The national literacy strategy appears to be working, but there are concerns that other areas are suffering. Julie Henry reports
TEST results for 11-year-olds suggest schools have already hit the Government's maths target and are on course to meet the literacy goals.
A survey carried out this week by The TES found the proportion of children reaching the desired standards in English, maths and science this summer has risen once again, despite claims of a tricky maths paper and more marking errors in English.
The findings come as the Government prepares to consult on tough new targets - 85 per cent of pupils at level 4 in maths and English by 2004. The TES sample of 80 schools found the proportion of pupils reaching level 4 in English this year rose 2 per cent to 77. The magic figure of 75 per cent has been reached in maths. Science scores reached 89 per cent, compared with 85 per cent last year.
At St Alphonsus Roman Catholic school, Old Trafford, Manchester, all pupils reached the norm in English. Head Tony Rae said he was staggered: "We are an inner-city school where 70 per cent of pupils are on free school meals. We have been in a state of shock - five years ago we were around the 32 per cent mark in everything."
But the gap between boys and girls in writing is still a concern among the schools surveyed. At one school, while all pupils reached the expected level in reading, only half the boys made the grade in writing.
Schools complained that clerical errors and poor marking, particularly in English, have increased this year and forced many to return papers.
Chris Davis, spokesman for the National Primary Heads Association, said:
"Schools made an enormous effort in writing last year and I would have expected greater gains. We still have major concerns about marking. The levels set do not seem to be a true reflection of children's ability."
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, congratulated teachers on their achievement. "Schools have responded magnificently to the pressure put on them by the Government." he said. "But it should be warned that there will be a negative response to the 2004 targets, which will require huge numbers of special-needs children to reach level 4."
RESULTS IN ENGLAND 2000
* English 75%
* maths 72%
* science 85%.
* reading 83%
* writing 55%
TES SURVEY AND TARGETS
Survey results (2001)
* English 77%
* maths 75%
* science 89%
Government target for 2002
* English 80% * maths 75% * science none
Proposed target for 2004
* maths and English 85%