UK Primary Schools Failing in Reading and Math

The UK Department of Education is set to publish official league tables that will show that around 1 in 16 state primaries are falling short of basic targets in English and math, with more than 1,000 schools potentially facing closure, writes Graeme Paton at the Telegraph.

As 200+ of the country’s poorest performing schools are set to be handed over from local authority control and turned into academies and private sponsorship next year, hundreds of other “coasting” primaries potentially face other intervention measures including merger with successful schools in the area.

Data in a new Government funded school-by-school report for 11-year-olds in England will show that 26 per cent of students left primary school this summer without a proper grasp of both English and math.

Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, said failure to achieve the basic standard in primary education could condemn many pupils to a school life and beyond underachieving.

 “The key thing in primary education is that children should master the use of words and numbers at a young age – that’s really the basis of all further education,” he said.

“If they are leaving primary school without that confidence and competence they are going to struggle to benefit from secondary education.

“It is very disappointing that in over 1,000 primary schools a large number of children are not reaching the appropriate standard.”

Ministers have already identified the 200 worst-performing primaries and it is thought they will be turned into academies in 2012 under a new leadership team. Another 500 schools will be warned to improve or face similar intervention.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said:

“We’ve set out clear plans to turn around underperforming schools. We’re setting tougher basic minimum floor standards which will rise year-on-year to stop schools coasting along.

“We will turn the 200 weakest primaries into academies and have more robust action plans in 500 more.

“Ministers now have tough new powers to intervene where schools aren’t making the right progress and where local authorities do not have a grip on the issue.”

This comes after new testing proposals made in the fall by the UK Government. Under the new rules, 11-year-olds will be forced to sit a new-style test in spelling, grammar, punctuation, handwriting and vocabulary.

It is thought that 600,000 pupils will take the toughen-up literacy exam at the end of primary school, having replaced the much-maligned existing exam in writing composition which has been heavily criticized by teachers and education stakeholders.

An independent review of assessment in English primary schools said a more focused exam based on fundamental literacy skills would “raise attainment” in these areas and give teachers more freedom to monitor children’s composition throughout the year.