14.

It will also highlight wide funding disparities between schools in different areas, 12 months after Mr Woodhead said the variations were not "educationally defensible".

The report, which is still subject to revision by Mr Tomlinson, is based on inspection visits to more than 4,000 schools in the academic year 1999-2000.


* Teaching very good in a quarter of lessons.

* Monitoring and evaluating pupils weak in one in six schools.

* Teaching weaker in modern foreign languages.

* Homework unsatisfactory in one in eight schools.

* Substantial underachievement in one in 10 schools, which tend to have weak leadership and a significant proportion of unsatisfactory teaching.

* Test and exam results have improved, but key stage 3 test results still too low.

* Wide variation in achievements of schools serving disadvantaged areas, though some examples of outstanding success.

* Certain ethnic groups still markedly less likely to gain high GCSE grades, though all groups have improved.

* Gap between girls' and boys' results shows no signs of narrowing.

* One in six schools have very good anti-bullying strategies. Only one in 50 have weaknesses in their strategy.

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