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Young guns are going for it

New teachers are better than ever, says John Howson, but there are some worrying lapses in shortage subjects

Newly-qualified teachers appear to be getting better with each passing year - and this positive trend is set to continue.

Inspectors have reported that almost half of the new teachers' lessons they observed during the 19992000 school year were either "good" or "very good".

But they were even more impressed by the student teachers they saw. However, the apparently widening gap in the performance of new staff in primary and secondary schools is worrying.

New secondary teachers were twice as likely as new primary teachers to give "unsatisfactory" or "poor" lessons.

Furthermore, the highest percentages of sub-standard lessons taught in the secondary sector were in subjects with some o the worst recruitment problems. Nearly one in five modern languages lessons was classed as "unsatisfactory" or "poor", compared with just 1 in 20 for history - a subject with no significant recruitment problems.

Student primary teachers also made a better impression than their secondary counterparts. Only 4 per cent of primary students were seen teaching "poor" lessons, compared with 9 per cent of secondary specialists.

Why should there be such a difference? Is it down to a combination of poor lesson delivery, worse behaviour in secondaries and lower expectations at key stage 3, or could the secondary curriculum itself be responsible? Declining resources and higher secondary class sizes may also be to blame.

John Howson is managing director of Education Data Surveys.

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