As long ago as 1978, HM Inspectors pinpointed trouble in the lower juniors. This month's report from the Chief Inspector (see page 5) still shows that eight and nine-year-olds are the group least likely to succeed.
Why? This is the exciting age when children are growing out of infancy, developing quirky senses of humour, having startling insights. It is also a crucial point in their education. If reading is not secure by age eight, children may fall permanently behind. Reasons for the Year 3-4 blackspot are not entirely clear. It could have to do with a change of school or key stage, or with a lack of focus by schools on those years in the middle.
Now the National Numeracy Project has shown that this doesn't have to happen (see page 8). Eight and nine-year-olds in the pilot showed greater progress than any other group. Again, we can't be sure why, but it could be because the scheme details a curriculum for each year rather than a four-year key stage, and builds in continuity from year to year.
It's good news and worth thinking about.