Friday, December 02, 2005

Key Stage 2 Results

The latest primary school Key Stage Two tables are published today and the Thanet Gazette reflects on the “chasm” between junior schools in Thanet in reading, writing, science and arithmetic.
In English, the number of 11-year-olds in Kent achieving Level Four - the nationally expected level - in Kent was up to 76 per cent, an increase more than two per cent on 2004. Nationally, the average increased rose by one per cent to 79 per cent.

In maths, 71 per cent of Kent pupils reached Level Four, compared to 69.6 per cent last year. The national average was 75 per cent. Today 30% of children fail to learn to read properly by the age of seven, which almost every child ought to be able to do, if correctly taught, including the very slow learners.

Coming top in Thanet is Monkton CofE with as much as 100% in English and science at Level 4, the recommended average for eleven year olds. At the opposite end of the scale was Dame Janet junior school in Ramsgate, which has its results skewed by a high proportion of special needs children with many from poorer backgrounds.

Among the other results at Level 4 are St Saviours in Westgate with 74, Salmestone with 60, St Joseph’s with 93, Drapers Mill with 57 and Cliftonville Primary with 82.

Almost twenty five years after I left teaching in Thanet, I have to wonder why a quarter of a century of educational reform and investment still appears to have left the schools and areas that were suffering then at much the same position in the league tables as they are today. My own politically incorrect opinion is that educational values start and are driven from the home environment and if that constant group of around 20% of parents, cannot see a future for their children beyond the boundaries of welfare and the estate then the cycle of disadvantage will continue, regardless of how much effort, goodwill and government money is thrown at our education system.

To quote The Times, looking at the results in general and including the failing Sure Start programme: "The government is failing in its top priorities and not for lack of spending. Child obesity is worse, truancy is shocking, classroom disruption and bullying are shameful, exam standards are collapsing, the brightest children have been failed as well as the least able, testing is at best dubious and the illiteracy level, masked by years of ill-conceived testing, is simply unacceptable. Nothing could be more disastrous."


James Maskell said...

I used to go to Dame Janet and its a little disappointing to see them so far down the table. By the same token I can understand why they are there.

The Government needs to do more to help the bottom 5% of schools rather than concentrating on the top schools and making them become independent. Labour loves to talk about helping good schools get better but doesnt pay enough attention to helping weak schools improve.

Anonymous said...

Simon. how do we know the SureStart programme is failing?
James, there is an old saying that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear - I will be interested to see what happens with the Marlowe Academy and whether it was worth all the money and effort - or might we just as well left the old Ramsgate Skool as it was, somewhere for the youth of Newington to spend their time when they were forced to attend.

DrMoores said...

From the Sunday Times but there's much more on Sure Start if you look fo rit:

"At the same time, reports by various authors at Birkbeck College (coyly sneaked onto the internet at the same time as the headline-grabbing Turner report on pensions) argued that the ambitious Sure Start scheme to provide care and early education for children from conception onwards has harmed more children than it has helped.

Either Sure Start has made little difference, or in the case of children from problem families — teenage mothers, single mothers and jobless parents — those who have been through Sure Start scored worse on verbal ability and social competence, and higher on behaviour problems, than similar children who hadn’t. It defies belief. More than £3 billion has been spent. Many billions are earmarked for future spending.

Given new Labour’s high ambitions and good intentions for children, its failure to “deliver on” its promises — to use its annoying expression — is all the more remarkable. The government is failing in its top priorities and not for lack of spending. Child obesity is worse, truancy is shocking, classroom disruption and bullying are shameful, exam standards are collapsing, the brightest children have been failed as well as the least able, testing is at best dubious and the illiteracy level, masked by years of ill-conceived testing, is simply unacceptable. Nothing could be more disastrous.

To send a poor child into the contemporary world illiterate and ignorant is like sending him naked into a Dickensian storm. It is to push him into unemployment, poverty, rage, crime, drug abuse, Asbos and jail. An illiterate girl might just as easily fall into all that and into single motherhood as well, condemned to breed more underclass babies and antisocial teenagers. "

Anonymous said...

To be fair, the cumulative result of the Sure Start programme will hide enormous variations in success across the country, as many of the local schemes do vary in approach and style. I have met and observed several from across the country. However, it is likely that the programme may become one of the funding scandals of this government. The basic idea is a simple one of early intervention to balance up and break the cycle of disadvantage. Like many charities, therefore Sure Start is working for its own demise, working for the day its services are no longer needed. However, on the ground, Sure STart has invested nationally in offices and structures that are set to provide long term support structures for local disadvantage. Worse, these structures are already outstripping the vast resources given by government in the first instance and starting to ask for money from local councils and other sources, quite literally taking resources from established groups to add to the Sure Start funds that have already swamped considerable voluntary effort. Because it is government funded, Sure Start operates on the old charitable model of establishing a administrative core, which must be maintained into the future before work is undertaken, rather than growing support for projects incrementally, as is now the norm.

Sure Start is a great idea, if it sticks to its original time limited intervention principles and works to encourage empowerment among those it helps, not freezing those individuals into permanently supported cycles of existence. Like many similar programmes, Sure Start will by now have mopped up most of the easy targets, those searching for help to step up and out of their difficulties. The more one digs into the layers of those unwilling to help themselves, happy to be supported and assisted, the harder and more time consuming and expensive the task becomes, and the success rate will plummet further. This whole scenario begins to have a familiar ring to it; like school targets, CSA computer systems, and the ongoing wreckage around tax credits. Once again, the rhetoric has outstripped reality of achievement. Perhaps like Gordon Browns economic cycle adjustments, the final figures will be made to look very different.

Simon, I would just add, the ongoing failure of schools to deliver the real improvement in education we all want is a simlar, but not really linked failure. To deal with that, we must first recognise that for all the talk schools are still not really accountable to parents for what they do, and the LEA's and diocese that run them will always defend their colleague bureaucracy first and foremost. Current reform plans suggest, as do conservative ones, that we must trust headteachers and governors to know what is best for the school. Overwhelmingly that may be true, but we must still have a proper system, which we lack now, to call these people to account when they fail to uphold proper moral standards of behaviour themselves. One oif the results of the dreadful incident at Dunblane has been to shut off schools from ever being seen by parents operating normally. Schools now control access and can be on show when required. We all know what happens when enclosed societies develop and how moral principle can be eroded in such circumstances, history has many examples. Somehow, we have to come up with a system that has both freedom to teach as required locally, and accountability for those in charge. On recent personal experience of at least one local school, that's very difficult.

Chris Wells

Anonymous said...

All the replies above are very interesting. I do know that several local kindergartens closed down because of Surestart taking their candidates.
On a slightly different note I read that the excellent Honiton House School in Cliftonville is closing, they say because they only have 22 pupils instead of their capacity of 100.
How true this is and how much the closure is occasioned by the value of the school building being converted into flats remains to be seen.