Three R’s on the up

I think the term Three R’s is one of my least favourite educational terms, mostly because the only one of these R’s that actually even begins with R is Reading (if you didn’t know, the others are Writing and Arithmetic). Am I the only person who think they should be killed RAW skills? Anyhow enough of that …

It was announced today that there has been a sharp rise in the results for the Three R’s as measured by our SATs results. Four out of five 11-year-olds (79%) achieved Level 4 in their Sats tests in reading, writing and arithmetic, up from 75% in 2013. Results in the new grammar and spelling tests, first sat in 2013, rose three percentage points at Level 4 to 76%.

The government said thousands more pupils were secure in the basics. School reform minister Nick Gibb said the results showed that teachers and pupils had responded well to the higher standards his government’s education reforms have demanded. “Our education system is beginning to show the first fruits of our plan for education, helping to prepare young people for life in modern Britain. There is more to do but teachers and pupils deserve huge credit for such outstanding results.” He said: “Eighty thousand more children than five years ago will start secondary school this year secure in the basics – and able to move on to more complex subjects. It means in the long term these children stand a far better chance of winning a place at university, gaining an apprenticeship and securing good jobs. We have set unashamedly high expectations for all children, introduced a new test in the basics of punctuation, spelling and grammar, and removed calculators from maths tests.”

In detail, the results show improvements in all subjects at Level 4.

• Reading – 89% – up five percentage points

• Spelling, punctuation and grammar 76% – up three percentage points

• Maths – 86% – up one percentage point

• Writing 85% – up two percentage points (Based on teacher assessments)

From this year, schools are deemed to be underperforming if fewer than 65% of pupils achieve Level 4 in all subjects in the last year of primary school. I still don’t necessarily agree with it being based on percentage, especially having worked in a couple of small schools in my rather short career. In fact I’ve worked in a Year 6 class with only 18 children, and around half a dozen of them were on IEPs and were not predicted to achieve level 4’s across the board. Fortunately the IEP children did very well so the school was not deemed underperforming. But it could quite easily be a whole different story, where a school with fantastic staff could be deemed underperforming and who knows what would happen to morale then?

I’ll tell you though one of those stats that bothers me is this Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar one. Nearly 10% lower than the others? That suggests that perhaps we need to be put a bit more focus into teaching that as a matter of urgency. I mean I know we are being a technology driven age and word processing programs carry a spell check feature, but how do you know a word is really spelled wrong if you can’t in fact spell in the first place? How do you know the computer is 100% accurate? I mean it’s very easy to have the program set to recognise the English (US) language instead of English (UK), in which case you could end up learning how to spell words incorrectly. We need to start giving this more attention, but making sure we do not lose the great results we are achieving in the other subjects.

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