Primaries struggle to hit new tougher standards

Education Minister David Laws
Education Minister David Laws
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ALMOST half of the country’s worst performing areas for primary schools failing to meet tougher new national targets were in Yorkshire, damning new figures have revealed.

The latest primary school league tables have been published showing how 11-year-old pupils fared in maths and reading tests and teacher assessments of their writing earlier this year.

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Four of England’s 10 lowest performing education authority areas for schools failing to meet floor targets for mastering the three Rs were in Yorkshire.

Bradford, Doncaster, Hull and Kirklees were all in the bottom 10 out of more than 150 areas across the country.

Schools which miss the floor target can face intervention by the Government – including being converted into academies.

Across Yorkshire there were 130 primary schools below the target which could now be at risk.

The floor targets facing primary schools have been made tougher this year with pupils expected to get to a set standard in maths, reading and writing rather than just in maths and English which had been the case in previous years. Schools were set the target of getting 60 per cent of pupils to level four – a general standard expected of 11-year-olds – in the three core subjects.

The latest figures show that in Bradford 16 per cent of schools – 22 in total – were below this floor target. In Doncaster, Hull and Kirklees 13 per cent of schools were below it, totalling 11 schools in Doncaster, seven in Hull and 13 in Kirklees.

The DfE describes the targets as “firm but fair” as schools are only classed as being below the floor if their pupils also fail to have made the same level of progress in reading, writing and maths as the national average between the ages of seven and 11.

The DfE say that nationally 767 primary schools are below the floor target from this year’s standard assessment tests and teacher assessments.

However, they said that had the same target been in place last year 834 schools would have missed out in 2012.

A DfE spokesman claimed the new targets and the expansion of the Government’s academy programme had combined to help schools raise standards.

He added: “This Government brought in higher primary school floor targets with one aim in mind – to drive up standards with immediate effect to end years of entrenched failure. Schools respond to this challenge.

“The floor standards we introduced were tougher and performance is improving. Heads, teachers and pupils deserve credit for meeting the challenge head on.”

Schools Minister David Laws also welcomed a narrowing of the attainment gap between pupils from deprived background and their peers. However, he warned the gap was still too large in some areas.

Leeds and Wakefield were both ranked in the worst 10 areas nationally for the difference in results between pupils on free school meals and those who are not.

In a league table of education authority areas based on the level of pupils reaching the expected standard in the three Rs, Bradford was ranked fourth bottom nationally and worst in the region, with 69 per cent of pupils making the grade.

It was followed by North East Lincolnshire and Wakefield, which were both in the bottom 10 out of more than 150 areas in England. Calderdale, the East Riding and York were the region’s highest ranked authorities with 77 per cent of pupils making the grade.

There were more than 35 schools in Yorkshire in the bottom 200 schools nationally, all of which had less than half of their pupils reaching the standard expected of the age group in the three Rs and were more than 10 per cent below the national target.