Standards soar at age 11 in maths and English tests

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The Independent Online
NATIONAL TEST results for 11-year-olds published yesterday show unprecedented improvements in standards. But results for 14-year-olds slipped back in science and English, underlining growing concern about the early years of secondary school.

The Prime Minister said that the Government's standards campaign had passed a "milestone". Ministers believe that their policy of emphasising the basics through daily literacy and numeracy hours is paying off. All seven, 11 and 14-year-olds sat national tests in English, maths and science last term.

Maths results for 11-year-olds leapt by 10 percentage points with 69 per cent of pupils reaching the expected standard - Level 4. Figures for English were up by five percentage points to 70 per cent. David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education, has set targets of 80 per cent reaching the standard in English and 75 per cent in maths for the year 2002.

Tony Blair said during a visit to Southfield school in Luton: "I regard today as a really important milestone in raising standards. When we started with these targets people said it could not be done but it can be and that is tremendously important for the future of our country." In reading, the 2002 target has already been reached but writing lags far behind with only 56 per cent at Level 4. Maths results fell last year, partly because of the introduction of a new mental arithmetic test. Mr Blunkett says this year's figures have been boosted because 70 per cent of schools introduced the new numeracy hour with its emphasis on mental calculation last September. It starts in all schools this term.

Vanessa Senior, a maths teacher at Southfield School, who is in her second year of teaching, told Mr Blunkett that she had found difficulty in coping with maths during her teacher training course at Middlesex University. It was only when she was taught how to use the numeracy strategy that her maths teaching improved.

Results for seven-year-olds also improved, with more than four out of five pupils reaching the expected standard in reading and writing and around 87 per cent in maths. The figure for spelling was 71 per cent.

Ministers have been concentrating their efforts on primary schools but are already looking at ways of raising standards in the early years of secondary school. Though the percentage of those reaching the expected standard rose from 59 to 62 per cent in maths, in English it fell from 65 to 63 per cent and in science from 56 to 55 per cent.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said the changes in primary education would take time to work their way into secondary schools. "Today's 14-year-olds were in the lower years of primary school when teachers were struggling with the introduction of the national curriculum."

Theresa May, Tory education spokeswoman, said: "We have had one review of these tests. We should now make this review an annual check up."