Schools improving but still get black marks

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Standards in schools are creeping up but more than 1.5 million children are being taught badly and many lessons are boring, according to Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools.

Many inner city schools are failing children and standards of reading and writing are too low, says the chief inspector's annual report published yesterday.

More than a quarter of lessons in primary schools and nearly a fifth in secondary schools were rated unsatisfactory or poor by inspectors who visited 900 secondary and 122 primary schools.

For the first time, Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector, has chosen to name 52 good schools where the number of pupils getting top GCSE grades has risen by 10 percentage points or more."We must identify and publicise the successes of the service. We mustact upon the fact that significant numbers of children continue to experience poor-quality teaching," he said.

In primary schools the percentage of badly taught lessons was down by around 2 per cent and in secondary schools by around 3 per cent. The proportion of lessons in which pupils failed to reach appropriate standards of achievement also dropped by 8 per cent in secondary and slightly less in primary schools.

Children aged seven to 11 received the worst teaching. Teachers' assessment of pupils of this age was poor in three-fifths of schools.

Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education, said: "Although the figures have improved Her Majesty's Chief Inspector still reports poor standards in 20 per cent of lessons, particularly in inner city schools. I will not tolerate such a situation. No one should be on the receiving end of poor teaching."

Mr Woodhead, who last week said too many teachers were in the grip of progressive notions and should use more traditional methods, adopts a more moderate tone in his report. He says good teachers use different methods and that "a doctrinaire commitment to any one approach will necessarily render lessons less effective".

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