THE Government has missed its targets for the number of children leaving primary school with the standard of English and maths expected for their age.
Headteachers' leadership skills will now be in the spotlight as the Government continues its push to meet even higher targets in two years'
Standards rose in maths compared to last year and stayed the same in English, but both fell short of the targets on which former Education Secretary David Blunkett staked his job. In English, 75 per cent of 11-year-olds reached level 4, five percentage points below the 80 per cent target.
In maths, 73 per cent of pupils achieved level 4, a rise of two percentage points on last year, but short of the 75 per cent target.
Results have improved dramatically since 1997 when only 63 per cent achieved the expected standard in English and 62 per cent in maths.
A government spokesman said: "These are our best set of results yet. Teachers and schools should be rightly proud of this historic achievement. However, we are not complacent and we will be targetting those authorities and schools that continue to underperform with extra support."
Professor David Hopkins, head of the standards and effectiveness unit at the Department for Education and Skills, has said the key priority for primary schools now is to improve leadership. Writing in today's TES, he says: "A critical factor in a school's performance is the quality of leadership. Where standards are high, it is a direct reflection of the quality of their leadership and management."
All headteachers will be sent new materials this year about their role in raising standards.
Other projects include: guidance on using literacy and numeracy across the curriculum and a pilot project to provide extra support to the lowest-achieving schools.
Professor Hopkins said: "Teachers can be rightly proud of what they have achieved. But the 2002 results are a milestone, not the end of the road."
He praised the improved quality of teaching, picking out for example the improvement in mental mathematics. However, areas still causing concern are writing - particularly boys'. In maths, children are less successful with pencil-and-paper calculations and cannot always decide when it is most sensible to use a calculator.
The Government set national targets for 2004 earlier this year. The target is for 85 per cent of 11-year-olds to reach level 4 in both English and maths. The National Association of Headteachers, has told its members to ignore them and work to their own realistic measures. David Hart, general secretary, said: "The vast majority of heads are far more concerned about their own school targets than they are about the national figures and many feel very strongly that local authority target-setting really is in dire need of a review."
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