Press release

Package of primary school measures will raise ambition - and standards

A new firm but fair primary school floor standard will drive up standards and prepare children for secondary school, Schools Minister David Laws announced today.

  • floor standard to rise to 65% from 2014

  • new statistics will show how many pupils are ‘secondary ready’

  • struggling primary schools which fail to close gap will have to draw up pupil premium action plans

  • David Laws: “Children must leave primary school ready for the demands of secondary school”.

A new firm but fair primary school floor standard will drive up standards and help ensure children are ready for secondary school, Schools Minister David Laws announced today.

As well as requiring schools to get a higher proportion of pupils to clear the existing bar, the government is also today signalling that the bar itself is too low - and will be raised in the future because it is not ambitious enough.

The moves are part of a package of measures designed to raise standards in primary schools, including among disadvantaged children:

  • the floor standard will go up from 2014 - primary schools where fewer than 65% of pupils achieve the expected level (level 4) in the 3 Rs, and which do not achieve above average progress in these subjects, will be below the floor. The current floor standard requires schools to have 60% of their pupils at level 4 or above in English and maths, plus the progress measures
  • new data will be published by the Department for Education showing the proportion of primary children who achieve a ‘good’ level 4 in the 3 Rs - those who are truly ‘secondary ready’. This will be until the current system of levels is removed from 2016
  • schools judged by Ofsted to be neither good nor outstanding, and who are not closing the gap between their disadvantaged pupils and their other pupils, will be ordered to draw up action plans - alongside experts - on how they will spend their pupil premium money
  • summer school programme - which helps children make the transition from primary to secondary school - to be repeated this year

This follows the publication of draft national curriculum programmes of study for primary school subjects. These programmes of study will themselves raise the bar, setting ambitious expectations of what children should know and should be able to do by the end of their time at primary school. This will help ensure that our education system matches the best in the world.

Primary floor standard

Primary schools which fall below the new 65% floor, and particularly those with a long history of underperformance, face being taken over by an academy sponsor. The expertise and strong leadership provided by sponsors is the best way to turn around weak schools and give pupils the best chance of a first-class education.

In 2011, 1,310 primary schools were below the 60% floor standard. Last year 476 primary schools were below the standard. This improvement highlights how heads, teachers and pupils respond to higher floor standards by raising achievement.

If the floor standard had been 65% in English and maths in 2011, 1,915 schools would have been below the floor. Last year, it would have been 866 schools.

Level 4 data

A new indicator showing how many 11-year-olds achieve a ‘good’ level 4 will be published at national, local authority and school level in performance tables this year. This will be until the current system of levels is removed in 2016 and not replaced.

Mr Laws said statistics showed that publishing only the current level 4 figure did not tell the full story because many children who only just achieved level 4 were generally not ‘secondary ready’. The government will not hold schools accountable on this measure - it is being published to give parents and the public more information about schools.

So for the first time data showing the proportion of each primary school’s pupils attaining a ‘good’ level 4 (those who scored in the top two-thirds of the level 4 mark range) or above will be published:

  • 81% of pupils who had scored in the top 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
  • 72% of pupils who had scored 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
  • 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

Pupil premium

Schools judged by Ofsted to be neither good nor outstanding, and who are not closing the gap between their disadvantaged pupils and their other pupils, will be required to draw up an action plan of how they are spending their pupil premium money.

This will be in consultation with outstanding education leaders, either from the National College or from a school which has a proven track record of improving the performance of their disadvantaged pupils. Ofsted inspectors will then take that plan, and adherence to that plan, into account when they judge the school.

The move will help ensure that more children from disadvantaged backgrounds will leave primary school ‘secondary ready’.

Schools Minister David Laws said:

Many of our children are leaving primary school without having secured the basics in the 3 Rs. They then go on to struggle at secondary school.

We must ensure that a far higher proportion of pupils are ‘secondary ready’ by the end of their primary school. This will allow them not simply to cope, but thrive, when presented with the challenges and opportunities of secondary school.

We have already introduced tougher floor standards to drive up standards - and this has been a genuine success. The vast majority of schools have responded to the higher floor by raising performance. As a result, we will raise the floor standard again, from next year.

We will also publish data showing the proportion of primary school pupils who achieve a good level 4. The figures do not lie - a pupil who manages a low level 4 by the end of primary school is unlikely to go on to achieve 5 good GCSEs. So it is only right that we show whether schools are getting their pupils truly ‘secondary ready’ - or simply just over the level 4 threshold. A school which thinks that scraping a level 4 is a success is not in the right place.

He added:

The pupil premium is capable of achieving great things in our schools and in our society. But not all schools are using it to introduce and fund evidence-based approaches that deliver time after time. I do not want to direct schools as to how to use the pupil premium, or take it away from schools whose pupils are doing poorly. But I do want it spent well.

Successful schools will have the freedom to use the money as they see fit. But where schools are neither good nor outstanding, and where pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are doing particularly poorly, we will not stand back. These schools will be told to draw up action plans of how they will spend their pupil premium money.

David Laws also today launched this year’s summer school programme. The £50 million programme is aimed at helping pupils - especially from disadvantaged backgrounds - make a successful transition from primary to secondary school. This is the second year of the programme. Last year, 1,763 secondary schools ran a summer school.

Notes to editors

In key stage 2 tests in 2014, primary schools will be below the floor standard if:

  • fewer than 65% of its pupils do not achieve level 4 or above in reading, writing and maths
  • it is below the England median for progression by 2 levels in reading, in writing, and in maths

The grammar, punctuation and spelling test will not form part of the primary floor standard in 2014.

For tests taken this year, primary schools will be below the floor standard if:

  • fewer than 60% of its pupils do not achieve level 4 or above in reading, writing and maths
  • it is below the England median for progression by 2 levels in reading, in writing, and in maths

Results in the new grammar, punctuation and spelling test will not be part of the floor standard this year.

The pupil premium - introduced in April 2011 - is additional funding given to schools so that they can support their disadvantaged pupils and close the attainment gap between them and their peers. It is paid to any pupil from reception to year 11 who is and/or has been eligible for free school meals at any point over the past 6 years; and children in care who have been continuously looked after for at least 6 months.

Funding available through the premium was £625 million in 2011 to 2012 and £1.25 billion in 2012 to 2013. This will rise to £1.875 billion in 2013 to 2014 and £2.5 billion in 2014 to 2015.

From April 2013 the pupil premium will be £900 per deprived pupil in years from reception to year 11 in maintained schools and academies in England. It is currently £623 per pupil.

Schools can apply now to take part in the summer school programme for 2013 by using the form on the Department’s website. The summer schools eligibility identification tool can also be accessed on this page.

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