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Young at heart of a perfect staffroom

Head rubbishes claims that the quality of entrants is slipping. Warwick Mansell kicks off a new series with a visit to Milton Keynes.

A SCHOOL judged to have "perfect" teaching says much of its success is down to the quality of its young teachers.

Two Mile Ash middle school, in Milton Keynes, is celebrating after inspectors graded all 29 lessons they observed as good, very good or excellent. Half of the teachers at the foundation school - praised as "outstanding"- have joined the profession in the past five years.

Jim Hudson, headteacher, said the results were a tribute both to the attitudes of the latest generation of professionals, and to the quality of their training.

He said: "Claims that the quality of teachers entering the profession is not what it was could not be further from the truth, in my experience. Teachers' skill levels have undoubtedly improved over the past 10 years.

"They are also entering the profession with much higher expectations than previously. They know that a lot is going to be demanded of them in terms of rigorous monitoring of their performance, but this is something they are more than willing to embrace."

Mr Hudson has been a high-profile supporter of the literacy and numeracy strategies. In 1999 he caused controversy by setting up a union opposed to the National Association of Head Teachers' treatment of former chief inspector Chris Woodhead following the furore surrounding his alleged relationship with a former pupil.

But Mr Hudson attributes many of the improvements to the much-criticised natonal training standards, introduced three years ago, in an attempt to standardise teacher training.

Young teachers in his school have certainly had to respond to a challenge. Much of Two Mile Ash's success was attributed by inspectors to a monitoring system that sees all students sitting tests in reading, writing and maths twice a year.

The results are then analysed and those teachers deemed to be underperforming given advice on how they can improve. The system has been used as the basis for the assessment of teachers' threshold applications.

All teachers are also expected to take part in the school's vast after-school programme, which sees hundreds of pupils staying beyond 5pm for sport, art, music and homework clubs.

Mr Hudson was also full of praise for his older staff. But he said that about a quarter of the teachers who had been at the school when it was last inspected four years ago had left after the new monitoring system and other initiatives were introduced.

He said another factor in Two Mile Ash's success had been its willingness to say no to excessive bureaucracy. For example, the school had rejected home-school agreements because it already had an excellent partnership with parents. Inspectors had not objected.

Mr Hudson's enthusiasm for teacher training is perhaps predictable: Two Mile Ash has a responsibility to attract new trainees, as one of the Government's new training schools.

It is a member of a consortium of 47 "outstanding" primaries that offer school-based training to prospective teachers.

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