Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Labour's legacy - 1 in 3 children ill-prepared to start secondary school in September

This year’s Key Stage 2 Sats – the national curriculum tests of England’s 11-year-olds leaving primary school – provided plenty of fodder, much of it negative – for comment from all shades of political opinion today.
For neutrals the BBC decided the news angle was a small rise – from 64 per cent to 67 per cent - in the numbers reaching the “expected” level in the “three Rs.”
On the left The Guardian was concerned that 1 in 3 pupils (nearly 183,000) would be entering secondary school without a working command of reading, writing, and maths.
The Daily Telegraph, on the right of the political spectrum, led with its worry that the proportion of children gaining upper level scores had fallen.
“It will fuel claims that schools are focusing on average children to boost their position on league tables while ignoring the very brightest or those at the bottom,” wrote the newspaper’s education correspondent Graeme Paton.
It’s not as though anyone has much faith in the Sats set-up. “We need an assessment process that pupils, parents, teachers and government can all have confidence in,” said the National Association Of Head Teachers in a press statement. Amen to that.
It, too, is worried about those underachieving primary school leavers “but would caution against making sweeping statements or generalisations about this group.”
However, it’s difficult to disagree with Schools minister Nick Gibb’s take on today’s results. "These are children who began school in 2005. Labour's legacy is a third of children who can't reach the basic standard in the three Rs and thousands of 11-year-olds who have a reading age of a seven-year-old or below."
So what of Tony Blair’s 1997 General Election promise to make “education, education, education” his watchword? Billions were spent - the education budget doubled since 2000 - but perhaps too much went on bricks and mortar and not enough thought given to what went on between the walls.
The country fails miserably on international education comparison surveys, employers complain about illiterate and innumerate school leavers, and their younger brothers and sisters look set to follow on the road to exam failure.
The Coalition promises education reforms but the public sector cuts are hardly the right backdrop for such an ambition.

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