Tuesday 1 December 2009

Primary results

In 1997, just 53% of pupils reached level 4 - the 'average' standard created by the Conservatives that David Blunkett decided should be Labour's ambitious expectation - in the national tests at 11 in English and Maths combined. This year, 72% reached that standard, according to the latest performance tables published today.

What that means is that a Government which the right-wing press insists has 'failed' on education has presided over a situation where 110,000 more pupils achieved the expected standard this year than would have done so had results peaked in 1997.

There has been a small dip this year - probably as a result of a toughening of standards with the removal of the borderlining process - but improvements have been slow generally in recent years. So, the government - and the opposition - should not lose sight of the need to focus as much attention on poorly performing primaries as it does on weak secondaries, particularly in the crucial Key Stage 1 years.

There is a real danger that schools lose focus on the basics with the demise of the literacy and numeracy strategies, unless proper kitemarked alternatives - that include synthetic phonics - are introduced. Where a primary is failing, it must be open to takeover by a stronger school or academy. And there must be no let up in independent testing, floor targets (minimum standards) or the publication of results. If we are to see more primary progress, these are the basics that matter.

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