Schools close the gap as standards improve

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YORKSHIRE primary schools are closing the gap in English and keeping pace with the national standard of improvement being made in maths despite remaining the worst performing region in many of the new Department for Education tables.

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These latest figures show the region matched the national average for progress made by pupils between the ages of seven and 11 in maths but beat it in English.

In all state primary schools in England 87 per cent of children made the expected level of progress over the four years between key stages one and two in maths. In English the national level of pupils improving as expected was 89 per cent but Yorkshire schools performed marginally better with 90 per cent.

An education chief in one Yorkshire city said efforts were now being focused on remaining ahead of the national average in order to close the gap in standards.

Bradford schools saw 91 per cent of pupils making the expected level of progress in English.

Councillor Ralph Berry, the executive member for children’s services at Bradford Council said: “These are the best key stage two results Bradford primary schools have ever recorded. I am also really pleased to see the progress Bradford pupils are making in English between years two and six as this is vital to a successful education. I would like to congratulate all who have contributed to these record results and the improvements we have seen over a number of years.

“The improvement figure is the key one as this is how you build improvement through the system. We need to remain ahead of the national average in order to close the gap.”

Six education authorities in Yorkshire bettered the national average for pupil progress in English. In Calderdale, it was achieved by 93 per cent of pupils. In Leeds the figure was 92 per cent, in Bradford and Barnsley it was 91 per cent while in East Riding and York, it was 90 per cent.

The tables take into account pupils’ performances in assessments for seven-year-olds and measure the progress made over the following four years.

Despite Yorkshire remaining the worst performing region for pupils grasping the basics in English and maths, the figures showed all 15 education authorities achieved their best results in at least six years.

However it is not clear to what extent this was down to changes in the writing examination which saw pupils being judged by teacher assessments rather than tests.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Some difference between test and teacher assessment results can be expected as the outcomes are measured in different ways. A teacher assessment is the teacher’s judgment of a pupil’s performance across the curriculum and the academic year, whereas the tests assess a sample of the curriculum for specific pupils on the day of the tests.”

The spokesman added: “There is evidence to support a real increase in the percentage of pupils achieving the expected level this year. However, as no information on writing teacher assessment is available for previous years and the writing sample test results are not directly comparable to test arrangements in previous years, the evidence for a real increase in attainment in writing is less strong.”

Teaching unions have hailed the performance of 11-year-olds.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said: “Through the dedication of pupils, teachers and parents, we have had another great year for learning in our primary schools.

“The official figures from the DfE show our pupils did better this year in their primary national curriculum tests than last. This is clearly something to celebrate and I hope our politicians will take the chance to praise the hard work of pupils and teachers rather than immediately turning their attention to trying to find the cloud around the silver lining.

Nansi Ellis, head of education policy and research at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: “While government ministers argue about which spellings should be learnt at which age, and how many exam boards it takes to write a syllabus, teachers and their leaders get on with the vital business of teaching real children, with all their different skills, needs and interests, to be the best that they can be.”