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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 18:10 GMT
Teachers 'must do better still'
Chief inspector in a classroom
David Bell says pupils have made "striking progress"
England's schools are much improved but still failing too many youngsters, especially the less academic, says the chief inspector.

Is satisfactory good enough, given the demands of pupils and the rising expectations from wider society?

Ofsted chief, David Bell

In his annual report for 2001-02, Ofsted chief David Bell said a quarter of the lessons seen by inspectors were only "satisfactory" - which might no longer be good enough.

Teacher shortages and truancy and bad behaviour by pupils still plagued many of the tougher schools.

And Mr Bell said that of the 105 colleges inspected since Ofsted became responsible for checking their standards in April 2001, nearly one in five were judged to be inadequate.

'Better and better'

His report - his first since taking over the post of chief inspector last May - said more pupils than ever were benefiting from improvements in school standards.

Improvements in teaching and in the quality of leadership have been responsible for striking progress on the part of pupils

Annual report

As usual the report highlights hundreds of institutions which have done particularly well.

"Over the last 10 years schools are getting better and better for more and more pupils," Mr Bell said.

Improvements in teaching and leadership had meant "striking progress" on the part of many pupils.

Better teaching

"It is not unusual for inspectors to report no unsatisfactory teaching during the week of a school inspection," he said.

"Approximately 70% of teaching is now good or better, and only 4% unsatisfactory. The remainder, around 26%, is satisfactory."

But he added: "Is satisfactory good enough, given the demands of pupils and the rising expectations from wider society?"

Tougher inspections

"In many cases teachers themselves have improved their performance from satisfactory to good," he told BBC News Online users in an interactive forum.

"And I guess the big challenge is to see whether we can move more and more of the satisfactory teaching to be good - and that's a big challenge but teachers have been rising to the challenge of improvement over the past 10 years."

Earlier he told a news conference that new guidance to inspectors from this September would mean "sharper judgements" about teaching.

His report said the failure to address the needs of lower achievers was a "considerable obstacle" to the government's achieving its aim of a world-class education system.

He had particular concerns about boys' abilities to read and write, with a quarter of pupils - many of them boys - not reaching the expected standards.

Recruitment difficulties

Staff shortages and pupil misbehaviour continued to bedevil some schools, especially the 700 in the most "challenging circumstances".

Cases of an "unsatisfactory or poor" match of the skills of teachers and support staff to the curriculum in secondary schools rose by almost a third, from 18% in 2000-01 to 23%.

This often meant a reliance on temporary and unqualified teachers, including some from abroad with limited knowledge of the national curriculum.

There were "seriously low and worsening rates of attendance" - particularly among 15 and 16 year olds.

These schools often had high mobility rates, perhaps with large numbers of refugee and asylum-seeker children, who could "disrupt the continuity of teaching and learning".

Behaviour was less than good in one in 12 secondary schools - and one way of tackling that was better teaching.

'No easy solution'

But almost all schools had pupils with no social skills, whose language was "offensive" and who had "little or no understanding of how to behave sensibly".

Mr Bell said that in those circumstances, raising pupils' attainment could seem "an almost intractable problem".

"There are no quick fixes but some schools show that it can be done and their work offers genuine hope to others."

The Department for Education said: "Ofsted's valuable role reminds us that there is no room for complacency and that we must continue to focus on our priority areas - raising standards, tackling bad behaviour and remodelling the workforce."

Tory spokesman Damian Green said the report "paints a darker picture than previous reports of life in our schools".

The National Association of Head Teachers said the responsibility often lay with poor parenting.

"Unless the parents that can't or won't care, change their attitudes, it will be incredibly difficult for schools to crack these problems."

The NASUWT teachers' union said the report was "a clear refutation of those who persist in denigrating the efforts of teachers".


Ofsted said that overall, standards in further education and sixth form colleges were satisfactory, but there was "too much variation".

Nearly one in five of the FE colleges inspected had been inadequate.

Part of the problem, Mr Bell said, was the need for "greater strategic direction and planning" for local provision of 16-19 education.

And there was an "often stark contrast" between the "relative wealth" of choice for well-qualified A-level students and the "paucity of opportunity" at lower levels or in work-related areas.

The Association of Colleges said it had concerns about the way the inspection process could mean a college being labelled "failing" even though most of it was satisfactory or better.

James Westhead reports
"The patient is improving but some of his vital organs need intensive care"

Talking PointFORUM
School classroomSchools' report
The Ofsted chief inspector took questions

Ofsted report - is satisfactory good enough?Ofsted report
Tell us what you think about our schools
See also:

05 Feb 03 | England
31 Jan 03 | Education
07 Jul 02 | Education
11 Nov 02 | Education
03 May 02 | Mike Baker
07 Jan 02 | Education
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