Growing numbers of Essex 11-year-olds are passing benchmark English and maths exams at primary schools

Hamilton Primary School in Colchester celebrate a strong set of SATs results.

Hamilton Primary School in Colchester celebrate a strong set of SATs results. - Credit: Archant

Increasing numbers of children in Essex are reaching the expected standard in English and maths when they leave primary school, government figures showed today.

Almost eight out of 10 (79%) of 11-year-olds in the county gained at least a Level Four grade in reading, writing and mathematics – the benchmark level expected of them.

This is an increase from 75% last year and means that after two years of being one percentage point behind the national average, Essex is now level with the overall England average score.

Schools that fail to meet the benchmark are considered under-performing and at risk of being turned into an academy, or taken over by a different sponsor or trust if they already have academy status.

Ray Gooding, cabinet member for education and lifelong learning at Essex County Council, praised teachers for their “hard work” and insisted the news meant the county’s education system was travelling in the right direction.

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Mr Gooding said: “Essex County Council welcomes the Key Stage Four results released yesterday.

“The results are further confirmation that schools in Essex are improving.

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“We recognise, and thank teachers for, the hard work they put in every year to make sure children in Essex get the best start in life.”

Broken down, in Essex, the proportion of pupils who gained a Level Four or above in reading increased from 86% last year to 89% this year. Meanwhile, writing went up from 83% to 85% and maths rose from 84% to 87%.

Overall, girls performed better than boys. A total of 82% of girls gained at least a Level Four grade in reading, writing and mathematics, compared to 76% of boys.

Under the Government’s tougher standards, schools must ensure at least 65% of 11-year-olds reach Level 4 – the standard expected of the age group – in reading, writing and maths, and meet national averages in pupil progress.

Children working at Level 4 are considered able to spell, use joined-up handwriting, are beginning to use complex sentences, can calculate simple fractions and percentages and can multiply and divide whole numbers by 10 and 100.

The SATs results come a day after it was revealed that 26% of pupils in Essex attend primary schools not ranked good or outstanding by the education watchdog Ofsted.

The county was ranked 119th out of local authorities in England as a result.

One of the top-performing schools was Hamilton Primary School in Constantine Road, Colchester, where 98% of pupils attained at least a Level Four in reading, writing and mathematics.

Headteacher Clive Reynolds said: “We are delighted with the results. They are not a surprise as we have had consistently high results over many years and we do it by making sure we know pretty precisely what each child needs to improve, and we focus all our efforts on those.

“Staff teamwork and leadership come into play but it is about being really focused on having the view that there is no ceiling – that everything is possible and achievable, and that you are not limited in what you think is possible in your mind.

“If a child is finding learning a struggle we still have high expectations and experiment and try out different ways to help them achieve further.

“It is important to not have an attitude of throwing your hands up in the air and say ‘well what do you expect’. The key mental process staff have to have is that children are not limited.”

A total of 61 pupils sat the SATs exams at the primary school this year.

Mr Reynolds added: “Our staff here are wonderful. We have a great team and all pull together.

“You have to remember that we are a large school by primary standards. We have 61 in a year group and a lot of children achieve very highly, which is a demanding task for large schools to ensure.

“(The SATs) exams are challenging and are set to become even tougher from 2016 onwards. It is going to be a challenge for all school children currently in younger year groups as they will have tougher exams in the future which will be aligned with the new national curriculum which came into effect in September.

“It would be wrong of me to put a limitation on what children will achieve – we will see how we will get on. It was be a major challenge for all primary schools having seen exemplar questions.”

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