Attack on traditional teaching kept secret

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The Independent Online
OFFICIALS have decided not to publish a report on French schools which casts doubt on the Government's belief in traditional teaching methods.

The report from Her Majesty's Inspectors, completed nine months ago, will embarrass the Government. Yesterday, the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), which publishes inspection reports, denied that its decision was prompted by political pressures. Ministers have compared French education favourably with the English system because of its formal methods.

Inspectors are angry that the 42- page report, which also questions the Government's determination to train teachers mainly in schools rather than in universities, has not been published. Four inspectors spent two weeks in France visiting primary schools and teacher-training institutions in November 1992 and concluded the French habit of teaching the whole class for most of the lesson works only for average children.

The report says French methods fail to challenge able pupils or to allow others to show their potential. 'A still dominant feature is the class lesson directed at children of average ability. . . They were successful in their limited aims but failed to challenge the most able pupils.'

The inspectors' visit took place after Kenneth Clarke, the former Secretary of State for Education, criticised English primary schools for being too progressive and after the Government announced plans for more school-based teacher training.

While John Major's government wants teachers to do more whole- class teaching, French ministers want them to pay more attention to individuals. So far, says the report, French teachers have proved reluctant to change.

On tests, the French are moving in the opposite direction from the British government: from next year there will be no national tests and tests will be administered only to a sample of schools. There are no performance league tables.

Again, while British ministers want teacher training to be more practical, the French are trying to ensure that their teachers know more theory.

Ofsted said: 'The decision not to publish this report was a purely internal matter. There was no pressure from any outside organisation. There was a fairly big backlog of reports and we decided to weed out some of them.'