Press release: Impressive progress in English primary schools continues

90,000 more pupils are leaving primary school with a good grounding in reading, writing and maths – the essential subjects which give children the best possible start in life – compared to 2010, results out today (10 December 2015) show.

Primary performance tables show schools across the country are rising to the challenge of raised standards and expectations for all pupils. The 2015 performance tables show the number of schools below the floor standard – the minimum standards for pupil achievement and progress the government expects schools to meet – has fallen by nearly 100 since last year – with 676 failing to meet the expected levels compared to 768 in 2014, when the floor standard was increased.

The government has raised the bar by introducing higher floor standards, banning calculators for maths tests and introducing a spelling, punctuation and grammar test.

Results published today showed:

  • 80% of pupils achieved level 4 or above in all of reading, writing and maths – in 2010, 1 in 3 pupils did not achieve this level, compared to 1 in 5 today
  • 94% of pupils made at least 2 levels of progress in writing – an increase of 4 percentage points since the earliest comparable figures in 2012
  • 91% of pupils made at least 2 levels of progress in reading – an increase of 2 percentage points since the earliest comparable figures in 2012
  • 90% of pupils made at least 2 levels of progress in maths – an increase of 8 percentage points since 2010
  • attainment in the grammar, punctuation and spelling test increased from 76% in 2014 to 80% in 2015

Despite having some of the most disadvantaged boroughs in the country, London continues to be a trailblazer for excellence, with the lowest proportion of schools falling below the floor target. However, this success is not isolated to the south. Rutland in the East Midlands and Devon in the South West are in the top 10 areas for the number of primaries where 100% of pupils achieve level 4 or above in the 3Rs and make at least expected progress in each subject, while the North West and North East were second only to London in terms of proportion of schools above the floor.

Figures also show that the difference in performance between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has continued to fall, with more pupils from all backgrounds now starting secondary school ready to succeed.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

As part of this government’s commitment to extending opportunity for all, it is essential that every child leaves primary school having mastered the basics in reading, writing and maths – thanks to our education reforms thousands more pupils each year are reaching those standards.

The increased performance at primary level across the country demonstrates how this government is delivering on its commitment to provide educational excellence everywhere and ensure every child benefits from the best possible start in life, no matter where they come from.

Figures published by Ofsted as part of its annual report at the start of this month (December 2015) further underline the impressive progress made by primary schools across the country over the past 5 years, with an increase of 18 percentage points in the proportion of good and outstanding primary schools compared to 2010.

A record 1.4 million more pupils are now getting the best possible start in ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools compared to 2010 – including 1 million more pupils in England’s primary schools.

Standards rise in sponsored academies

Today’s figures show how standards continue to improve in sponsored academies – most of which were typically previously underperforming schools – giving thousands more pupils the best possible start in life.

Sponsored academies open for one academic year have seen results improve by 5 percentage points compared to 2014 – from 66% to 71%. For sponsored academies open 2 years, results have risen by 10 percentage points under the guidance of an expert sponsor.

A growing number of converter academies are becoming sponsors, to help turn around more underperforming schools.

Converter academies, excellent schools which start from a high bar, are outperforming the national average and show continued improvement, with results up from 82% in 2014 to 84% in 2015.

Tackling pockets of underperformance

Following provisional national results published in the summer, Schools Minister Nick Gibb wrote to local authorities with the worst results to demand an explanation and asking them to set out what they are doing to challenge the primary schools under their control to raise standards.

By the end of this year the Schools Minister will have met with 13 local authorities where key stage 2 (KS2) results are disappointingly low to discuss how they will work with schools to improve teaching in reading and mathematics.

Highest-attaining local authorities

Local authority Percentage achieving level 4 or above in reading, writing and mathematics
Kensington and Chelsea 91
Richmond upon Thames 88
Greenwich 87
Sutton 87
Redcar and Cleveland 87
Bromley 86
Trafford 86
Camden 86
Hounslow 86
Havering 86

Lowest-attaining local authorities

Local authority Percentage achieving level 4 or above in reading, writing and mathematics
Poole 73
Medway 73
Doncaster 74
Bedford 74
Luton 74
Peterborough 75
Bradford 76
Walsall 76
Norfolk 76
Worcestershire 76

Spreading educational excellence everywhere

The government has introduced a range of measures aimed at further raising standards in literacy and numeracy in our primary schools. These include:

  • an innovative maths teacher exchange programme with Shanghai, which is helping English teachers to develop their professional skills alongside those from the most successful education system for maths performance in the world
  • the introduction of the phonics screening check for pupils in year 1 to ensure pupils are making the right progress in learning to read, and allowing teachers to identify those in danger of falling behind
  • boosting the quality of phonics teaching through a £23.7 million match-funding for systematic synthetic phonics products and training to over 14,000 schools – this enabled schools with key stage 1 pupils to refine their teaching of phonics, and supported catch-up work for key stage 2 pupils
  • the launch of a new literacy campaign with funding to set up more book clubs and plans to help schools enrol more year 3 pupils in their local library

Changes to performance tables

Performance tables for 2015 results will be the last to use levels to assess performance at the end of primary school.

Following the introduction of a new more rigorous national curriculum in September 2014, from next summer (2016) pupils will be assessed against a higher standard and given a scaled score where 100 will represent the expected standard.

Notes to editors

  1. The tests were taken by approximately 579,000 year 6 pupils in May this year (2015).

  2. The spelling, punctuation and grammar test was introduced in 2013. Calculators were banned from maths tests in 2014. The floor standard (expected levels of school performance) was raised in 2014 to 65%. In 2015, a school is below floor standards if fewer than 65% of pupils achieve level 4 or above in reading, writing and maths and if it is also below the average percentage nationally for pupils making expected progress in each of these subjects.

  3. Changes to the administrative process of marking tests may happen from year to year and care should be taken when comparing results between years. Readers’ attention is drawn to guidance in the statistical first release on the impact of changes when comparing this year’s results with other years.

  4. The new gap index measure for disadvantaged pupils’ attainment was developed in 2014 in response to reforms to assessments and accountability, in order to enable reliable comparisons over time.

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