Primary improves 1,800 per cent

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A SCHOOL once described as having "serious weaknesses' is named today as Britain's fastest improving primary after achieving an increase in test results of 1,800 per cent.

Malinslee Primary School in Telford, Shropshire, has recorded a combined score of 267 out of 300 in tests for maths, English and science.

The combined score published last year, made up of the percentage of children gaining the expected standard in the three major subjects, was just 14 out of 300.

Yesterday, its headteacher, Ann Hughes, said paying close attention to teaching the 140 pupils exam skills such as reading the question and working to a deadline had helped them show their potential. This year, 83 per cent of pupils gained the expected standard in English. The score for maths and science was 92 per cent.

Mrs Hughes said that staff were "devastated" when they received the poor results, a month before Ofsted inspectors visited in July 1997.

"We really wanted to show that we could do better, both for the children and those who left. We looked at the test papers to see why children did not reach their potential," she said.

"Children were not reading questions to the end and in maths they were afraid to show their working out. The children needed to develop the skills of working to a timetable and coping with different situations that would improve their learning across the board."

The school has broken up its mixed-age classes for two mornings a week to concentrate on maths and English. Staff have also opened a breakfast club for pupils, who are drawn from nearby council estates.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, yesterday praised three schools, Teyfant Community School in Bristol, West Walker Primary School in Newcastle and Mayflower School in Tower Hamlets in east London, for consistently raising standards.

At West Walker school, on the banks of the Tyne, the headteacher, Norma Redfearn, has increased the percentage of children achieving the required standard in English, maths and science threefold over the past three years. She said the school had become the heart of efforts to rebuild the local community after the collapse of the shipbuilding industry.

The school now has breakfast and homework clubs and has opened an adult education centre for parents and local people.

Mrs Redfearn said: "At one time 12,000 men used to walk past the school gates on the way to work, but that all ended. The staff, the people in the community and the governors have worked together. Ten years ago the school was half empty, but now there is a waiting list."