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Ulster rise may be too slow

,Northern Ireland primary pupils celebrated their best performance so far in national assessments after three years of steady improvement.

But, as in England, even more rapid increases are needed if Ulster is to meet ambitious Government literacy and numeracy targets.

Nearly seven out of ten 11-year-olds reached the required English standard this year, up 2 percentage points on last year. However, pupils now have just three years to leap 12 percentage points and hit the Government's target.

In maths, pupils are nearer the target but progress is much slower. Nearly three-quarters of pupils reached the required level this year, an increase of 1 percentage point.

The infants' results have begun to plateau, with English results remaining at 93 per cent and maths increasing just 1 percentage point to 93 per cent.

The Government wants all Ulster eight-year-olds to reach the required standard for their age by 2002, apart from those with severe special educational needs. The target for 11-year-olds is that 80 per cent should reach the required level in English and maths.

Girls continued to outperform boys with the biggest difference being at key stage 2 English, where 74 per cent of girls reached the required level, compared to just 62 per cent of boys.

In Northern Ireland, statutory assessment in primary schools is carried out by pupils' own teachers in classroom work. Every eight and 11-year-old is assessed and the teachers' judgments are moderated by the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment. Each school is sent its final results but no league tables are published.

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