New pupils at secondaries 'let down by teachers'

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The Independent Online

Up to 200,000 pupils every year are being let down by poor teaching in their early years of secondary school, the education watchdog Ofsted warned yesterday.

Up to 200,000 pupils every year are being let down by poor teaching in their early years of secondary school, the education watchdog Ofsted warned yesterday.

Too many children are allowed to "coast" or regress during their first three years at secondary school because of a "long-standing weakness" in the English school system, inspectors concluded in a report on the transition between primary and secondary school.

According to the report, called Changing Schools, secondary schools allocate their strongest and best qualified staff to teach GCSE and A-level students leaving 11 to 14-year-olds in the hands of the weakest non-specialists.

In his first press conference since his appointment as chief inspector of schools, David Bell criticised secondary schools' approach as "a false economy" for children.

He said: "Every year, 570,000 children move from primary to secondary school. It is a huge cultural change for children. It is frightening, it is exciting, it is bewildering but it is also a hugely important moment in children's lives in terms of their education."

Teaching in the first three years of secondary school was not as good as in the final year of primary school, he added.

Ofsted inspections had found that 74 per cent of lessons in the final year of primary education were good or better, compared to about two-thirds in the first three years of secondary schooling. Keith Lloyd, head of Ofsted's primary division, said that the dip in teaching quality meant some pupils who were motivated and well behaved at the end of primary school began to misbehave in the first year at secondary school.

He said: "Bad behaviour was almost always because there wasn't enough challenge and that comes back to what the teachers know and can do."

Teachers and the Government's political opponents reacted angrily to the criticism of school staff, claiming the unreliability of national tests was responsible for the apparent drop in standards.

The Secondary Heads Association blamed staff shortages for the difficulty in recruiting specialist staff. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said "scapegoating" teachers was not the answer to the problem.

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