HMI Primary Survey (1978)

Primary Survey (complete)


Primary education in England
A survey by HM Inspectors of Schools (1978)

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1978
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.


Notes on the text

Background

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

The primary survey is an account of some aspects of the work of 7, 9 and 11 year old children in 1,127 classes in 542 schools chosen to be representative of primary schools in England. It gives information about the organisation of schools, the range of work done by the children, and the extent to which the work is matched to their abilities. It also includes an analysis of the scores obtained by children in objective tests administered by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

The survey online

The full text of the survey is contained in a single web page, except for Annex A (the Survey documents, pages 174-205) which is in a separate pdf file.

The formatting of the text (bold, italics, centred etc) is a reasonably accurate representation of the printed version, but the pages presented here are not exact facsimiles of the original: the font (Times, Arial etc) and size of print - and therefore the number of words to a line and lines to a page - are determined by the settings you have chosen for your web browser. However, the page breaks are correct. In other words, if something is shown here as being on, say, page 103, you can be sure it appeared on page 103 in the original.

The page headers (chapter titles on both left and right hand pages) have been omitted.

The tables (some of which are presented as images) are embedded in the text where they were in the printed version.

Anything I've added by way of explanation is shown [in square brackets].

Summary of the survey's conclusions

  • failure to provide work of a suitable level of difficulty results in inattentiveness and low scores in objective tests;
  • with falling rolls, some separate infant and junior schools may need to be combined;
  • those who find learning to read difficult are more likely to be given work suitably matched to their abilities than children who are more able readers;
  • the results of surveys conducted since 1955 are consistent with gradually improving reading standards of 11 year olds;
  • in mathematics, individual assignments should not be allowed to replace all group or class work;
  • the teaching of skills in isolation, whether in language or in mathematics, does not produce the best results;
  • there is no evidence in the survey to suggest that a narrower curriculum enabled children to do better in the basic skills;
  • the more able children within a class were the least likely to be doing work that was sufficiently challenging;
  • children in inner city schools are more likely than others to be underestimated by their teachers and least likely to be given work which extends their capabilities;
  • teachers holding posts of responsibility require time to perform their duties, some of which must be carried out while the school is in session;
  • differences in class sizes in classes of between about 25 and about 35 children made no difference to the children's scores on the NFER objective tests;
  • small schools may need to work together to provide the necessary specialist knowledge in all parts of the curriculum;
  • all primary school teachers should be trained to teach children to read, write and do mathematics;
  • they should be knowledgeable in what they teach;
  • they should be able to assess the performance of their pupils in terms of what they next need to be taught;
  • initial and in-service training should help teachers to assess children's capabilities and to establish a sufficiently high, but reasonable, expectation of what the children are capable of achieving;
  • teachers need to become familiar with a range of teaching techniques, to understand the advantages and disadvantages that each has, and to choose what is best for their immediate purpose;
  • it is important to make full use of teachers' strengths and to build on the existing knowledge of individual teachers without losing the advantages that are associated with the class teacher system.

The 1978 HMI Primary Survey and the above notes were prepared for the web by Derek Gillard. The survey was uploaded on 4 June 2006; the revised notes on 6 November 2012.

Primary Survey (complete)