Headlines: July 4th, 2002

The Department of Education’s ambition to make tangible improvements at secondary schools is being hindered by teachers and schools failing to talk to each other.In many of its school inspections, the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED), has found children’s progress stagnating in the first two years of secondary school because of a lack of effective collaboration between their old and their new school.

The Department of Education is proud of the tangible results it has achieved in English and Maths at primary level as a result of introducing what’s called the key stages 1 and 2. Now DfES is concentrating on the period of learning between 11 and 14 years, with a new Key Stage 3 strategy.

OFSTED’s report, ‘Changing Schools’ sets out to provide a baseline assessment of life before Key Stage 3, and also to examine how schools are working on its introduction.

The study says that while most schools recognise the need to improve continuity and progression for pupils transferring from primary to secondary school, few are giving enough priority to this difficult and time-consuming task.

Inspectors found partner primary and secondary schools knew little of their respective practices in assessing and recording pupils’ progress and in setting targets. There was not enough discussion between teachers about the standards of work expected of pupils and about approaches to teaching.

Inspectors found primary schools to be getting better at monitoring of pupils’ progress towards literacy and numeracy targets, but little detailed information was reaching secondary school English and mathematics departments. As a result, time was wasted at the beginning of the first year in secondary school by further testing of pupils.

But inspectors found some signs of hope for this longstanding weakness in the education system:

– many secondary schools beginning to run effective induction programmes helping to make the move to secondary school less intimidating for pupils

– use of a new national common transfer form making the communication of basic assessment data more consistent

– new funding is available to support transfer, with up to ten thousand pounds available to every secondary school.

The Government says it’s already responding to the weaknesses identified in the report and this summer will introduce electronic data transfer between schools, offer new ‘transition units’ to bridge the gap between teaching in primary and secondary schools, and provide materials and training for teachers.

Changing Schools: the effectiveness of transfer arrangements at age 11, is available on the web at www.ofsted.gov.uk/publications . A summary is being sent to each state school and LEA in England and is available free of charge from freepublications@ofsted.gov.uk