Head teachers and pupils have complained to Scotland’s education watchdog that some new teachers cannot read, write or count properly, leaked documents have revealed.
The HM Inspectorate of Education (HMIe) reported that they were told a “small but significant” number of staff lack the necessary skills to teach the ‘three Rs’ in the classroom.
Among the deficiencies highlighted to the watchdog by head teachers were basic spoken grammar, fractions, long division and mental calculation.
Although some newly-qualified teachers (NQTs) were confident about teaching the 3Rs, the report found that in many instances this self-belief was “superficial”.
Details of the documents were published the day after it emerged just two teachers have been struck off for incompetence over the past two years.
Spending on education has doubled since devolution began a decade ago, but standards have stagnated and Scotland has slipped down international league tables.
Official figures published in February showed more than six out of 10 secondary school pupils cannot read and write properly, with no improvement since 2005.
The leaked HMIe report states: “A number of head teachers, students and NQTs expressed concern about NQTs’ preparedness to teach the basics of reading.
“They highlighted deficiencies in the understanding of phonics and how to develop progressively the reading skills of young children.”
Head teachers reported “a small but significant number of students they would consider to be ‘weak’” and argued these teachers should have been weeded out by universities at an earlier stage.
They were also “strong in their criticisms of the literacy skills of a few NQTs, highlighting deficiencies in basic spoken grammar”.
Many new teachers expressed more confidence in developing their literacy skills rather than numeracy, with a few reporting a lack of confidence in fractions, long division and mental calculation.
The report said that although some NQTs expressed confidence about their ability to teach the ‘three Rs’, “this was sometimes found to be at a superficial level”.
New teachers said they wanted “more consistency” from tutors to help them develop their understanding of literacy and numeracy.
However, the watchdog’s overall assessment of Scotland’s new teachers was “positive”.
They won praise for the “energy and new ideas” they bring to the classroom and for participating in extra-curricular activities, such as after-school clubs.
New teachers were also seen as “experts” on the controversial Curriculum for Excellence, the SNP;’s controversial new teaching method being rolled out in the new school term.
HMIe submitted its findings to the formal Review of Teacher Education in Scotland being undertaken by Graham Donaldson, former HM Senior Chief Inspector of Education.
The review has been commissioned by SNP ministers and is expected to report back at the end of the year.
But the Tories said the findings supported their case for a radical overhaul of Scotland’s education system, with schools being run by local trusts or private companies.
Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative education spokesman, said: “If our children are to reach the basic standards in reading, writing and arithmetic, then it is essential that all teachers have the ability to help them get there.
“There is a deeply worrying decline in the standard of many pupils’ literacy attainment levels in the later years of primary school and early years of secondary school, and it this which continues to cause concern.”
Margaret Smith, her Liberal Democrat counterpart, branded the report “very worrying” and highlighted recent figures showing a million Scots have literacy and numeracy problems.
A Scottish Executive spokesman said: “The review is under way and ministers will consider all submissions in due course.”
By Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor
Published: 11:56AM BST 04 Aug 2010
Source: The Telegraph