Today, the Department for Education published data on National Curriculum Assessments at Key Stage 2. The data from these has shown a drop in the number of schools falling below government targets. As such, the DfE was was able to claim its “new tougher floor targets” had proved successful with the following statement:
“Higher floor standards driving up performance”
The logic being that higher targets will lead to higher standards. At the same time as celebrating the success of England’s primary schools the Department for Education highlights those Local Authorities where relatively high proportions of schools have fewer than 60% of pupils achieving the expected level 4 at Key Stage 2. These schools face being converted into academies as part of the current government’s plan to transform ‘weak’ schools. The optimistic rationale is that the “expertise and strong leadership” of an academy sponsor gives pupils “the best chance of a first-class education”. At this point it is worth reading Henry Stewart’s post for the Local Schools Network which provides some interesting counter analysis for such a claim, based on the data released today.
We also need to consider which pupils are doing better, and which pupils are not achieving expected levels:
- Chinese pupils are most likely to achieve level 4 at Key Stage 2 in English and Maths
- Children who are entitled to Free School Meals (FSM) are less likely than their peers to achieve level 4 or above at Key Stage 2
- The size of this gap differs according to gender and ethnicity, with the gap between white and black boys on FSM and the national average of particular concern
Therefore, improvement is not uniform. The persistent differences in attainment between socio-economic groups suggests the ability of individual schools to transcend these inequalities is limited. Can primary academies really do any better?