Page last updated at 14:27 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 15:27 UK

Primary tables record small gains

Former Combe head teacher Barbara Jones
Successful head Barbara Jones - now retired - was highly rated by Ofsted

Primary school league tables for England, delayed from December by the marking fiasco, have been published.

They show how 11-year-olds did in their "Sats" tests in English, maths and science last year, with overall a small improvement on the 2007 levels.

Out of 14,768 schools, in only 329 were all the pupils working at the expected level in all three subjects.

In 798, more than half the pupils moved up to secondary school without the required level of maths and English.

'Little preparation'

The school which tops this year's BBC News tables is Combe Primary in Oxfordshire.

English: 81%
Reading: 87%
Writing: 68%
Mathematics: 79%
English and maths: 73%
Science: 88%

It and Hall Meadow Primary in Northamptonshire had the highest average point score per pupil, 32.9.

Combe had a slightly higher contextual value added (CVA) score, showing how much progress the children had made during their time in the school: 102.2 compared with Hall Meadow's 102.0.

This is not the first time Combe has topped the national tables under no-nonsense head teacher Barbara Jones, who retired after the tests last summer.

It's very important the pupils feel they want to come to school and when they do they feel like learning is not a bad or boring thing to do
Combe chair of governors Roger Purssell

Chair of governors Roger Purssell paid tribute to her.

"Although Sats league tables are only one measure of success I did notice that we've done particularly well in the added value section," he said.

"It's very important the pupils feel they want to come to school and when they do they feel like learning is not a bad or boring thing to do," he added.

Hall Meadow's head teacher, Lorraine Cullen, said its results were not a product of drilling children to pass the tests.

"We spend our time developing children who are thinking, motivated and active in their learning," she said.

English and maths

The worst results in England were also at a small rural school: Crays Hill Primary in Essex, whose pupils managed a combined score of 40 out of 300.

The Crays Hill area has seen a long conflict between the local council and occupants of a travellers' site that is said to be the largest in England.

A school spokesman said: "The vast majority of our pupils join the school with attainment levels well below national expectations and these results must be seen in that context."

Ministers now want all schools to have at least 78% achieving the expected standard - known as Level 4 - in both English and maths by 2011.

Last year it was 73%. In 798 schools less than half of the 11-year-olds achieved a Level 4 in both subjects.

Boycott plan

Schools Minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry said: "The difficulties faced during this year's tests were well publicised and I would like to thank all the teachers who have been affected for their professionalism while the issue was resolved.

"It is reassuring to note that very few schools were not attributed results in the achievement and attainment tables and that Ofqual has stated that the quality of marking is at least as good as it has been in previous years."

Shadow schools minister Nick Gibb said: "It's a tragedy that thousands of pupils are in primary schools where fewer than half the children get the basics by the time they leave.

"It's vital that children get a good grasp of English and maths by the end of primary school.

"Many of the problems with behaviour and discipline in secondary schools are made worse by the fact that many children have already fallen so far behind."

Resignation accepted

The private contractor handling last year's testing, ETS Europe, was replaced after many results were delayed or mislaid.

The school-by-school tables show that the English results of 17 schools, the maths results of 14 and the science results of one school remain "lost".

An official inquiry also blamed the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) for having "failed its remit". The QCA disbanded its assessment agency but refused to accept the resignation of its chief executive, Ken Boston.

As the tables were published, however, the QCA said it had now accepted he should resign - though he would not be getting any special severance payment or bonus.

It was deeply grateful to Dr Boston for his significant and lasting contribution to education reform in the UK and wished him all the best in the future.

One of the main exam boards, Edexcel, is going to run the tests this year but the QCA has given a warning there is a significant risk that things could go wrong again.

Within the UK the league tables are a uniquely English phenomenon.

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