Rishi Sunak has warned that the target to boost the number of children entering secondary school with expected standards of reading, writing and maths is “far from reality” amid new evidence that 275,000 students a year will miss primary school. leaving education. Correct skill level.
Ministers have set a target of 90% of children achieving national curriculum standards in reading, writing and maths at the end of primary education by 2030. However, after several years of slow progress, receipts have slipped only slightly above the levels of 2015-16.
The recession means that in 2022, 41% of Year 6 students in England will leave primary school without meeting expected standards in literacy and maths – 275,000 11-year-olds, according to researchers at the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) thinktank. That is, 50,000 more than in 2019.
It comes amid concerns that the impact of the pandemic, and longer learning periods, are being felt in classrooms, particularly among children from poor families. The report says the education attainment gap – that between the poorest and the most advantaged – is at its widest for a decade.
Similar recent research by the speech and communication charity I CAN found that speaking skills had also fallen, with 1.5 million children across the UK suffering from underdeveloped speech and language skills following the pandemic.
Inside the classroom, concerns are being expressed by teachers about the possibility of reversing the slide given their current working conditions and resources. Only two-fifths of primary teachers believe their students will meet expected standards in foundation subjects, according to a survey of teachers by the Teacher Tap app commissioned by CSJ.
Only 32% of teachers working in schools in the most deprived areas were confident that most of their students would meet targets in numeracy and literacy skills this academic year, compared with 51% in more affluent places.
“Progress in improving overall achievement has been largely reversed,” the report said. “School closures had an immediate and detrimental impact on primary educational outcomes. In the first full year following school closure, 41% of full Year 6 pupils left school without reaching expected standards.”
The CSJ, which was co-founded by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, says “radical plans” are needed to reverse the slide. It calls on ministers to turn to parents in an effort to boost performance in core subjects. However, others have pointed to the refusal by the Treasury in the summer of 2020, then under Sunak’s leadership, to approve the full program of pandemic catch-up funding called for in a government-backed review. A £15 billion plan for recovery was rejected.
“The idea that 90% of children will achieve expected levels in reading, writing and maths by 2030 is a far cry from reality,” said Alice Wilcock, author of the CSJ report. “Teachers told us they are concerned most of their children will not meet these standards this year. If the government is to improve educational standards for all children we need a bold plan for education reform.”
Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, said the failure to equip all students with basic foundational skills was “the biggest scandal of our educational system”. He called for a plan urging greater parental involvement to encourage basic reading and math skills.
He said, ‘New thinking is needed. “There are many other sensible proposals in this report, including goals to attract and develop teachers. But to me, a national parent involvement strategy would be a potential gamechanger.
“The government can publish all the ambitious targets it likes for maths and English. But failing to embrace this core education truth will mean turning them into unfulfilled dreams – dooming hundreds of thousands of students to drop out of school because they lack the basic skills needed to get ahead in life.
“It is time for us to take a bold step forward and embrace the power of parent involvement in education.”
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “The pandemic has had a huge impact on student learning. Our education recovery program supported by £5bn has provided nearly three million tuition courses. We’re investing more than ever in our schools, including in literacy and numeracy programs – helping meet our ambition to see 90% of children out of primary school reach the expected levels in reading, writing and maths by 2030 are doing.