A major overhaul of the way writing is taught in primary schools will be introduced in September following test results which show that one in three 11-year-olds struggles to write.
There has been no overall improvement in writing standards for the past three years, which the Schools minister, Jim Knight, described as "a concern".
The SATs figures show boys fare far worse than girls, with only 60 per cent reaching the required standard (level four), compared with 74 per cent of girls. Overall, the figure is 67 per cent – well below the percentage reaching the required standard in reading (86 per cent) and maths (78 per cent).
Teachers will be told to move away from the traditional way of teaching writing: setting pupils a task and then assessing it and marking it. Many pupils are discouraged by this approach, it is argued. Instead, they will be encouraged to discuss with their pupils what they should write before they put pen to paper.
Ministers have asked the children's author Pie Corbett to produce a classroom DVD on how to encourage pupils to write. Corbett, whose books include Chatting Cheetahs And Jumping Jellyfish, believes children should start by writing the stories of nursery rhymes.
In addition, ministers plan to introduce more one-to-one tuition to help those who are struggling to write.
Yesterday's national curriculum test results showed that 81 per cent of 11-year-olds had reached the required standard in English (up one percentage point from last year) and 78 per cent in maths (also up by one percentage point). The science figure remained the same at 88 per cent.
These figures mean that around 126,000 children failed to reach the required standard in maths and 106,000 in English. However, when the results of reading, maths and writing tests are analysed separately, it emerges that only 61 per cent of 11-year-olds master the basics in all three subject areas – leaving 220,000 (39 per cent) falling short.
More than 450 schools still do not have their test results for 11-year-olds. Around 17,000 scripts remain missing.
Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "We are still surprised that the Government has released these figures when there are such serious problems with the quality of marking."
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