One in five pupils 'going backwards in primary schools'

More than 100,000 children are effectively going backwards in primary schools, according to official figures to be published next week.

As many as one in five are failing to make the Government's expected level of progress in key subjects between the ages of seven and 11.

Up to 70,000 pupils did well in tests at seven but failed to achieve the grades they were capable of in exams four years later.

Results in SATs for 11-year-olds are also expected to confirm that attainment in the three Rs at primary school is falling. 


Falling behind: As many as one in five children are failing to make the Government's expected level of progress in key subjects between the ages of seven and 11 (posed by models)

The proportion of pupils making the grade in reading, writing and maths combined is expected to fall to 61 per cent this year from 62 per cent in 2008.

It follows the revelation that standards of reading and writing in primary schools fell this year for the first time in the history of the national testing system, which began in 1995.

Maths attainment stayed the same as it was in 2008. The figures, due to be published alongside school-by-school league tables next week, will trigger fresh concerns over the way primary pupils are taught.

The final report of the Ofsted education watchdog before the next election warned this week that a 'stubborn core' of poor quality teaching was hampering efforts to raise standards. 

Chief inspector Christine Gilbert reported that too much teaching was 'dull' and 'pedestrian'.

This was leading to truancy and classroom disruption, she warned. Teachers' own poor grasp of their subjects was contributing to under-achievement in maths and science.

'Teachers whose understanding of the subject is weak are liable to pass on their own confusion and misunderstanding to the learner,' she said.

In English, too many teachers were failing to extend children's vocabularies or encourage them to develop writing skills, she warned.

'There is a stubborn core of inadequate teaching and teaching that is only satisfactory – teaching that fails to inspire, challenge or extend children and learners,' Miss Gilbert said.

'If children are not taught well, they will not rise above low expectations.'

The National Curriculum testing system has been designed with the expectation that pupils will progress two levels during a school 'key stage'.

Youngsters are expected to reach level two by age seven and level four as they leave primary school at age 11. The Government will next week publish for the first time the proportion of pupils at each primary school making the required two levels of progress in both English and maths.

The figures are expected to show that around one in five youngsters across the country fail to progress by the expected two levels in both key subjects.

These include tens of thousands of bright pupils who were on track at age seven but fell behind.

Shadow Children's Secretary Michael Gove said: 'We need a relentless focus on literacy in the early years so that all children can read after two years at school. And we need specialist training for teachers in tried and tested teaching methods like phonics.'

Ministers have admitted 'disappointment' at the apparent fall in English standards.

But Education Minister Diana Johnson sparked a row this summer when she insisted a lower grade than the official 'level four' pass mark was worthy of recognition.

'I want us to recognise children at different levels,' she said.

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