Below-floor primaries remain static

Published: Thursday 11th December 2014 by The News Editor

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The proportion of primaries failing to give their pupils a good grounding in the three Rs has remained static this year, despite schools facing tougher government targets, official figures suggest.

In total, more than 700 schools in England are now considered below the floor standard, the same proportion as last year, according to a Government analysis of data used to create primary school league tables.

Ministers insisted that the findings showed that schools have “raised their game”.

Schools that fail to meet the benchmark – which is based on national curriculum test results at age 11 and pupil progress – are considered under-performing and at risk of being turned into an academy, or taken over by a different sponsor or trust if they already have academy status.

The Department for Education’s (DfE) analysis also shows wide variations across the country, with no schools now considered to be under-performing in some areas while in others, significant proportions are below the Government’s target. In one area alone, more than a quarter of primaries are now considered to be under the threshold.

The new rankings reveal the performance of around 16,000 primaries in national curriculum tests – known as Sats – in reading and maths, as well as teacher assessments of pupils’ writing skills.

Under the Government’s tougher standards, schools must ensure that at least 65% of 11-year-olds reach Level 4 – the standard expected of the age group – in reading, writing and maths, and meet national averages in pupil progress.

Overall, 768 schools failed to meet the floor standard this year, compared with 767 last year, the DfE said.

In order to meet the target last year, primaries had to have 60% of 11-year-olds reaching Level 4 in each of the three key areas, as well as meeting the progress goals.

According to the DfE’s analysis, if primary schools were judged on this year’s data against 2013’s target, only 469 schools would have fallen below the threshold.

Schools Minister David Laws said: “I am pleased to see that primaries have responded to the challenge of a higher floor standard – we have raised the bar and schools have raised their game.

“It is also encouraging to see the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers continue to narrow and parents, teachers and pupils deserve to be congratulated for their efforts.”

But he also warned that there are still too many areas with “simply unacceptable” levels of attainment for poorer pupils.

The analysis shows that there are 22 local authorities where there are no primary schools below the government’s floor target.

These are: Blackpool, Camden, City of London, Greenwich, Haringey, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Isles of Scilly, Kingston upon Thames, Lewisham, Newham, North Tyneside, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Southend-on-Sea, St Helens, Sutton, Torbay, Tower Hamlets, Westminster and Wokingham.

But at the other end of the scale, there were 13 local authorities where more than one in eight primaries are below the floor.

In Poole, more than a quarter of primaries (27%) are below the standard, along with 18% in both Rutland and Reading, 17% in Walsall, 16% in Barnsley, 15% in Suffolk, Isle of Wight and and Derby, and 13% in Bournemouth, Bradford, Bristol, Peterborough and Southampton.

The new statistics come the day after Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw said that primary schools in England are performing considerably better than the nation’s secondaries.

In his third annual report, he said that primaries are forging ahead, with 82% rated as good or better by the watchdog and around 700,000 more pupils attending a decent primary than in 2012.

“The nation should be worried about a growing divide between primary and secondary schools,” Sir Michael said.

“In too many cases, pupils are leaving their primary schools with good literacy and numeracy skills, confident and eager to learn. But the culture they encounter at too many secondary schools often demotivates and discourages them.”

Published: Thursday 11th December 2014 by The News Editor

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