Friday 12 December 2014

Why the number of failing schools can be a good thing

I've written a column for The Times on the primary school test results.

Yesterday’s league tables brought mixed news for England’s primary schools. Overall, standards are rising, particularly in literacy, with more children than ever achieving good results in the 3Rs. But nearly 800 schools — one in 20 — failed to achieve the target of 65 per cent of 11-year-old pupils reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics.

The better results are evidence that Michael Gove was right to set higher expectations for primary schools — last year the threshold was just 60 per cent.

It is also heartening that the gap in attainment between rich and poor pupils has narrowed further this year, reflecting a strong focus on disadvantaged pupils and increasing use of evidence of what works from bodies such as the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

But there is still a big challenge. And it is only as a result of successive governments being prepared to open what was once a secret garden in education that we know its true extent. Kenneth Baker’s 1980s reforms and David Blunkett’s tougher targets in the 1990s helped to make possible the challenges set by the coalition. Don’t forget that fewer than half of pupils reached the expected literacy standard in 1996.

Read the full piece here