Education: Schools show progress as more pupils make grade

This year's national test results for 7-, 11- and 14-year-olds, published yesterday, show some progress towards government targets for the year 2002. But this year's improvement is smaller than last year's and there is still a long way to go. Judith Judd, Education Editor, looks at the latest figures.
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For the first time, more than 60 per cent of 11-year-olds have reached the expected standard or better in both English and maths.

Ministers have set targets for 80 per cent achieving the required level in English and 75 per cent in maths. Estelle Morris, the schools minister, said that this year's results showed that the targets were achievable.

If the improvement continues at this year's rate, the targets will easily be met by 2002. However, the biggest rise in achievement usually occurs in the first years of a new test or exam as pupils and teachers become accustomed to it.

Ms Morris said the Government could take credit for the higher results because of its standards campaign both before and after the election. "These results show our continuing highlighting of the importance of literacy and numeracy - and primary school homework - is clearly having an effect in the classroom."

But she said that there was still much work to do to achieve the targets.

Pupils are awarded one of eight levels in the tests. For seven-year-olds, the expected level is two, for 11-year-olds four and for 14-year-olds five.

The most worrying results are those for 14-year-olds. After remaining much the same for two years, the proportion reaching the required standard or better was up slightly in maths and science at 60 per cent.

In English, it was down from 57 per cent reaching the expected level to 56 per cent.

For 11-year-olds, the improvement in maths (up 8 per cent) is greater than that in English (up 5 per cent). Last year, the figures for both subjects were up 10 per cent. Science results, which have always been better than those in the other two subjects are up from 62 to 69 per cent.

Girls continue to outstrip boys in English but in maths, the boys were just ahead. Overall, 16 per cent did better than the expected level in English and 18 per cent in maths.

At age 14, 6 per cent were above the required standard in English and 11 per cent in maths. Only 1 per cent were at the top level (eight) and less than half a per cent did even better than that and showed "exceptional performance".

Seven-year-olds did slightly better than last year with around four-fifths reaching the expected level in English and 84 per cent in maths. But only 62 per cent achieved the required standard in spelling tests which were compulsory for the first time this year.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "I congratulate teachers and their pupils on these results and hope that the Government will amend its advice to the pay review body in the light of this improvement in productivity."