Seven-year-olds' test results show wide variations

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The Independent Online
THE performance of some seven- year-olds in English and maths is improving, according to test results, but there are still wide differences between local education authorities.

The tests in English, maths, science and technology were taken by more than 600,000 seven-year- olds in the summer. The results, published yesterday, show that in English, the proportion of seven- year-olds reaching level two (a typical seven-year-old) ranged between LEAs from 63 per cent to 86 per cent. In reading, the range was from 57 per cent to 86 per cent.

Other ranges were: in mathematics, from 66 per cent to 86 per cent; in science, 77 per cent to 94 per cent; and in technology, 52 per cent to 89 per cent. Girls did consistently better than boys across the board.

John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, said the results were a testimony to the hard work of teachers and the success of the national curriculum in raising standards.

In reading, 23 per cent of seven-year-olds were at level one (defined as realistic and challenging for five to six-year-olds). These pupils can recognise individual words but cannot read independently. In writing, 66 per cent of pupils were at level two, a fall of 12 percentage points since last year. The Department for Education said this was probably due to tighter rules on punctuation. Some 37 per cent of pupils were at or working towards level one in arithmetic. They could not do single-figure addition or subtraction using mental arithmetic.

Mr Patten said the variations between local authorities were unacceptable. 'I will be investigating the reasons why some inner-city LEAs - for example North Tyneside, Doncaster and Haringey - achieved results at or above the national average while others, in similar circumstances, failed badly. I would also like to discover why counties like Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire are achieving below the national average.' He added: 'Why is it that some high-spending authorities are achieving results well below the national average, and similar authorities spend far less but achieve much more?'

The top LEAs, taking all subjects together, were Harrow, Richmond-upon-Thames, North Yorkshire, Bromley, Havering, Hertfordshire, Hillingdon and the Isle of Wight. At the bottom were Knowsley, Sheffield, Birmingham, Bradford, Greenwich, Sandwell, Newham and Cleveland.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers said: 'This is a glorious day for the Philistines who insist on reducing education to a balance sheet with thousands of numbers to crunch.'

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the results showed the Government's claim that schools and teachers are failing pupils to be false. 'They do not show what progress has been made since the pupils entered school. They make no allowances for the difficulties of children for whom English is a second language, for the number of terms the children have been in school, the size of classes, the support given by the local authority nor the resources to the school.'

(Table omitted)

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