Nearly a third of children will leave primary school 'failing'

Almost a third of 11-year-olds could leave primary school this summer without a good grasp of reading, writing and maths, it was suggested yesterday. The prediction came in advance of the new figures published by the Government on the proportion of primary school pupils reaching the level expected of them in the basics.

Last year, just 65 per cent achieved the Level 4 standard expected for their age in reading, writing and maths combined, meaning that 35 per cent, more than a third, missed out.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said the figure reaching that grade is likely to rise this year, as schools will have been concentrating on this measure.

"I would think that since the spotlight focused on that result that schools will have put extra effort in there," said Professor Smithers. "I think that it might be getting up to 70 per cent. But that still looks as if 30 per cent are leaving without reaching the expected level." However, he warned that bright children, or those who struggle the most, could be affected if schools are focusing on those on the borderline of reaching Level 4.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "When we ask people, they always say there is a problem that when a school is under pressure what they do is deal with the children that are borderline."

National curriculum tests, known as SATs, are taken by pupils in their final year of primary school, and have been fiercely opposed by teaching unions. According to last summer's results, 80 per cent of pupils reached Level 4 in English, and 79 per cent reached it in maths.