Page last updated at 22:14 GMT, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Survey raises concerns over quality of teaching

By Kenneth Macdonald
Special Correspondent, BBC Scotland

Generic image of a primary class
A major review of teacher education will begin next month

Figures obtained from a Scottish government survey have prompted questions about the quality of teaching in the country's primary schools.

Newsnight Scotland has highlighted hitherto unreported figures in the government's own Survey of Achievement which show primary teachers consistently overestimate how well their pupils are doing.

In recent years, teachers thought their children would be three times better at science than subsequent tests revealed. In maths, P7 teachers were twice as optimistic as reality.

And in reading, teachers thought their P7 pupils would do one and a half times better than the eventual test results.

The Scottish Survey of Achievement also shows primary teachers have little confidence in their ability to teach science - even though it is a key part of the government's new Curriculum for Excellence.

When surveyed, 28% of teachers said they were very confident at teaching biology to P7 pupils. That fell to 11% for chemistry - and just 10% for physics.

Michael Russell
The education secretary said the review would drive up standards

The Scottish government is setting up a major review of teacher education, which will start work next month.

It will have access to a series of findings which cast further doubt on the quality of Scottish primary education - and the teachers who deliver it.

Researchers at Dundee University who looked at their own institution's primary teaching degree students found two-thirds of them failed to master the P7 maths they were expected to teach - even though they were allowed an unlimited number of attempts to reach the mark.

International surveys also suggest Scotland's performance in primary and secondary schooling is slipping - and that attainment in maths, science and reading is declining.

Reading among 10-year-olds has not improved since the turn of the century.

In P5, maths attainment has not improved since 1995 - and in science it has actually got worse.

In vain

Education Secretary Mike Russell told Newsnight Scotland: "The review of teacher education that we've got will drive up the equality of teacher training - even though I think it's high in many places.

"I don't demean or diminish the quality of our teachers, I think it's normally very good.

"We will also have smaller class sizes in the key primaries which makes it work."

Opponents will try in vain to lay the blame for this at the SNP's door. The figures date from before they took office.

And it could represent an opportunity for the government - because it has the potential to shift the debate away from class sizes to something that really determines the quality of a Scottish education: the quality of the teachers themselves.

See Kenneth Macdonald's report on Newsnight Scotland, on BBC Two at 2300 GMT on Wednesday 27 January, or on the BBC iPlayer.

Print Sponsor

Poor report for school buildings
29 Sep 09 |  Scotland
Drop in teachers 'unacceptable'
27 Nov 09 |  Scotland
Every child to get finance course
05 Oct 09 |  Scotland

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2020 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific