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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 December, 2003, 12:58 GMT
Children hit by 'weak' teaching
Primary school pupils
Ofsted called for better teacher training
"Weak" teaching is restricting efforts to improve primary school pupils' reading and writing performances, a report suggests.

In a third of lessons, the quality of tuition was "satisfactory" at best, with one in eight worse than that, the education watchdog Ofsted found.

However, it was "good" in just over half of English and maths classes.

National numeracy and literacy standards for England were introduced in 1998 and 1999 respectively.

Test scores

Chief schools inspector David Bell said the government was likely to continue to miss its primary school test result targets and demanded better teacher training.

Since the national literacy strategy was introduced, only eight out of 150 local education authorities have seen the proportion of 11 year olds reaching the required standard in English rise every year.

Only seven have managed this in numeracy.

However, a Department for Education and Skills spokesman said: "Six years ago, only around 65% of 11 year olds achieved the expected level for their age.

"This year 75% of pupils achieved the expected level in English, 10 percentage points more than in 1998 and 73% of pupils achieved the expected level in maths, a 14% rise from five years ago.

"This means that around 84,000 more 11 year olds are achieving the expected level in maths than in 1998 and around 60,000 more are doing so in English."

Ofsted found that in some schools teachers talked at their pupils too much, leaving them with too little time to speak themselves and collaborate with each other.

Too many head teachers and senior staff were failing to tackle poor teaching.

The government said the strategies had been its biggest success in education before the last election.

But 11 year olds' English scores have not improved since 2000.

At age seven a third of pupils were going into the next stage with reading skills poor enough to set them up for failure at age 11, Ofsted said.


The picture was worse in writing, where just under 40% transferred with attainment below that level, including nearly half of all boys.

With the 2002 targets missed, ministers now hope that those set for next year - that 85% of 11-year-olds will reach the required standard in English and maths - will be achieved by 2006.

Mr Bell said: "Clearly, one has to say it looks rather unlikely, given the trend of the past four years - that's just a statement of the obvious."

Mr Bell said some teachers had only a limited grasp of how to "develop" the subject.

He added: "You need to know what happens next. Where teachers don't know that kind of knowledge they tend to be limited and therefore tend to be rather insecure in encouraging pupils to do more."

He urged the government to direct energy and resources at schools and LEAs that were failing.

Schools minister Stephen Twigg said: "Everyone would like to see faster progress for those 11 year olds not currently reaching the expected standard, but I am confident that the measures in place to raise primary school standards further are the right approach."

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, said: "The comments of the chief inspector will do little to boost teacher morale or improve retention within the profession.

"Seven out of eight classes have been shown to be satisfactory or better and the vast majority of results have remained at the same level or improved.

"Where there are problems, it is quite clear that extra resources should be deployed to help schools and teachers."

The BBC's James Westhead
"The government is likely to miss its targets"

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