Teaching ‘weak’ at 15% of secondary schools

Teaching at almost one-in-seven secondary schools is weak, inspectors have found in evaluations over the past three years.

Figures from almost 200 inspections since 2010 show that weaknesses outweigh strengths in teaching at between 11% and 15% of the schools visited, although it is unclear if the figure improved or not over the period.

The Department of Education said that only a tiny minority of these schools were identified as having significant weaknesses, a category in which teaching is ineffective or requires significant improvement.

The data emerged from preliminary analysis of second-level whole school evaluations (WSEs) presented by chief inspector Harold Hislop to the conference of the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS) last night.

A department spokes-person said: “Just 60 out of 4,000 schools would be considered so significantly weak that they have had to be referred to the department’s school improvement group [SIG] in the last three years.”

The SIG works with schools where significant weaknesses have been found in the quality of teaching and learning, leadership and management, meeting statutory requirements or in a combination of these areas. The figures released by Dr Hislop will be updated with a more detailed report in May.

They also show that between 9% and 13% of the 193 schools were found to have more weaknesses than strengths in their management.

Dr Hislop said the issues that are regularly raised by inspectors about teaching in their reports refer to overuse of exam material or teacher talk, student engagement and classroom management, the need for written feedback, and consistent practice on the setting and monitoring of homework.

Inspectors found strengths outweigh weaknesses in teaching and management at least 85% of schools, which reflects high satisfaction rates among students and their parents.

More than 90% of the 8,680 parents who completed inspectors’ questionnaires at 78 second-level schools last year said they are happy with their children’s schools and their children feel safe and looked after there.

However, questioned about how bullying is dealt with in their schools, two thirds of parents and 70% of the 12,900 surveyed students were satisfied. The inspectorate believes that further investigation is needed on the fact that nearly one-in-four parents and one-in-five students answered “don’t know” to the question about bullying.

The chief inspector also outlined varying views of his staff, with one teacher saying many of them despair at the lack of collegiality displayed by some inspectors.

“It is commonly felt that the lack of practical advice and praise is demoralising for an already demoralised profession who are doing their best to cope with pay cuts, larger classes, less resources, less SNA support and the inclusion of a wide range of [special education] and English-as-a-second-language pupils in mainstream classes,” the teacher said.


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