Children in Welsh primaries are achieving higher standards than ever, but older pupils are still held back by a lack of basic reading, writing and numeracy, the Welsh chief inspector said this week.
For the second year running, pupils achieved good or very good standards in more than 60 per cent of classes, Susan Lewis, head of Welsh schools'
inspectorate, Estyn, revealed.
Her annual report showed that the percentage of unsatisfactory work at primary level had dropped below the Welsh Assembly target of 3 per cent for the first time. But, by key stage 2, standards in writing and maths are beginning to dip, which Ms Lewis believes has an impact on pupils'
performance at secondary school.
Transition between primary and secondary school has long been a problem in Wales, with pupil achievement dropping between key stages 2 and 3. But, after little progress for the past five years, the report says standards are now starting to rise.
Ms Lewis said: "In primary, you see very confident pupils, but they aren't building on these skills at secondary school. We need to make transition easier, with fewer teachers for the new intake, or a designated part of the building for them."
Secondary pupils have consistently failed to do better at basic skills.
Only 3 per cent of schools achieved very good standards in speaking, reading and writing: exactly the same as last year.
No schools at all achieved very good results in numeracy. Pupils are also failing to meet national targets for GCSE performance. Ms Lewis said:
"Pupils need to recognise the value of reading, writing and numeracy to their employment prospects. It has to be sewn right into the courses, not just an add-on that doesn't have any relevance for them.
"Then pupils will see the rationale for learning these skills, because it will allow them to make the most of the subject knowledge they are gaining."
Geraint Davies, Welsh secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women teachers, agreed. He said: "With the over-emphasis these days on examinations and testing, pupils don't see the relevance of being taught basic skills. We need a radical rethink of how basic skills are taught. It needs to be accepted as everyday learning, rather than an extra chore."