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
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
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
- 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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