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SECONDARY SCHOOL STANDARDS RISING BUT GAP BETWEEN BEST AND WORST INCREASES SAYS OFSTED

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A unique overview of secondary education in England, based on ...
A unique overview of secondary education in England, based on

the inspection of more than half a million lessons, is published

today by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED).

It shows that the quality of education in secondary schools in

England improved over the four-year period of inspections, which

started in September 1993, but there is a widening gap between

standards in the most and least successful schools.

Commenting on the review, Chris Woodhead, chief inspector of schools said: 'Today sees the publication of the most comprehensive analysis of secondary education ever published anywhere in the world. Based on the analysis of over 3,500 inspections and the observation of over half a million lessons, it covers every aspect of the curriculum, pupil achievement and the management of schools.

'The overall conclusion is that standards are certainly

improving. Teachers and headteachers deserve congratulation for all

they have done. The challenge now is to improve the performance of

the one in ten schools which has serious weaknesses and to narrow the

unjustifiable gap in standards attained by schools serving similar

communities.'

The report, Secondary Education: A review of Secondary Schools

in England 1993-97 provides a definitive overview of all aspects of

secondary education for the period.

It looks in depth at the standards achieved by pupils,

leadership and management, ethos, behaviour, pupil support, teaching

and the curriculum. Trends and issues in individual subjects,

including English, mathematics, information technology, physical

education and classics, are discussed as well as vocational courses,

GNVQs and personal and social education.

Among the main findings the review shows that:

- over the four year inspection cycle, the overall quality of

education has improved;

- two out of five secondary schools are consistently good but

one in ten has significant weaknesses. Just over one in fifty fails

to provide an acceptable quality of education;

- given comparable intakes, schools perform very differently.

There is a very wide gap, which has grown in recent years, in the

standards attained by the most and the least successful schools;

- more pupils are leaving school with better qualifications

than four years previously and GCSE and A-level success has

risen steadily;

- one in nine pupils approximately fails to get five GCSEs at

grade G or above and one in 14 leaves school without a formal

qualification after 11 years of statutory education;

- the underperformance of boys is a matter for serious

concern, as is the fact that pupils from some ethnic minority groups

often achieve below their potential;

- two in five pupils have inadequate skills in literacy and

numeracy, and IT skills are underdeveloped in half of all schools;

- leadership and management are good in three out of four

schools but in one in ten leadership is weak and provides little

clear direction or asufficient focus on standards;

- the quality of teaching has improved but an area of

weakness is the failure to provide appropriately for the range of

abilities, with many schools failing to provide a suitable

curriculum for low attaining pupils at Key Stage 4; and

- deficiencies, such as the lack of textbooks for homework

and inadequate equipment to support the teaching of practical

subjects, adversely affect the teaching of the National Curriculum

in some subjects in a significant number of schools.

Size

In 1996 there were 3,594 maintained secondary schools in England

with just over 3 million pupils and an average intake of 838 pupils.

One sixth have fewer than 500 pupils while almost a quarter have more

than 1,100, with only 15 schools having more than 1,800 on roll.

Expenditure

The review shows that schools have been subjected to a reduction

in funding in real terms over the last five years and have sought to

improve efficiency and provide better value for money. The

expenditure per secondary pupil has fallen in real terms since

1991/2, with the sharpest decline being in buildings repairs and

maintenance.

Expenditure on books and equipment has remained static in real

terms. While the cost of teachers has dropped slightly, the unit cost

of administrative and support staff has increased.

Staff

Pupil/teacher ratios (PTRs) have risen from 15.8 in 1992 to 16.8

in 1996 with significant variations within and between local

education authorities. The most favourable PTRs were in inner

London.

Since 1993 there has been a seven per cent fall in the number of

male teachers and a two per cent rise in the number of female

teachers. Although there are now more female than male teachers in

the secondary sector, more than three in every four headteachers are

male.

Over the last four years, a higher proportion of females have

been appointed as headteachers to schools serving disadvantaged areas

than to posts for headteachers nationally.

The review contains case studies of schools regarded as carrying

out good practice and is illustrated with over 80 charts.

NOTES

1. Secondary Education : A review of Secondary Schools in England

1993-1997 (ISBN 0-11-350099-8) priced£22.95 is available from The

Stationery Office (Telephone orders: 0171 873 9090)

2. The 1992 Education Act established the statutory basis for the

inspection of schools with the aim that all secondary schools should

be inspected by July 1997, a target which OFSTED has met.

3. The review gives case study examples of good practice. A list

of the schools featured is attached or is available from COI regional

offices. COI offices and the schools featured will be able to

provide the relevant text in the review.

4. OFSTED is a non-ministerial government department established

under the Education (Schools) Act 1992 to take responsibility for the

inspection of all schools in England. Its staff include Her

Majesty's Inspectors (HMI), who draw on inspection evidence to report

on good practice in schools and on a wide range of educational

issues.

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