Schools with many deprived pupils are spearheading a countrywide improvement in test scores at 11. Geraldine Hackett reports.
TEACHERS in England's 19,000 primary schools were given cause to celebrate this week as the publication of performance tables showed improved test results among 11-year-olds.
Education Secretary David Blunkett said results in the first 25 education action zones have risen more than national results.
He said: "These results are very good and show how well the Government's literacy and numeracy strategies are working. It will spend pound;192 million next year on literacy and numeracy."
Only two schools, Hutton Rudby, Yarm in North Yorkshire and Shenington in Banbury, Oxfordshire, have maintained a perfect score during the four years the performance tables have appeared. However, 148 this year brought all their pupils to the target level in maths, English and science compared to 102 last year.
Almost three-quarters of pupils reached the expected standard in the core subjects. Crucially, rates of improvement are higher in disadvantaged areas.
The list of most improved schools since 1997 include two primaries in Rotherham - Dalton Foljambe and St Joseph's. Of the 100 most improved schools, most are in areas where many children receive free school meals. Only around 3,000 schools have lost ground over the four ears.
Mr Blunkett is committed to publishing tables that reflect the different intakes of schools. The first "value-added" tables, that measure the results of 11-year-olds against the scores they gained at seven, are likely to be trialled in 2002, with full tables published the following year.
However, academics are concerned that the data are not yet sufficiently accurate to make value-added comparisons valid.
Most authorities have improved results, and the London borough of Barking and Dagenham achieved top ranking for the second successive year. Its schools now have more direct whole-class teaching and pupils sit in a horse-shoe shape. The council developed its approaches to maths with the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
Other local authorities cite the literacy and numeracy strategies as the reason for their success.
Among the most improved councils is Sandwell, which recently failed its OFSTED re-inspection.
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TEST SCORE FACTFILE
Overall, 72 per cent of 11-year-olds reached the required standard (level four) in maths, an improvement of three percentage points on 1999 In English, 75 per cent achieved level four up four points on last year In science, 85 per cent met the target standard, up seven percentage points