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Last Updated: Monday, 13 August 2007, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Schools not improved, say bosses
Pupils sitting national tests
GCSE and A-level results have consistently improved
Business leaders feel educational standards have not improved since 1997, despite official data showing record exam and test results, a report says.

More than half thought education and skills in England had not improved, the Institute of Directors found in a survey of 500 members.

The IoD report also claimed record investment had not led to exam results improving any faster than before.

The government said record investment had improved standards in schools.

'Three Rs'

The report, which is the first in a series on the education system, aims to provide some "necessary context" to the yearly debate on examination results.

It highlights the fact that at primary school, although results are continuing to "creep up", the pace of change is slow.

Four out of 10 still do not achieve the expected standard for their age in reading, writing and mathematics.

It also says although the percentage of pupils achieving five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C has increased - the proportion of those getting the grades in subjects including mathematics, sciences, English and a modern language has fallen.

The fact that the A-level pass rate rose for the 15th year in succession last year and the percentage of those getting grades A to C has doubled since the early 1980s is also highlighted.

But by contrast, the report says, the proportion of those passing the international Baccalaureate has remained stable.

We need a step change in performance if we are to meet future skill needs
IoD director general Miles Templeman

The report also suggests more business leaders thought standards had not improved in the nation's educational institutions.

Some 49% thought education had not improved in schools, 38% in further education colleges and 41% in universities.

And nearly half of its members believes the government's performance on education had been unfavourable to business.

The report suggested there were a number of factors which explained why official statistics and exam results painted a different picture from the one seen by business.

These included the claims that grade standards have slipped and that changes in assessment, such as more coursework, meant that it was now easier to achieve the same level.

'Step change'

It suggested that more pupils passed exams because of an increased focus on preparation - but that this had not necessarily improved learning overall.

The report also suggested that because of the well-known correlation between educational achievement and income, the fact that more people were better off had also raised results.

IoD director general Miles Templeman said there needed to be a focus on performance at all levels, rather than becoming fixated on A-level and GCSE results.

"Even if official statistics are accepted at face value - and the evidence of the independent research suggests a degree of caution - they still illustrate that we need a step change in performance if we are to meet future skill needs.

"This is particularly true with regard to literacy and numeracy skills in the early years."

Children's futures

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "The huge increase in education expenditure in the last decade has meant more and better paid teachers, better quality classrooms and higher standards in all schools and childcare.

"Last year saw the highest ever GCSE results for English and maths and standards in the early years are steadily increasing with100,000 more 11 year olds mastering the basics in literacy and 90,000 more in numeracy this year compared with 1997.

"The OECD found last year that a child of five now expects to spend 20.7 years in education which shows that taxpayers' money is an investment in children's futures for the long term."

Shadow Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "Despite a huge number of initiatives and earnest attempts to tackle some of the deep seated problems in our education system, there still remain problems with literacy and maths in primary school and a decline in the proportion of children achieving good GCSEs in the core subjects."

A-levels are easier says adviser
16 Jul 07 |  Education
Harder A-levels and boost for IB
30 Nov 06 |  Education
Promise of a 'skills revolution'
18 Jul 07 |  Education

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