Schools minister says league tables and tests for 11-year-olds will stay

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The Independent Online

David Miliband, the Schools minister, today rules out a Government U-turn on league tables for primary schools and tests for 11-year-olds.

Writing in The Independent, Mr Miliband says of the tables: "We cannot return to a world where ministers, officials and probably teachers know the performance of schools but the public do not."

He says that the tests for 11-year-olds "guard against poverty of aspiration" and set independent national benchmarks to monitor every child's academic progress.

He was responding to mounting criticism of the Government's "three T's" regime of testing, targets and tables, outlined in an audit of Labour's performance in education undertaken by The Independent earlier this week. Parents and teachers have said that England should follow the example of Wales and abandon the tables to avoid teachers putting too much stress on pupils at too early an age.

Responding to further criticism that the Government has bungled the introduction of secondary school reforms as a result of its impatience to raise standards, Mr Miliband acknowledges that improving the secondary sector was "a tougher nut to crack".

But he reveals that GCSE exam results - due to be published for individual schools - show that some of the country's most deprived inner-city schools are improving at twice the rate of the rest of the country. "The national GCSE 5 A* to C pass rate has seen steady upward progress - rising by an average of around 1 per cent each year," he writes.

"Provisional GCSE results in Excellence in Cities schools - those facing some of the toughest challenges in the country - have improved at almost double this rate."

The Excellence in Cities programme channels extra cash into schools in deprived neighbourhoods to help them employ mentors to help pupils with their learning and set up "master classes" for their brightest pupils.

Mr Miliband also reveals that the Government's new specialist secondary schools are performing much better than non-specialist schools - the percentage of pupils achieving five A* to C grade passes is 7 per cent higher in the specialist schools.

But he says that the UK has the fourth highest drop-out rate from education at the age of 17 of any country. "We are not satisfied. There is a substantial way to go before we can deliver the high quality, high equity education that we seek; but the vision of learning personalised to the needs, interests and aptitudes of every pupil is right and, over the next couple of years, pupils, teachers and schools will have the tools to show what they can do."

David Miliband, page 15