Recent Ofsted reports on primary and secondary national strategies show that schools still have some way to go in developing inclusion.
Ofsted’s report on the primary national strategy (PNS) finds that teachers are not sufficiently knowledgeable of the range of interventions available to them and which would be the most appropriate for different groups of pupils. There is also some confusion about the relationship between the strategy and the ‘inclusion agenda’.
Whilst inclusion is a key priority for most local authorities, its management varies across schools. Overall, schools do not yet manage the three waves of intervention well within the PNS. The impact of intervention programmes is too variable in overcoming underachievement or sustaining long-term gains with those pupils most at risk of underachieving.
Standards in English and mathematics have risen in the national tests for 11-year-olds for the second year running. However, the gap that exists in the attainment of boys and girls in writing remains: almost a half of all boys are not reaching Level 4 in writing by the time they leave primary school.
Some schools find it difficult to manage the different strands of the PNS within their school improvement plans and often see these as additions rather than central to their own strategic planning. Consequently, their efforts are spread too thinly across too many initiatives, impeding progress. Some of the schools facing the most challenging of circumstances too easily apportion blame for low achievement to external factors, including the pupils themselves, rather than considering weaknesses in their own teaching and support.
Whole-school themes The report on the secondary national strategy also looks at whole-school themes such as inclusion, transition and intervention and finds that although staff training has heightened the awareness of inclusion in a very large majority of schools, teachers often find it difficult to put policy into practice to meet individual pupils’ needs. In terms of transition and intervention, Ofsted says that there has been a gradual improvement in the quality and quantity of information passed between schools when pupils transfer from Year 6 to Year 7 but schools are not doing enough to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of pupils who start Year 7 with English and mathematics results that are below average. Nearly a quarter of schools lack adequate transfer data to inform planning, even in the core subjects.
Ofsted says that although results for English, maths and science continue to improve at Key Stage 3, schools are not doing enough to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of pupils whose results at Year 7 are below average.
The report finds that it is increasingly difficult for schools to keep abreast of all the strategy’s developments, especially in areas where staff turnover is high. It looks at curriculum subjects and finds, for example, that the teaching of ICT is better in science, modern foreign languages and design and technology than it is in English, mathematics and other foundation subjects.
Primary National Strategy: an evaluation of its impact in primary schools 2004/05 and The Secondary National Strategy: an evaluation of the fifth year are available online at: www.ofsted.gov.uk.