Letter: Teachers in inner-city schools deserve congratulations

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Sir: You report (8 May) on the Ofsted report on reading in primary schools in three London boroughs and the comments by Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education, indicating a failure in teaching methods. It would seem that primary teachers are rather to be congratulated on their success in raising the level of pupils, where the report already acknowledges that many schools have "higher than average" numbers of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and many are from families where English is not the first language.

On the figures indicated, only four out of ten 11-year-olds have reading ages below their chronological age, where statistically one would expect this to be very close to 50 per cent nationwide. This presumably is a substantial achievement by the children, parents and certainly the primary teachers of Islington, Southwark and Tower Hamlets.

While perhaps the improvement from the figures indicating 80 per cent as being below the national average at seven years of age should be attributed to those teaching at junior level, nevertheless it does seem highly unlikely that these three boroughs should provide so much better quality of teaching at Key Stage Two rather than at Key Stage One. On the contrary, it would appear that infant teachers are laying the groundwork for the later success of these pupils and more support for bilingual children would hasten this still further.

Dr Tony Dodd

Scarborough, North Yorkshire