THE Government is demanding that a Yorkshire council produce urgent plans to ensure that more pupils from deprived backgrounds master the basics in the three Rs.
Rotherham Council is one of 15 education authorities in England singled out for criticism by ministers for the area’s poor performance in the primary school league tables.
The gap between poor pupils and the rest in the town’s schools was one the biggest nationally in this summer’s national curriculum tests sat by 11-year-olds.
Nearly half of the pupils in the town on free school meals did not get to the standard expected of the age group in the key subjects of English and maths – compared with almost 80 per cent of other pupils in the town.
The tables published last week also showed Rotherham’s overall performance was one of the worst in the country.
It was one of five authorities in the region which was in the bottom 10 per cent nationally with a quarter of pupils not achieving the standard expected of the age group in English and maths.
Now Schools Minister David Laws has written to the council calling on them to close the attainment gap between poor children and the rest. In his letter, sent yesterday, he said Rotherham stood out for the wide gap between the performance of pupils on free school meals and those who are not.
He said: “The Government is committed to closing this gap between disadvantaged children and their school peers. To that end we have created and funded the pupil premium for all of the 564 children in Rotherham in receipt of free school meals. We simply will not stand back and allow failure on this scale to continue.”
He has asked the council to set out plans to improve performance as a matter of urgency adding: “The future of our children is too important to allow this level of underperformance to continue.”
Demands for action come as the Department for Education (DfE) announced plans today for top graduates to be offered scholarships to train for a career teaching maths.
Around 150 of the scholarships are to be offered to graduates with first-class or 2:1 degrees, as part of a Government drive to improve standards of teaching in the classroom. The new incentive is being offered by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications in collaboration with the London Mathematical Society and the Royal Statistical Society.
Applicants will be required to show a strong mathematical background, an excellent understanding of maths and statistics at school level and a commitment to education.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said: “High-quality mathematics education is at the heart of improving our society and our economy.
“By working together, these prestigious institutions will help deliver a scholarship scheme to make sure we have excellent mathematics teachers in this country with deep subject knowledge. It will help raise the status of the teaching profession and also make a huge difference in the lives of children.”
Following earlier reforms the DfE said that 62 per cent of those entering training to teach maths had 2:1 degrees or better, compared with 51 per cent in 2010/11.