Primary school league tables: The coast and the countryside - where the 'unlucky' children live
More than 700 primary schools have failed to reach minimum government standards in the three Rs
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Thursday 12 December 2013
More than 700 primary schools have failed to reach minimum government standards in the three Rs and could face being forced to become academies, according to official figures published today.
Government primary school league tables reveal a total of 767 primary schools have failed to reach a minimum "floor target" of 60 per cent of their pupils reaching the required standard in reading, writing and arithmetic in tests for 11-year-olds.
If they fail to improve, they could face a compulsory takeover by an academy sponsor, ministers warned yesterday.
"We are determined to drive up standards as quickly as possible in schools where there has been stubborn under-performance for years," said Schools Minister David Laws, "Where schools fail to improve, they will be taken over by brilliant academy sponsors with a track record of success."
Meanwhile, the tables support claims that the country's "unluckiest" children are more likely to be found in coastal towns and rural areas.
They show the worst performing authority in the country is Poole in Dorset - where one in three primary schools have failed to meet the Government's minimum targets.
Chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw made the point about England's unluckiest children when publishing the annual "state-of-the-nation" report by education standards watchdog Ofsted.
He said England's children were divided into "lucky" and "unlucky" pupils - with an "education lottery" deciding whether they attended a good or a bad school.
The tables also show - amongst the worst 10 performers - are also Norfolk and Suffolk which have the highest number of underperforming schools in the country - 25 and 22 respectively.
The gap between disadvantaged children on free school meals and their peers is narrowing, according to the tables. It is down by three percentage points compared with last year - although still exists with 74 per cent of disadvantaged pupils reaching the required standard in maths compared with 87 per cent of all other pupils.
Here again, though, the gap is highest is some of the country's leafier suburbs with Wokingham having the biggest gap with 39 per cent. Also in the top ten of worst performers are Cambridgeshire, Bracknell Forest, Cheshire West and Chester and Worcestershire. The only major conurbation in the bottom ten is Leeds.
Meanwhile, the top ten performers are all London boroughs with Newham in east London the best performer with a gap of just four percentage points.
In addition, 14 schools serving disadvantaged areas achieved 100 per cent success in getting pupils to reach the required standards in all three tests.
The overall figures for those failing, though, are an improvement on last year when 834 primary schools failed to reach the target - despite it becoming more difficult. Last year schools had to get 60 per cent of pupils to the required standard in maths and English overall - rather than in all three tests.
A Department for Education spokesman said: "The Government brought in higher primary school floor targets with one aim in mind - to drive up standards with immediate effect to end years of entrenched failure.
"Schools respond to this challenge. The floor standards we introduced were tougher and performance is improving. Heads, teachers and pupils deserve credit for meeting the challenge head on."
Of the 97 primary schools that became sponsored academies who have had their results published today, two thirds (62) have improved their results - a third (33 per cent) by at least 10 percentage points. Sponsored academies raised their results by three percentage points on average - compared with a one percentage point rise in local authority mainstream schools.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said of the results: "It is not surprising that some schools have fallen below the Government's new floor targets for primaries as they now have much tougher targets to achieve,
We agree that it is vital for schools to focus on reading, writing and maths but in the relentless push to get 60 per cent of students to level 4 (the required standard) in these subjects, other important areas of the curriculum such as art, music and PE get side-lined."
Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, added: "Those who wish to claim the public education service is broken will feed a narrative of negativity around these results. The truth is that these results once again demonstrate considerable achievement and pupils and teachers should be congratulated on their hard work."
Top 10 areas for teaching disadvantaged pupils
% gap in performance between free school meal pupils and the rest
1. Newham 4
2. Camden 8
3= Tower Hamlets 9
5= Westminster 10
8= Greenwich 11
Bottom 10 areas for teaching disadvantaged pupils
1. Wokingham 39
2. Central Bedfordshire 31
3= Stockport 30
5. Cambridgeshire 29
6= Bath and North Somerset 28
8. Cheshire West and Chester 27
9= Worcestershire 26
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