I have the great fortune to visit schools all over England and every visit confirms my belief that the best of them are communities of learning where everyone concentrates on our essential professional challenge: how do we help more children to develop the skills to become lifelong learners?
The national literacy and numeracy strategies have helped to transform standards. Children are better equipped to gain from the broad and rich primary curriculum. Compared to six years ago, 70,000 more Year 6 children make the transition to secondary school with the reading and maths skills they need to succeed.
In 2002, the bulk of children (70 per cent) who achieved level 4 at age 11 went on to get at least five or more GCSE A*-C grades; in contrast, among children who failed to reach level 4 only a small proportion (12 per cent) managed to go on and achieve those GCSE results. It follows that level 4 is an educational passport. In literacy it represents the difference between functional reading and being able to infer and be critical.
How do we raise standards further? More of the same will not be enough. Too many children from our most disadvantaged communities are still lagging behind their peers. We need to work with parents, carers and early-years practitioners to provide additional support well before children arrive in Year 1. Working across the full range of provision from three to 11 offers the opportunity to track the progress of every child and provide powerful interventions and support whenever children face difficulty or are at risk.
Focusing on learning and teaching across the curriculum will help children to apply and extend their skills in different subjects and different ways. Rich experiences are essential to engage and motivate children to achieve higher standards. We will publish new materials in September to provide maps of progression across key aspects of learning and help teachers develop teaching strategies that will help children become independent learners.
The teachers, teaching assistants, headteachers and other adults who work in England's 18,000 primary schools provide a world-class education service. The primary strategy challenges schools to build on their progress by taking the lead themselves in going further to provide the best for every child.