Press release

New tests show 1 in 4 struggling with spelling, punctuation and grammar

Figures for reading, writing and maths assessments taken by more than half a million 11-year-olds have been published.

The key stage 2 statistics include the results of the new spelling, punctuation and grammar tests taken for the first time this year. They show:

  • one-quarter of 11-year-olds failed to reach the expected level (level 4) - 139,000 pupils
  • almost a third of boys did not reach the expected level - almost 85,000 pupils
  • that while girls did better, one-fifth still did not reach level 4 - almost 55,000 pupils

Overall more than 408,000 11-year-olds, just over three-quarters of pupils, achieved at least the expected levels in the 3 Rs (reading, writing and maths). That is a one percentage point increase from last year.

Percentage of pupils reaching level 4 or above

Subject 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Reading 86 83 84 87 86
Maths 79 79 80 84 85
SPG n/a n/a n/a n/a 74
Writing n/a n/a n/a 81 83
Reading, writing and maths 62 64 67 75 76

Note: From 2012, writing teacher assessment replaced writing tests

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said:

Today’s figures show the majority of children are performing well and they, along with their parents and teachers, should be congratulated for their achievements.

However, the statistics also reveal that 1 in 4 children is leaving primary school without a firm grasp of spelling, punctuation and grammar. The new test encourages schools to focus on these basics.

British businesses are very clear - written communication has never been more important. Children need to be able to spell well and write proper sentences to get on in life.

Notes to editors

  1. The tests were taken by 537,800 11-year-olds in May this year.
  2. Download the statistical first release (SFR) showing the key stage 2 provisional results.
  3. The government announced the introduction of spelling, punctuation and grammar tests in 2011. This is the first cohort of children to take the new tests.
  4. 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 within the SFR on the impact of changes when comparing this year’s results with other years.
  5. For the first time this year, results show what proportion of 11-year-olds achieved a ‘good’ level 4 (4a and 4b). Figures show 47% of pupils who did not score in the top or middle third of the level 4 mark range in both English and maths went on to achieve at least 5 A* to C GCSE grades, including English and maths last year.

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