Children are falling behind in English and maths between the ages of 7 and 11, the first results of national tests for Year 6 pupils show. Only half the 11-year-olds in England reached level 4, the national standard for their age in English and maths; about two-thirds did so in science.
In contrast, three-quarters of seven-year-olds reached or ex-ceeded level 2 which the Government says should stretch a child of that age. At 14, more than 40 per cent failed to reach national standards.
Last year was the first time virtually all 11 and 14-year-olds sat national tests, following a boycott in 1994. The first nationwide tests for seven-year-olds were in 1991.
The results, announced yesterday, will be seen to confirm worries about standards in junior schools. The Office for Standards in Education has repeatedly found problems at key stage 2 and last week an international study revealed that English 10-year-olds were two years behind their counterparts in Germany and Switzerland in maths.
In English and maths, 11 and 14-year-olds did better in teachers' own assessments than in the written tests set by the Government. Schools were highly critical of the standard of marking in the English tests at both ages, where external markers were employed for the first time.
Eleven-year-olds did better in the science test than in teacher assessment (70 per cent reached level 4 or above in the test, 64 per cent in TA).
In English, 48 per cent of 11-year-olds reached level 4 or above in the test, with 61 per cent doing so in teacher assessment. In maths, the figures are 44 per cent for the tests and 54 per cent in TA. At 14, where the average child is expected to reach levels 5 or 6, results were: English, 62 per cent reached level 5 or above in TA, 55 per cent in the test; maths, 61 per cent in TA, 57 per cent in the test; science, 59 per cent in TA and 56 per cent in the test.
The results coincided with publication of a review of testing arrangements by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, which recommends ways to streamline assessment and says external marking at KS2 and 3 should be continued for the time being. It emphasises that tests and teacher assessment should have equal status, and that results for 11-year-olds cannot be used for selection by secondary schools, Changes recommended for 1997 include a non-calculator maths paper at 14, the possibility of mental arithmetic tests at 11 and 14, and consultation over making optional the classroom tasks for assessing the least able children at 11 and 14. They will examine the possibility of optional tests at nine.