HMI Education 8-12 (1985)

Education 8-12 (text)

Education 8 to 12 in Combined and Middle Schools
A survey by HM Inspectors of Schools (1985)

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1985
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

Background notes

Historical context

The 1967 Plowden Report Children and their Primary Schools recommended (in chapter 30, page 426, para. 1164) that surveys of the quality of primary schools should be conducted at least once every ten years.

In response, between 1978 and 1985 HMI produced five surveys covering the whole school age range:

1978 Primary education in England
1979 Aspects of secondary education in England
1982 Education 5 to 9
1983 9-13 Middle Schools
1985 Education 8 to 12 in Combined and Middle Schools

This report was based on a survey of sixteen 5 to 12 combined schools and thirty-three 8 to 12 middle schools chosen to illustrate the diversity of circumstances in which such schools operate.

Summary of the survey's conclusions

  • heads, teachers and governors should compile curriculum policy statements which should take into account the policies in local first and upper schools to ensure coherence in the curriculum for children from 5 to 16;
  • schools should have schemes of work giving guidance about the likely levels and range of achievement to be expected and how progress will be assessed;
  • craft, design and technology and home studies were not taught in some of the schools - this needs rectifying;
  • schools should help children to develop a wide range of skills and capabilities which are common to a variety of areas of learning;
  • in whole class discussion, children need to be given more opportunities to pose questions, to offer explanations, to predict and to speculate;
  • the local environment is a teaching resource which could be used more effectively;
  • there was a tendency to give insufficient challenge to the more able and to misjudge the demands made on less able children;
  • schools could usefully review the amount of time allocated for science and music;
  • the way the curriculum is organised (subjects or topics) is not crucial in affecting standards of achievement - planning and evaluation are more important;
  • the range of criteria used in assessment needs to be widened to relate more closely to the aims and objectives of particular areas of the curriculum;
  • there should be more diagnostic assessment which leads to the adaptation of programmes of work;
  • staff and governors should regularly reappraise the curriculum in the light of the aims and principles set out in their policy statement;
  • more could be done to secure agreement among local groups of middle schools and with first and upper schools about what is to be taught;
  • schools should consider the use of subject specialists for their older pupils;
  • combined and 8 to 12 middle school teachers need more non-contact time to enable them to carry out their curricular and organisational responsibilities;
  • small schools need to be staffed more generously if they are to provide a broad curriculum;
  • there is a need for more in-service training for teachers, especially in religious education, geography, home studies and craft, design and technology.

The survey online

The full text of the survey, including the appendices, is presented in a single web page. Anything added by way of explanation is shown [in square brackets].

The above notes were prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 4 June 2006; they were revised on 5 November 2012.