11-year-olds' target likely to be missed

THE Government will fall short of its targets for 11-year-olds this year despite a big revival in maths scores, a TES survey suggests.

The survey of 56 authorities, covering almost 6,000 schools, shows that maths results have risen an average of three percentage points, but English scores have stayed the same for the third year running.

The Government's target was for 75 per cent of pupils to reach level 4 in maths and 80 per cent in English by May 2002. Former education secretary David Blunkett said he would resign if the targets were not met. His successor does not intend to.

The TES poll of education authorities' provisional results shows an average rise of just over three percentage points in maths. If reflected nationally this would mean 74 per cent of children reached the required grade, just below the 75 per cent target.

But in English there was no change. If reflected nationally this would mean 75 per cent of children reached level 4, as in 2001 and 2000. The results are subject to appeals and other adjustments. The official results are due out later this month.

The boost in maths comes after a fall last year from 72 per cent to 71 per cent.

The drop prompted the Office for Standards in Education to warn that teachers and pupils faced a "significant challenge" in meeting the 2002 targets.

Nottinghamshire is delighted with its provisional rise of five percentage points in maths to 75 per cent. Its 2002 target is 76 per cent.

Peter Eardley, the council's numeracy strategy manager, said: "We have worked hard on training programmes. The national five-day training course is for teachers in Years 4, 5 and 6, but we have taken training right through to nursery and reception teachers.

"We felt if we did not get the basics right in nursery and key stage 1 then we could not expect teachers to pull children up in Year 6."

Dr Sue Saunders, past president of the Mathematical Association, said:

"Reflective teachers will have taken note of the fact there was a drop last year and put more effort and focus on maths. We are once again reaping the rewards of dedicated teachers and hard-working pupils."

Just three of the 56 authorities saw a fall in their maths scores, compared to 24 which had a drop in English.

Trevor Millum, spokesman for the National Association for the Teaching of English, said: "I think the Government would be very unwise to criticise the teaching profession for not meeting targets. Parents know how hard everyone strives to meet these targets but it is more complicated than just setting a target you want schools to meet."

The Government has now set targets for 2004 of 85 per cent of 11-year-olds reaching the required standard in both English and maths.

Eammon O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "The problem that confronts most teachers is that no sooner have they achieved one target then they have another set of them. It is a Sisyphean task."

Back to work, 16-17

FIVE YEARS OF KS2 FIGURES

1998

English: 64 per cent

Maths: 58 per cent

1999

(after first year of the National Literacy Strategy)

English: 71 per cent

Maths: 69 per cent

2000

(after first year of National Numeracy Strategy)

English: 75 per cent

Maths: 72 per cent

2001

English: 75 per cent

Maths: 71 per cent

2002

TES prediction

English: 75 per cent

(target 80 per cent)

Maths 74 per cent

(target 75 per cent)

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