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Born below the baseline

THE levels of deprivation pupils experience and their age when they enter primary are the key determinants of their progress in primary 1, the latest baseline testing results in Aberdeen have shown.

Differences between girls and boys are much less significant than socio-economic factors, the Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS) data confirm. This contrasts with other research which found girls performing better at the age of five.

The city is in its fourth year of baseline testing, using Durham University materials, and is continuing to build a picture of educational progress based on standardised testing.

In both reading and maths at the start of primary 1 last session, older children among the city's 2,187 first-year pupils scored notably higher. Pupils scored substantially lower if their parents used clothing grants and if they lived in deprived areas. Those with a combination of factors performed well below average.

By the end of primary 1, key factors in reading which affect performance are the reading score at the start of the year, the initial phonetics score, clothing grant take-up and moving school during the year.

Jackie Wilkins, principal officer for educational research and development, said the magnitude of the effect of moving school within the city was "quite shocking" in terms of reading, but not in maths. It was common i some of the more deprived areas for parents to switch school.

Ms Wilkins believed differences in reading schemes used by schools could be a contributory factor, unlike the more uniform approach in maths.

Older children scored higher at the start and end of first year, although there is no evidence that they made faster progress during the year.

In maths, the key factors at the end of the year are the maths score at the start of primary 1, clothing grant take-up, and gender. On average, girls scored marginally lower at the end of primary 1, but boys with low scores made better progress during the year. Girls with higher starting scores made better progress.

Older children did not appear to make faster progress during the year than others. Age can vary by more than a year in P1.

Commenting on the findings, John Stodter, director of education, said:

"Although there has been some impact from early intervention, there is still a worrying gap between those who start school disadvantaged and those who do not and it is not narrowing. We need to do more targeting of resources and targeted teaching and support. The research does not support the view that boys are doing badly across the board."

Over the next few months the city will piece together a three-year report on its PIPS evidence. Each year group is slightly different to the next.

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