THE latest test results suggest primary schools in both affluent counties and struggling inner cities will need to improve at a faster rate to meet Government targets.
Performance tables due out next week will show that even schools in Surrey and Buckinghamshire will have to make dramatic progress if the Government is to meet its targets. It has promised that by 2002, 80 per cent of 11-year-olds will be achieving the standard expected for their age in English, and 75 per cent will be achieving it in maths.
The largest leaps will be required in areas where results are below average. But ministers are also expecting schools in affluent Surrey to improve reading rates by 4 percentage points a year in order that 90 per cent of 11-year-olds are at the required level 4.
Over the past year, Surrey's key stage 2 English results improved by only 1 percentage point, while maths results mirrored the national 3 per centage point dip.
A Surrey spokesman said its schools would come close to the targets, but they are challenging. "We are encouraged by the impact of targets on our GCSE results."
Richmond, London, another high-achieving authority, will also have to improve its rate of progress, particularly in maths. It is expected to have 87 per cent of 11-year-olds at level 4 by 2002, up from 74 per cent in 1998.
At the other end of the scale, Newcastle-upon-Tyne's schools need to improve their maths scores by nearly 30 percentage points by 2002 - an average 7.5 points a year for the next four years. The best rate of progress in maths over the past year was in Shropshire, where results increased by 3 percentage points. Newcastle's were down 2 percentage points.
The level of improvement needed in English is not much lower - an average of just under 6.5 percentage points a year to hit Newcastle's 2002 target of 80 per cent. This year's results were up 4.7 points. A spokeswoman said KS2 literacy results were "still some way off national levels" - but the authority is hoping substantial improvements at KS1 will translate into better results atage 11.
Bristol, also low in the education authority performance tables, saw a 2 point rise in English scores between 1997 and 1998, but a 5 point drop in maths. It needs average annual rises of 5 percentage points to hit its 2002 literacy and numeracy targets (77 and 68 per cent respectively).
Sally Boulter, divisional director for achievement, said: "It's very difficult to know at this stage whether the targets are realistic. We are working to try and achieve them, but they are challenging by anyone's standards.
"I don't think anyone doubts in general that targets help. But it's the underpinning action we take, working with teachers and children, that is important."