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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
Government misses tests targets
girl writing
The tests were taken by some 600,000 pupils in May
Figures published by the government show it has failed to reach ambitious targets to raise school standards in England, partly because boys are under-achieving.

The results of national tests for 11 year olds in 2002 show 75% reached the standard expected for their age in English and 73% reached that level for mathematics.

Five years ago, the then Education Secretary David Blunkett said he wanted 80% of 11 year olds to reach the expected levels in English and 75% in maths.

He promised to resign if the targets were not met by 2002.

As the figures were released on Thursday, ministers said they were proud of the achievement of pupils and teachers, describing these results as the best ever.

These are challenging targets and have helped us reach these historic standards

Estelle Morris, Education Secretary
The national tests, which are taken by pupils in May, are commonly known as SATs.

Standards in primary schools have risen since the mid 1990s, when only about 50% of children reached the levels expected for their age.

David Blunkett moved on to the Home Office, leaving the present Education Secretary Estelle Morris with the job of explaining why the government has failed to make the grade.

Ms Morris said teachers should be proud that they had maintained their "record-breaking performance" of recent years.

"These are challenging targets and have helped us reach these historic standards," she said.

Boys writing pulls the figures down say officials
Boys' writing pulls the figures down, say officials
"We may not have met our targets, but these are the best results ever.

"No one can deny the unrivalled success of the national numeracy and literacy strategies."

Head teachers have always said that the targets set in 1997 were too ambitious.

This year's scores show no significant improvement on last year.

There was no change in English results at 75% of pupils meeting the required standard - that is, scoring 49 marks out of 100 in the test.

There was a three point rise in writing, with 60% making the grade; and a two point rise in maths, with 73% reaching the expected level.

But there was a two point fall in reading on 2001, with 80% reaching the expected level, and a one point fall in science results to 86%.

In science, the children were expected to get at least 40 marks out of 100.

The government says it is pleased that standards are improving across the board, in schools in both leafy suburbs and inner city areas.

Some of the biggest improvements, they say, have been in local education authorities in inner city areas.

But it was the differring performances of boys against girls in English which partly explained the failure to meet that target, said officials.

In maths and science, girls and boys reach similar standards .

But in English there is a marked gap, especially in writing.

The gap between boys and girls for writing is 16 percentage points, one up on last year, while the gap in reading is six per centage points.


Professor David Hopkins, director of the Standards and Effectiveness Unit at the education department, said if boys had closed that gap, the government would have met its target.

Schools Minister David Miliband said there was a need to tackle "laddish culture".

"We have to change lad culture if it says reading, writing, counting, doing the right by yourself and by your own future is somehow a bad thing to do.

"It's not something for teachers to do on their own, it's something the whole of society must get stuck into."

Tests for seven year olds

The government also published the results of tests taken by seven year olds - Key Stage 1 - in 2002.

They similarly showed no major improvement and a one point fall in maths achievement on the previous year.

There was no change in the number of pupils achieving the expected level in reading and writing, with 84% and 86% scoring at the required levels respectively.

While this year's results saw a three percentage point improvement in spelling on last year - 78% made the grade - maths results fell one point to 90% of pupils reaching the expected level.

Last week the government released the results of national tests for 14 year olds, the Key Stage 3 tests. English results rose two percentage points from 64% last year to 66% this year.

Maths results were up one point at 67%, while the science results remained static at 66%.

The figures show a widening of the gap in achievement between boys and girls in English as they grow older.

Just 58% of 14-year-old boys meet the expected standard, while 75% of girls do - a gap of 17 points.

  • The figures for 11 year olds' tests quoted by the department include the results from private prep schools - even though they are not required to take the tests.

    About 500 prep schools do use the national curriculum tests - out of a total of about 16,000 schools.

    As BBC News Online revealed in March, their results are so good that the effect of their inclusion is to inflate the overall national English scores by one percentage point. This has happened again this year.

    The maths and science scores are unaffected.

    It is not clear why ministers choose to use the prep schools' results in their press releases when the figures for maintained schools only are available separately in the statistics.

    Nor have officials explained how private schools are included in the targets set for local education authorities.

    The table below shows the percentages of pupils getting the expected levels in the three stages of national curriculum tests.

  •   2000 2001 2002 +/-
    Key Stage 1 (age 7)
      reading 83 84 84 0
      writing 84 86 86 0
      spelling 72 75 78 3
    maths 90 91 90 -1
    Key Stage 2 (age 11)
    English 75 75 75 0
      reading 83 82 80 -2
      writing 55 58 60 2
    maths 72 71 73 2
    science 85 87 86 -1
    Key Stage 3 (age 14)
    English 64 64 66 2
    maths 65 66 67 1
    science 59 66 66 0

    The table below shows the breakdown of results for boys and girls.

      Boys Girls  
      2001 2002 2001 2002 gap*
    Key Stage 1 (age 7)
      reading 80 81 88 88 7
      writing 82 82 90 90 8
      spelling 70 73 80 83 10
    maths 90 89 92 92 3
    Key Stage 2 (age 11)
    English overall 70 70 80 79 9
      reading 78 77 85 83 6
      writing 50 52 65 68 16
    maths 71 73 70 73 0
    science 87 86 88 87 1
    Key Stage 3 (age 14)
    English 57 58 73 75 17
    maths 65 67 67 68 1
    science 66 66 66 67 1
    *amount by which girls' results exceeded boys' in 2002
    See also:

    14 Sep 01 | Education
    20 Sep 00 | Education
    20 Sep 00 | Education
    25 Feb 99 | Education
    21 May 01 | Education
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