Education & Family

More leave primary with good 'three Rs' grasp

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Media captionSchools Minister Nick Gibb is still concerned about the standards of reading among primary pupils

The number of children leaving primary school in England with a good grasp of reading, writing and maths has increased again, government data shows.

Some 67% of 11-year-olds gained the expected level, Level 4, in all of these subjects in national curriculum tests, known as Sats.

Last year 64% of primary pupils left school having reached this level.

But one in three youngsters still failed to achieve the level expected of them in all three subjects.

This means that nearly 183,000 pupils left school without a good grasp of reading, writing and maths this summer.


The figures released on Tuesday show a steady year-on-year rise, with 62% of pupils reaching the expected level in the "three Rs" in 2009 and 2008.

Overall, the figures from the Department for Education (DfE) results show 84% of pupils reached Level 4 in reading, up from 83% last year.

In writing, 75% reached the expected level, compared with 71% in 2010. The biggest rise in some years.

In total, 81% achieved Level 4 in English (made up of the reading and writing tests), up from 80% last year.

And 80% achieved the expected level in maths, against 79% the year before.

But the data also shows one in 10 boys - almost 28,000 youngsters - left primary with the reading age of a seven-year-old (Level 2 or less).

This compares with 5% of girls, just over 13,000 pupils.

The DfE also published results of science tests taken by a sample of 11-year-olds.

Based on this sample, it is estimated that 84% of 11-year-olds are reaching the expected level in science.

The data also details the numbers of pupils scoring Level 5, one above the expected standard.

In English, 42% of pupils achieved a Level 5 in reading, compared with 50% in 2010.

In writing, 20% reached this level, against 21% last year.

It means that, in total, just 13% of pupils achieved a Level 5 in reading, writing and maths combined. In 2010, this figure was 14%.

'Raise standards'

Schools Minister Nick Gibb welcomed the rise in results, especially in writing but he said a third of children were still struggling in the "three Rs".

He said: "There has been a decline in the proportion of children - both boys and girls - who can read and write beyond the expected level. And the results of our weakest readers and writers also remain a real concern.

"We are determined to raise standards of reading. There will always be some children for whom reading is a struggle.

"However, we can and must do much better for the one in 10 boys who at the age of 11 can read no better than a seven-year-old."

Sats are taken by pupils in their final year of primary school and are fiercely opposed by teaching unions.

Last year the National Association of Head Teachers and the National Union of Teachers were involved in a boycott of the tests.

They say the tests do not give a true picture of pupils' attainment, encourage teaching to the test and put pupils under undue pressure.

The fact that children are doing well in writing is both welcome and supports both the NUT and Lord Bew's approach that teacher assessment is the appropriate way to gauge children's progress going forward.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the fact that there is very little change over the last five years implies that there is steady consolidation in terms of teaching and learning.

"The recognition from government that there are children for whom reading is a struggle is welcome.

"However, teachers need the professional freedom to approach the teaching of reading as is appropriate.

"The NUT has been at the forefront of campaigning on Reading for Pleasure as the way to ensure that children and young people reach their full potential."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: "As usual at this time of year the myth pedlars are out in force claiming that standards are unacceptably low, many children emerge from primary school unable to read or write and too many pupils leave primary school unable to meet the demands of the secondary curriculum.

"None of these assertions are valid."

A National Association of Head Teachers' statement said the union acknowledged concerns about children who are not reaching the expected standard by the end of Year 6, but would caution against making sweeping statements or generalisations about this group.

"Our schools are increasingly inclusive and welcome a wide range of children with an ever wider range of needs and abilities.

"The results published today are a snap-shot, they do not show the progress that children have made within a school and so only tell part of the story."

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said what really mattered was whether children have the skills they need to progress in education, and not whether they can pass a particular test on a particular day.

"The Sats tests are fatally flawed and blight children's education," it added.

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