Blunkett focuses on '3 Rs' for pupils who failed exams at 11

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The Independent Online

Underperforming 12-year-old pupils will face new tests in English, maths and science as part of a reform of secondary school education to be unveiled today by David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education.

Underperforming 12-year-old pupils will face new tests in English, maths and science as part of a reform of secondary school education to be unveiled today by David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education.

The tests will attempt to arrest the decline in standards that takes place the year after children leave primary school for state comprehensives. The proposal is part of Mr Blunkett's plans to spend £80m more on improving the three Rs among the 11-14 age group.

Mr Blunkett confirmed yesterday he wanted to target 12-year-olds' literacy and numeracy skills, and said the Government would go ahead with plans for performance-related pay for the best teachers.

The package to be announced today will include extra funds for the Excellence in Cities programme for inner-city schools, with spending on secondary schools rising from £250m this year to £300m by 2003-04. The programme, which targets schools in the most deprived regions, will be extended to a further 10 cities and involve 58 local education authorities.

Disruptive pupils will also be targeted as part of the Government's decision to give teachers and parents more power to exclude them.

Mr Blunkett said 12-year-olds would be tested on English, maths and science at the end of their first year in secondary education if they failed to reach the required standard on leaving primary school.

"What we want is not a test for its own sake but a test of whether that lost year has been recovered, the lost year being the first year of secondary schooling where we know that 30 per cent of youngsters end up, after that first year, further behind on key areas like English and maths," he told BBC 1's Breakfast with Frost programme yesterday.

Mr Blunkett refused to back away from the heavily criticised proposal to offer Britain's best teachers an extra £2,000 bonus and claimed that they could receive the cash by Christmas.

The performance-related pay scheme was supposed to be introduced when schools returned in September, but it was blocked in July by court action by the National Union of Teachers, which claimed he had failed to carry out proper consultation.

A review body set up after the ruling is to report later this week. Mr Blunkett said he expected the review to support his proposals, which could see up to 200,000 teachers receiving the bonuses. The payments will be back-dated to the beginning of the school term in September, he added.

Mr Blunkett said that he was working with Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, to put together a programme making the most of their new powers to combat truancy.

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