Suffolk pupils fall short of UK average

SCHOOLCHILDREN in Suffolk are falling further behind the rest of the country in the core subjects of English, maths and science, it has emerged.

Craig Robinson

SCHOOLCHILDREN in Suffolk are falling further behind the rest of the country in the core subjects of English, maths and science, it has emerged.

According to Key Stage 2 results for 2008 the county's youngsters are not making the grade when compared to the national average for England and Wales.

Teaching unions last night blamed the impending abolition of middle schools for the results but education chiefs said it proved they had to make changes to the system.

The figures - released yesterday by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) - show that in Suffolk 77% of 11-year-olds achieved the required Level 4 standard in English, 76% in maths and 85% in science.

Last year 79% of pupils achieved Level 4 in English, 75% for maths and 87% for science - although ministers have warned that this year's statistics are not directly comparable because of changes in the way they are marked.

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Nationally the picture seems to be improving - with 81% of 11-year-olds reaching Level 4 in English in 2008, 78% in maths and 88% in science. Last year the figures stood at 80% for English, 77% in maths and 88% in science.

Keith Anderson, honorary secretary of NASUWT in Suffolk, said the upheaval facing the county's education system and the pending abolition of its 40 middle schools had certainly had an effect.

“Because of the disruption and concern it's caused I expect there has been a number of staff who have voted with their feet and left middle schools to look for jobs in neighbouring counties,” he said. “It will have been a contributory factor but it's difficult to say for sure without a detailed analysis.

“It would be interesting to see how schools in the first phase of reorganisation - in Lowestoft and Haverhill - had performed. However not all schools in Suffolk are middle schools, it could be that there has been an impact at junior level as well.”

Martin Goold, Suffolk branch secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said “As about half our children at Key Stage 2 will be in middle schools it would be surprising if there wasn't some effect. Teachers are very concerned for their own jobs and are discouraged by the lack of support from the county council.”

He added the NUT believed Key Stage 2 exams were a “fruitless” way of holding schools to account and that children should be tested when they were ready - not forced on a certain date.

Education bosses want to replace the current three-tier school system in Suffolk with a county wide two tier system, believing it will improve pupils' performance.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said because there had been problems with the Key Stage 2 marking nationally - with 5% of results still missing - the figures must be regarded as provisional.

A number of teachers had also requested papers be re-marked because they did not agree with the test scores, she said.

She said one of the reasons why Suffolk pupils remained below the national average was because a large number experience an extra change of school.

“As a response to this, Suffolk is reorganising schools so that all pupils will be taught within a two tier system,” she said.

Last year the DCSF also released local figures on the percentage of pupils achieving Level 4 in reading and writing but yesterday a government spokesman said they were unavailable for 2008.

Schools Minister Jim Knight welcomed the national results but acknowledged there was more to do.

“We are seeing the benefits of some good improvements in the teaching of reading, which is encouraging to see,” he said.

Percentage of 11-year-old achieving the required Level 4 standard at Key Stage 2 in 2008

Area English Maths Science

Essex 81 78 88

Suffolk 77 76 85

Norfolk 78 75 85

Cambridgeshire 84 79 89

National 81 78 88