Lives blighted as primary pupils fail to master even basic skills

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LEAVING primary school without a grasp on the three Rs is condemning thousands of Yorkshire pupils to GCSE failure in an education system which produces the worst English results in the country, an investigation has revealed.

A Yorkshire Post analysis of more than 300 secondary schools results across the region shows the extent to which poor performance in primary schools and poverty are blighting pupils’ life chances.

Only one-in-20 pupils from the region who were classed as low achievers at the end of their primary education went on to meet the Government’s GCSE targets last year.

Pupils from deprived homes in Yorkshire were almost twice as likely to fail at GCSE as those from more well-off backgrounds.

There were 6,551 students, 72.4 per cent of those from deprived backgrounds in the region, who failed to get five A* to C grades including English and maths last year.

The research shows the link between poor performance in primary school and failure at GCSE is stronger in Yorkshire than in the rest of the country.

The level of poor pupils missing GCSE targets is also higher in the region than the national average.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb told the Yorkshire Post that low expectations, high truancy levels and poor behaviour in some classrooms could all impact on standards. But he said there was no reason for the region to regularly finish at the bottom of league tables.

Kenton Robbins, a regional director of the Institute of Directors has warned that the poor literacy skills hamper growth in the region’s economy and contribute to Yorkshire’s high level of youth unemployment.

Yorkshire has the country’s worst reading test scores sat by 11-year-olds, the lowest level of pupils achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths, the lowest level of progress being made in English throughout secondary school and the highest proportion of children leaving primary school with the reading age of a seven year old.

About 4,500 pupils started secondary school with the reading age of seven last year, including more than one-in-10 boys. This again was the worst of any Government region in England.

Analysis of new data published by the Department for Education this year shows how well pupils who were low, middle and high achievers in primary school did in their GCSEs.

Tables have also been produced which measure the performance of pupils from deprived backgrounds in every school in the country.

Today the Yorkshire Post can show the extent to which pupils who did not make the grade in primary school continue to struggle throughout their education.

Of the 11,011 children in Yorkshire thought to be low achievers when they started secondary school in 2007, 10,447 of them – almost 95 per cent – did not get five good GCSEs including English and maths last year while just over 560 did. There were 85 schools in Yorkshire – more than a quarter of the region’s secondaries – where not a single pupil who struggled in primary school went on to achieve the GCSE target.

Of the 9,044 GCSE students from deprived backgrounds in the region last year, 6,551 –- 72.4 per cent – did not get five A* to C grades including English and maths. This compares with 41 per cent of the pupils who were not from deprived homes. Of the 50,008 Yorkshire students who were not on free school meals 20,259 missed out on the grades needed.

It is not just among deprived and low achieving pupils, however, that Yorkshire’s schools lag behind the rest of the country.

Almost half the pupils in Yorkshire classed as being at about the expected level for 11-year-olds at the end of primary school did not hit the Government’s GCSE target as 16-year-olds. Of the 27,946 pupils in this category 13,628 – 48.7 per cent – did not achieve the five good grades including English and maths last year.

More surprising is that almost 1,000 pupils previously thought of as high achievers in primary school went on to fall short at GCSE. School results show that 950 of the 17,613 high achievers did not receive five A* to C grades including English and maths.

The level of low, middle and high achievers from primary school who went on to reach the Government’s GCSE targets and the level making the expected progress in English was lower in Yorkshire than across the rest of the country.