Concern over writing mounts

21st July 2000 at 01:00
Writing scores at 11 are less than half those for reading, Julie Henry reports.

THE gap between reading and writing scores in national curriculum tests has increased, according to primary headteachers.

Last week a TES survey of key stage 2 test results suggested that the proportion of pupils reaching the expected level in English this year has risen from 70 to 77 per cent. But schools up and down the country are reporting a widening gulf between the two elements of the English test.

Last year, 54 per cent of pupils reached level 4 or above in writing compared with 78 per cent in reading.

It led to a warning by the Office for Standards in Education that the Government's targets in English would not be met unless writing improved significantly.

The picture emerging from this year's results will do little to reassure OFSTED, or the Department for Education and Employment.

Data collected by the National Association of Primary Heads shows writing scores are less than half of reading scores in some areas.

In Tameside, an average of 87 per cent of pupils achieved level 4 in reading in six schools. In writing, only 42 per cent reached the expected level. Dagenham, Manchester, Northamptonshire and Hampshire reported similar results.

OFSTED says schools are notpaying enough attention to writing in their literacy work. An HM Inspector study found the teaching of writing was unsatisfatory in a quarter of lessons.

More than 25,000 Year 5 teachers will take a crash course in language skills this autumn in a bid to improve pupils' writing.

But the primary heads' association claims teaching methods do not explain the huge disparity.

Spokesman Chris Davis said: "In my own school we scored 95 per cent for reading and 33 for writing. This is the same children, with the same teachers who have carried out additional work on writing this year.

"We are getting reports from all over the country of schools not believing their results.

"In other schools, teachers are stifling creativity because of the pressure of league tables and using formula writing where pupils write a standard story, changing the characters and nouns to fit the test.

"There needs to be a review of the standard expected and the way in which tests are set."

The National Association of Head Teachers has also reported big differences in reading and writing scores.

General secretary David Hart blamed the inadequacy of the national literacy strategy in dealing with writing and problems in marking.

More than one in seven primaries demanded a re-mark of English scripts last year. A total of 2,210 schools returned papers for a marking review and 4,170 scripts by 11-year-olds were upgraded.

Both heads' associations are predicting a flood of appeals on writing test results this year.

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