Pupils fail to reach target

THE number of young children reaching target standards for writing, reading and maths is falling in many parts of the North-East.

THE number of young children reaching target standards for writing, reading and maths is falling in many parts of the North-East.

Key Stage One results, reflecting the number of children achieving the set competence in subjects at the age of seven, show writing standards falling for the second year and no progress in maths, science or reading.

In Northumberland, the number of boys reaching the target level in reading and science fell significantly, while the pattern was repeated for boys in County Durham and Gateshead in reading, writing, maths and science.

The shock results have come a few days after a study from Durham University revealed that £21bn of Government money spent on early-years education in six years had not improved standards.

Ministers said most children were reaching the set level in core subjects, but admitted more had to be done to raise standards.

But opposition parties described the figures as a national disgrace and said the Government’s education programme had lost momentum. Liberal Democrat schools spokesman David Laws said: “It is a national disgrace that one in four boys don’t even have the most basic writing skills aged seven. The Government has lost the momentum of improvement in primary school standards.”

Shadow schools minister Nick Gibb said: “Once again, the Government is being too easy on themselves.

“Until we get literacy and maths to significantly higher levels in the first two years of school, we will continue to have problems later on in the education system.”

Though Sunderland and South Tyneside saw performance go up in some areas, the general trend for seven-year-olds in English, maths and science in the region was a decline.

In Newcastle, only 69% of boys reached the required level in writing, while Durham and Gateshead saw performance drop in every area.

Durham County Council’s head of achievement services David Ford said: “In County Durham, Key Stage One results across all subjects are close to the national average.

“Taking into account the high levels of social and economic deprivation in the county, this is still a relatively strong performance. We have identified some issues, particularly in reading, with boys, and we have already instituted a significant programme of early speech and language work to deal with low levels of pre-school language development.”

A Northumberland County Council spokeswoman said: “Boys’ reading results have been well above the national average for the last seven years and the 2007 figure, while showing a slight decrease on 2006, is similar to that achieved in 2004 and 2005.”

Head of standards in Sunderland Lynda Brown said: “There remains much to do and we will continue to support our schools in innovative ways to continuously improve.”

Schools Minister Lord Adonis promised to continue to push for improvements but insisted he was pleased that 90% of children were making the grade in maths and 84% in reading.

He said: “We must do more to raise standards even further, especially in writing.

“While there has been real progress over the last 10 years, we need to continue to push for year-on-year improvement because it is vital that all children gain a thorough understanding of the basics.”

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