Poor report for national curriculum

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The Independent Online
THE NATIONAL curriculum has not led to any discernible general rise in school standards in England, according to HM Inspectors.

The inspectorate, which has been abolished, said in one of its final reports, published yesterday, that the time taken up by assessment, recording and reporting remains a concern for teachers and questioned whether the present complexity is manageable by all schools even after the tests have been simplified.

Confusion over the inclusion of technology, which meant a drastic rewriting of how the subject should be taught, is reflected in the report. It expresses 'considerable concern' over the quality of technology for 11- and 12-year-olds and unsatisfactory work in mathematics in primary and secondary schools. Religious education in primaries was also heavily criticised as lacking in rigour and explicit religious content.

However, continuing improvements in primary school science were noted by inspectors, who found much good practice in all subjects reviewed.

Primary schools were still not paying enough attention to history and geography, says the report, which covers 1990-91, the second year of the national curriculum.

Schools, particularly secondaries, need to use the information gained from assessment to plan lessons better and stop setting the same task to whole classes. 'The highest standards were achieved where teachers used a balance of whole-class teaching, work in small groups or pairs and individual tasks.'

The report criticises over-reliance on tests in secondary schools and says the first national tests for seven-year-olds were time-consuming and disruptive to pupils' learning. The tests have been slimmed down, but HM Inspectors concluded: 'The question remains whether the complexity of national curriculum assessment, recording and reporting as currently conceived is in fact manageable by all schools.'

Despite recent controversy over reading standards, the inspectors judged standards very high in the first year of primary school, although enthusiasm among less able pupils declined after that.

The report warns that teachers, under pressure to come to terms with new aspects of science and technology, were relying unduly on commercial maths schemes that they wrongly believed would automatically deliver the national curriculum.

It would be unreasonable to expect a marked general rise in standards in the first two years of the national curriculum, the report said. However there had been significant gains in science and some aspects of English and maths.

The Implementation of the Curricular Requirements of ERA: an overview by HM Inspectorate on the Second Year 1990-91. HMSO pounds 4.75.

More than 42,000 people requested tables of school examination results published by the Government last month, John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, said yesterday. More than 1 million booklets have been distributed to schools and local authorities.