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Simple spelling is still a struggle

DESPITE five years of the literacy hour, 11-year-olds still struggle to use capital letters and full stops correctly and misspell words of more than one syllable.

An analysis of the summer national tests has revealed basic errors are still a feature of children's work, despite the concentration on writing in the classroom and widespread teaching to the test.

The Government's exam watchdog has told teachers that too many children failed to mark sentences correctly and were poor spellers. Common words such as "made", "speak" and "slow" were beyond some pupils.

Even children judged to be working two years beyond their age used short sentences and filled stories with actions and events rather than exploring motives and feelings.

In the key stage 1 tests, seven-year-olds failed to recognise words such as "where", "what" and "whose". Some children lost points for trying to decipher the story from illustrations rather than reading the text.

Last year, key stage 2 writing scores rose by three percentage points, but reading fell by the same amount. The overall English result stalled with three-quarters reaching level 4 and the Government failed to meet its 80 per cent target.

The maths test papers revealed some examples of where progress was made. Most pupils could interpret and extract information from simple tables. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority maths team said children at level 4 and above "increasingly use a structured and systematic approach to solve problems, using jottings to support their thinking".

However, decimal points and correct use of the equals sign in problem solving confused some children. Pupils also continue to mix up the perimeter and area of a shape.

The KS2 maths results increased by two percentage points to 73 per cent last year, still two percentage points short of the Government's target.

In science, almost all 11-year-olds can match some of the main organs of the human body to their function. However, children relied too much on recounting observations rather than explaining why things happen. Full reports on the 2002 tests will be sent to schools later this month.

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