But 11-year-olds find everyday words tricky. Julie Henry reports
JUNIOR boys have made a marked improvement in their spelling and have caught up with girls, an analysis of tests has found.
But significant numbers of 11-year-old boys and girls are still struggling with everyday words.
The analysis of last year's tests, by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, shows that key stage 2 pupils spelled 93 per cent of words correctly. The slight improvement on the previous year is due to boys' more accurate spelling.
There was also a marked improvement in younger children's spelling. However, more than half of the 600,000 pupils who took the tests will go on to secondaries unable to spell words like necessary, extremely, pollution, pierce and structures. Eighty per cent of 11-year-olds failed to spell environment.
Many pupils who reached the required standard in English still struggled to cope with words such as passenger and generation.
Despite the spelling shortcomings, which accounted for 10 per cent of total marks in the English exam,standards in literacy continued to improve last year.
The proportion of 11-year-olds reaching the expected mark rose steadily from 64 per cent in 1992 to 75 per cent in 2000. The Government's target is 80 per cent by 2002.
Although boys' reading has improved slightly over the past two years, girls continue to beat them. Just over half of pupils are reaching the required writing standards.
Chris Davis, spokesman for the National Primary Heads Association, said:
"Schools have really put the time into motivating boys with reading, writing and spelling. It's good that the results reflect that."
The QCA report revealed that the number of English scripts which had to be re-marked because of marking errors rose by more than 1,000 to 6,155 in 2000. In nearly 3,000 of the cases the mark was increased by a level.
In maths, the proportion of children achieving the expected level was the same as in 1999 - 72 per cent. In mental arithmetic, a major element of the numeracy strategy, children felt confident enough to attempt most questions.