Nearly 1,000 primary schools fail to meet targets

By Angela Harrison
Education correspondent, BBC News

image captionThe tables are based on national tests children take at age 11

Almost 1,000 primary schools in England which staged national tests for 11-year-olds this year do not meet new minimum standards.

That is almost one in 10 of schools with validated and published results.

The controversial primary school league tables have been published - but with big holes caused by the boycott of the tests on which they are based.

A quarter of schools did not stage the tests - known as Sats - because of a campaign by heads and teachers.

A total of 962 schools with valid results fell below new raised floor targets, which for the first time also include measures of the progress being made by children as well as overall test scores.

If those results were replicated in schools which boycotted the tests, the total would rise to 1,346.

Last year, 1,631 schools would have failed the new standard - suggesting an improvement in results.

The coalition government has raised the floor target below which schools are considered underperforming.

School league tables

Find primary schools in your area

School league tables

Find secondary schools in your area

Schools which miss the target face intervention and possible take-over, closure or being converted into an academy, although the government says it will look at the unique circumstances of schools.

Schools are now expected to have at least 60% of their pupils achieving the expected level (Level 4) in both maths and English - up from 55% last year.

And on top of that, they are measured on how much progress pupils make between the ages of seven and 11.

According to the tables - drawn up by media organisations - at 289 primaries, every 11-year-old left with Level 4 in both English and maths. Despite the boycott, this is still more than last year's total of 282.

And as a percentage, more pupils improved at least by the expected amount in English and maths.

Data released in August showed that 73.5% of England's 11-year-olds made the grade in both English and maths - up from 72% last year.

The coalition government had said the performance tables were flawed and pledged to reform them, saying it wanted parents to have more information, especially on progress.

It has ordered a review of the Sats, which is due to produce a progress report in February and a full verdict in the summer.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said new "fair but firm" floor standards had been brought in to identify underperforming schools - but schools with "challenging intakes" would not be classed as underperforming if their pupils progressed well.

"These figures show that many primary schools are providing a first-class education... But we want every child, at every school, to fulfil their potential."

He said the government's policies on reading, behaviour and the pupil premium (funding directed at deprived pupils) would help schools tackle under-achievement.

This problem was particularly acute among boys on free school meals, he said, where half failed to leave primary school with the right grounding in English and maths.

'Naming and shaming'

The National Union of Teachers joined forces with the National Association of Head Teachers in a boycott of the national tests this year.

One in four schools boycotted the tests - so the published data - and the league tables - are incomplete.

In 13 local authorities, so many schools took part in the boycott that there are not enough results to produce a reliable figure for attainment in the authority.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, dismissed the league tables as providing a partial "snapshot" in a "demoralising naming and shaming process".

The majority of schools said not to be meeting government targets would be in the toughest areas, she said, where teachers and heads would be working hard to do the best for their pupils.

"League tables and constantly changing, pointless floor targets need to go and be replaced by properly moderated teacher assessment", she said.

'Cattle market data'

Head teachers say the inclusion of progress measures in the data is an improvement - but they are hoping for "radical reform" of the system.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "What every parent needs to know is how well their child will do there and how happy they will be - and league tables don't tell you that.

"The move towards a progress measure is good. Progress is telling you something about how good a school is - but ranking hundreds of schools together on a narrow range of data is not.

"We are hoping for radical reforms and a system that focuses on progress and ceases to rank schools as if they are in some sort of cattle market."

At the top of the table is Manuden Primary School in Bishop's Stortford, where all 13 pupils who took the test achieved Level 5 in both English and maths.

Acting head teacher, Pauline Gordon, put the school's success down to excellent teachers and high expectations.

Just behind is Hall Meadow Primary School in Kettering - also with a 100% success rate at Level 4 - for its 31 test pupils.

A total of 290 schools have 100% success in this. To rank them, the BBC opts to use scores for the average points per pupil as a tie-breaker.

Two schools recorded 0% for the proportion of pupils gaining Level 4 in both English and maths.

One was Kingsfleet Primary School in Felixstowe, which recorded 0% for its English results but 84% for maths.

Head teacher Kirsty Beattie said the school's English results could not be published due to a discrepancy with the reading test.

"They had made really good progress and it's unfortunate that, with the data as it is reported, you do not get a clear picture," she said.

Starks Field Primary School in Enfield, north London, got 0% for all its results.

Deputy leader of Enfield council, Achilleas Georgiou, said the results did not reflect the quality of the school because the 13 children taking the test had only recently joined the school.

"Their league table position is a false one and does not reflect the quality of teaching in the school, which has been praised by Ofsted," he said.

The most improved school was Rose Hill Primary in Oxford.

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.