Tag Archives: Three R’s

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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Subjects being sidelined for the sake of league tables

Schools are being forced to “sideline” key subjects such as art, music and physical education in the race to hit government targets, teachers’ leaders warned today.

The “relentless push” to raise standards in literacy and numeracy has caused large numbers of schools to marginalise other areas of the curriculum, said Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. She said that children were missing out on a varied timetable because of the need to boost their position in official league tables.

The comments were made despite the publication of research by Bristol University that found rankings had a highly positive effect on schools – raising results relative to those nations that refuse to publish the data.

It came after primary league tables published by the Department for Education showed that 767 state schools in England failed to meet minimum standards in the three-Rs this summer.

The number of failing primaries jumped by almost 50 per cent over the last 12 months after the Coalition changed the key indicator used to assess pupil performance.

For the first time, schools in England had to ensure at least six-in-10 pupils gained good results in separate reading, writing and maths assessments taken at the age of 11 or face being turned into an academy under new leadership. Previously, reading and writing results were combined to form a generic English result, meaning that poor performance in one discipline could be propped up with relatively good results in the other.

David Laws, the Schools Minister, insisted that tougher targets acted as an incentive for schools to improve, adding: “We are determined to drive up standards as quickly as possible in schools where there has been stubborn under-performance for years.”

But Dr Bousted said the move was often achieved by improving the three-Rs at the expense of all other subjects.
“We agree that it is vital for schools to focus on reading, writing and maths, but in the relentless push to get 60 per cent of students to level 4 in these subjects, other important areas of the curriculum such as art, music and PE get sidelined,” she said. “Primary education should not be solely about getting children ‘secondary school ready’.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: “However important it is, there is more to a child’s development and their readiness for secondary school than their score in a flawed test. There is more to a school than their ranking, which conceals how hard the school must work to achieve its results.”

The comments came as research published by Bristol University suggested that league tables do improve performance in schools. A study by the university’s Centre for Market and Public Organisation assessed the impact of the abolition of secondary school league tables in Wales in 2001 – comparing it to England where rankings have been maintained. It found that the decision had a negative impact on Welsh schools relative to those in England, with pupils dropped by two GCSE grades on average. This effect was concentrated in the lower 75 per cent of schools, with the poorest and low average ability schools falling behind the most.