HMI 9-13 Middle Schools Survey (1983)

Middle Schools Survey (complete)

9-13 Middle Schools
An illustrative survey (1983)

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1983
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

Notes on the text


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 1983 survey was based on visits to 48 of the 610 9-13 middle schools then open, chosen to illustrate a range of contexts. The backdrop against which the survey was conducted included issues such as the effect of falling rolls, the viability of small middle schools, and the match between the training and the work of teachers.

The survey online

The full text of the survey, including the Appendices, is online in a single web page.

The tables are presented here as images: all are embedded in the text where they were in the printed version. Appendix 3 (the Heads' questionnaires) consists entirely of images.

I have corrected a handful of printing errors and tidied up some inconsistencies in spelling - cooperation/co-operation, coordination/co-ordination for example. The former were used more often in each case and are therefore used throughout in this version. There is one error which I have not corrected: in chapter 3 there is no paragraph 3.10.

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 (survey title on the left hand pages, chapter title on the right) have been omitted.

Summary of the survey's conclusions

  • in most cases transition arrangements provided effective continuity for pupils;
  • the formulation of overall curricular policies and greater attention to curriculum planning would further improve continuity;
  • schemes of work should ensure progression in skills, ideas and understanding and indicate the standards to be aimed at at various stages of the course;
  • agreement about what is to be taught should be sought among local groups of middle schools and with first as well as with upper schools;
  • schools should try to achieve a balance between providing a wide range of work and depth of treatment in some subjects or topics;
  • the organisation of the curriculum - as discrete subjects or integrated topics - should be compatible with the teachers' strengths;
  • schools should provide more opportunities for extended discussion, for collaborative work in groups, and for the exercise of choice, responsibility and initiative within the curriculum;
  • the curriculum should take account of the multi-racial nature of British society, the growing concern over the quality of the environment, developments in the field of micro-computers and work in craft, design and technology, and the Cockcroft Report's recommendations for maths;
  • in many schools able pupils are often not challenged sufficiently;
  • schools should consider greater use of subject teachers in some curriculum areas without destroying the close association children enjoy with their class teacher;
  • where rolls are falling, smaller schools should either be staffed more generously or amalgamated to form larger schools;
  • schools should find ways of making more time available for teachers to discharge curricular and organisational responsibilities more effectively;
  • initial teacher training courses should take account of the needs of 9-13 middle schools;
  • there is a need for in-service training which helps to improve teachers' subject competence;
  • there would be mutual advantage in closer contact between schools in two-tier and three-tier systems;
  • middle schools have to provide for their pupils a gradual, phased transition from primary to secondary schooling. This has never been easy, and at a time of falling rolls and financial constraint the difficulties inherent in being 'in the middle' are exacerbated.

The 1983 HMI 9-13 Middle Schools 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 5 November 2012.

Middle Schools Survey (complete)