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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 August 2007, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
Primary tests results improving
Graph of primary school results
Primary school national test results in England have shown a slight improvement in English, maths and science.

In all subjects, based on "Sats" tests taken this year by 11 year olds, there was a rise of one percentage point.

There were 80% of pupils who reached the expected standard in English; 77% in maths and 88% in science.

Girls have once again achieved much better results than boys in English - with four in 10 boys failing to meet the expected level for writing.

The overall results show that four out of 10 children have failed at least one part of the tests - or conversely, that six out of 10 children have made the grade in all the elements of the tests.

Writing, part of the English test, was the weakest subject, with 67% of pupils reaching the expected level - compared to 84% for reading.

Missed target

The results, based on tests taken by 600,000 pupils, continue the picture of gradual improvement - with little change in the past three years.

Andrew Adonis
Andrew Adonis says "ambitious" targets have driven improvement

But targets, set for 2006 for English and maths, have still not been reached.

Schools Minister Andrew Adonis welcomed the "best set of Key Stage 2 results we have ever seen".

"These are record results but of course we have got further to go and we are quite open about that.

"We won't be satisfied until we get all children up to the expected level in literacy and numeracy."

With the 85% target missed for two years in a row, he said discussions were on-going about where the government "went next with targets".

But these had been "vital in driving improvements" and Lord Adonis said he would make "no apologies for setting ambitious targets".

From September, there will be a renewed emphasis on using phonics to teach reading and more mental arithmetic "to accelerate the pace of learning".

The results once again show that boys are not achieving as well as girls at English. While 85% of girls reached the expected level, only 76% of boys reached this benchmark.

For the writing component of the English test, the gap was even wider - with 75% of girls reaching the expected standard compared to only 60% of boys.

There will continue to be a focus on boys' writing which officials said had been "retarding progress".

In maths and science there is no significant gender gap - with girls marginally ahead in science, boys marginally ahead in maths.

High flyers

The government says that the results show that there are now 100,000 more pupils achieving the expected standard for English compared to 1997.

Primary classroom
Boys continue to do less well than girls in English

But much of this improvement came in a surge in results in the late 1990s - followed by a much slower rate of progress.

The results also show the size of the gap between the very high achievers and those who are still struggling to make the grade.

There are now 33% of pupils who reach level 5 in English - a level higher than the expected benchmark of level 4. This is more than double the number who were at this higher level in 1997.

This means that there are 20% in the bottom group who are failing to reach the "expected" level 4 - and 33% at the top who have substantially exceeded expectations.

'Hot-house pressure'

The leader of the National Union of Teachers, Steve Sinnott, said that the test results "conceal the downside of tests, targets and tables".

Children have their final year spoiled because they are spending so much time rehearsing the tests
Mick Brookes, National Association of Head Teachers

"We surely must be able to come up with a better system than one which encourages the hot-house pressures of teaching to the test at the expense of the rest of the curriculum," he said.

Setting "unrealistic" targets only served to "feed the prejudices of those determined to find failure", said Mr Sinnott.

Head teachers have called for a change of direction for tests and league tables - arguing that they "distort" the last year of primary school.

"For some schools, particularly where they are struggling to raise standards, children do have their final year spoiled because they are spending so much time rehearsing the tests," said Mick Brookes of the National Association of Head Teachers.

Mr Brookes argues that assessments made by teachers should be used rather than tests.

The Conservatives' schools spokesman, Nick Gibb, challenged the claim that education was the passion of Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"After 10 years of his being in government, two out of five 11 year olds are still leaving primary school without mastering the basics," said Mr Gibb.

"We need to ensure that all schools are using the synthetic phonics method of teaching children to read."

The Liberal Democrats' schools spokesman, Stephen Williams, said: "Ministers should put their champagne on ice. It is a hollow boast to claim the 'best ever' results when four out of 10 children still leave primary school without an adequate grasp of the basics in maths, English and science."

Schools Minister Andrew Adonis praises results

Primary school test target missed
24 Aug 06 |  Education
Fewer teens at literacy standard
01 Mar 07 |  Education
National school tests 'could end'
21 Mar 07 |  Education

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