Primary schools are rising to the challenge posed by our reforms

Today, parents all over the country will be able to see how well their local primary school is doing, as the Government publishes its annual performance tables.

This year, primary schools will be measured not only on the grades their pupils achieved, but also the progress these pupils made. It is right that all schools – primary and secondary – are judged on the difference they make to their pupils, not on the prior ability of their intakes.

Today’s tables are based on the results of SATs taken in May – the first to test the new, more demanding primary school curriculum introduced in 2014.

This new curriculum raises expectations for all pupils. We want children to develop a wide vocabulary, strong spelling and punctuation and a good general knowledge of history, geography and science. And we want pupils to be fluent in the basics of arithmetic, able to perform long multiplication and long division and to add and divide fractions. And we expect pupils to know their timetables by heart. 

We based the new curriculum on what is taught in primary schools around the world, particularly in those countries whose education systems top the international league tables; countries such as Singapore.

We are determined that all pupils, whatever their background, are taught this vital knowledge so that they are fully prepared to be successful at secondary school.

As well as raising academic standards in primary schools we have brought in highly-effective, evidence-based teaching methods.

Teachers now use phonics to teach pupils to read in the first few years of primary school. This has revolutionised early reading instruction. This year, thanks to the hard work of reception and Year 1 teachers in adopting this highly-effective teaching method, 147,000 more 6-year-olds are on track to be fluent readers than in 2012.

In maths, we have learnt from the success of the Far East. Increasing numbers of primary school teachers are using ‘Maths Mastery’ to ensure all pupils have a secure grasp of the building blocks of mathematics.

This approach to teaching has been shown to work by the best education systems in the world and we are determined that pupils in this country should benefit from this teaching method too.

In the new, more rigorous key stage 2 tests sat this year, 66 per cent of pupils met or exceeded the new higher standard in reading, 70 per cent in maths and 73 per cent in grammar, punctuation and spelling.

In writing, the standard was assessed by teachers as having been achieved by 74 per cent of pupils. In total, 53 per cent achieved or exceeded the expected standard in the headline combination of reading, writing and arithmetic. These results show that primary schools are rising to the heightened challenge posed by our reforms.

Raising standards has been a guiding principle for the reforms undertaken over the last six years. At GCSE, for example, we have ended grade inflation; scrapped so called ‘equivalent’ qualifications such as ‘horse care’; and re-designed and raised the standard of GCSEs so that they too are on a par with the qualifications in the best performing countries in the world.

Thanks to the Government’s reforms and the hard work of teachers and head teachers, 1.8 million more children are now in a school rated as good or outstanding than in 2010.

There are, however, over a million children in schools deemed to require improvement by Ofsted.

The Government is determined to leave no stone unturned in trying to find a good school place for every child. We are considering how to utilise the expertise of independent schools and universities to drive further progress in the state system; we are looking to expand the number of good faith school places across the country; and we are looking at ways to help more pupils to benefit from a grammar school education – particularly those from poorer families or those that are just getting by.

This year’s key stage 2 results are another milestone in the transformation of England’s education system so that all children – whatever their background – receive the education they need and deserve.

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