Wednesday, July 8, 1998 Published at 21:50 GMT 22:50 UK
The drive for greater numeracy
Girls do slightly better in tests than boys
Tackling numeracy and literacy have been a key commitment from the government since taking power.
In the White Paper, Excellence in Schools, the government made clear the view that more time was needed to get back to the basics of primary education.
The United Kingdom has fallen behind many other developed countries in numeracy. According to the Basic Skills Agency as many as one in three secondary school children and one in six adults has difficulty mastering the basics in literacy and numeracy. In 1997, there were more than 300,000 adults receiving help with literacy and numeracy, more than half attending further education colleges.
This will allow them to spend at least an hour a day on literacy and - from the following year - numeracy. Primary schools will not have to follow the prescribed programmes of study in the six non-core National Curriculum subjects of design and technology, history, geography, music, art and physical education.
The government have set challenging national targets for the performance of 11 year olds in English and maths. By 2002, the government expect 75 per to reach the standards expected for their age in maths. In 1996 fewer than two thirds did so. In 1997, 62% of 11 year olds reached level 4 in mathematics - the level which should challenge them - and 36% achieved only level 3 or below.
In addition, the government is funding 51 pilot summer numeracy schools throughout England, the aim being to improve 11 year olds' performance over the summer holidays before they start secondary school. Children will receive 50 hours of extra tuition. The schools follows the pilot schools set up to tackle literacy last summer.
Task force established
The numeracy task force was set up by the Education and Employment Secretary, David Blunkett, in November 1997. It is composed of senior figures from industry and business, training bodies, Training and Enterprise Councils, trade unions and other educational experts.
It was set up to advise on a national skills agenda aimed at tackling a crucial issue for the economic success of the country. David Blunkett said: "I am also determined that we have in place a first class education and training service producing a highly skilled and educated working population."
The task force made its preliminary report on 21 January 1998, recommending that there should be a greater emphasis on:
The full membership of the numeracy task force is:
Chair: David Reynolds