Your child's education is 'hit and miss', says Clarke

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Parents were warned yesterday that it was "almost hit and miss" whether their children had an excellent teacher at their school.

Parents were warned yesterday that it was "almost hit and miss" whether their children had an excellent teacher at their school.

Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, told a conference that the teaching quality in the education system was "quite unreliable if you are a pupil or a parent".

Speaking at the annual conference of the General Teaching Council - the body responsible for policing the profession, he stressed the need for teachers to update their skills.

He cited figures from Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, which showed that the perception of good or excellent teaching in schools had risen 16 per cent in the past six years. But he said the figures masked "quite strikingly different" levels of improvement in different subject areas.

While history had represented a 21 per cent increase, design and technology had improved by only 8 per cent and modern foreign languages by 9 per cent. "It is not quite hit and miss but it is almost hit and miss whether your local school or class teacher is working systematically to improve the experience for every child," Mr Clarke said. He added that he was "constantly struck by the zip and inspiration and enthusiasm in some schools but, in other schools, that's often less the case".

Mr Clarke made it clear he was pressing for more money for retraining and professional development - particularly as teachers were going to have to work more closely with other professionals after the reform of children's services.

He predicted that, within seven or eight years, almost all schools would have adopted extended hours, opening earlier in the morning and into the evening, and social workers would be based in schools to deal with children's problems.

He said this summer's comprehensive spending review by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, would lead to less central government targets and more scope for schools and local education authorities to set their own targets.

Mr Clarke comments were criticised by Chris Keates, the deputy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters. "Teachers will be bemused and dismayed by the seemingly negative comments from the Secretary of State," she said. "He claims the system is unreliable if you are a pupil or parent. It is equally unreliable for teachers who wrestle with inequitable access to high quality professional development and variable standards of resources and support."