Suffolk pupils better than UK average

THE academic performance of Suffolk schoolchildren in science, maths and English is better than the national average, according to league tables published today.

Kate McGrath

THE academic performance of Suffolk schoolchildren in science, maths and English is better than the national average, according to league tables published today.

The figures, released by the Department for Education and Skills for Key Stage 3, show that pupils have outshone the rest of the country by 4% in science, 2% in English and 1% in maths.

But they also reveal the growing disparities between boys and girls in Suffolk, particularly in English, where 83% of girls achieved the required standard, compared to 69% of boys.

Suffolk ranked second in East Anglia, behind Cambridge, for the exams, which monitor the performances of 14-year-olds.

The collective percentages of pupils in the area reaching Level 5 (the required standard) in English, maths and science is 232% compared to 235% in Cambridgeshire, 228% in Essex and 227% in Norfolk.

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Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham, claimed the top spot for the third year running, while Debenham High School moved from 11th position to 2nd.

Nationally, only 76% of 14-year-olds made the grade in maths last year - a drop of one point from 2006.

In English, 74% of pupils made the grade, up one percentage point on 2006, while in science 73% of pupils reached Level 5 in their tests last year, an increase of one point.

These percentages were beaten by pupils in Suffolk, with 76% reaching the expected grade in English, 77% in maths and 77% in science.

Patricia O'Brien, portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services at Suffolk County Council, congratulated the children, teachers, parents and school staff.

She said: “These results have maintained Suffolk's position of outperforming the national average in tests for 14-year-olds across the board.

“It is important, however, to make sure that everyone continues working together to build on these results, so that we can see improvements in the future. Children in Suffolk deserve the best possible education that can be provided for them and it is this goal that we will continue to work towards.”

At the other end of the scale Holywells High School, Ipswich, was ranked the lowest in the county, followed by the Denes High School, Lowestoft and Orwell High School, Felixstowe.

Last night union representatives warned league tables were not always the fairest way to judge the performance of pupils.

Martin Goold, county secretary for the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: “The actual results tend to mirror the social backgrounds of the children. What we really need to be doing is improving the conditions of the homes that they come from.

“No test is ever that accurate. Some years the tests can be quite fortunate, and others can be quite tricky. It varies from year to year.”

But the league tables have prompted some calls for action to tackle slipping standards in the first three years of secondary school.

Shadow children's secretary Michael Gove said: “It is deeply disappointing that yet another year has gone by with no improvement in literacy and maths results going backwards.

“Even more concerning is the fact that tens of thousands of pupils are making no progress at all between the ages of 11 and 14.

“We urgently need to deal with this problem with standards in the first three years of secondary school.

“We need better discipline and more setting so the brightest children are stretched and those that struggle get the targeted help they need.”

Liberal Democrat children's spokesman David Laws said the “starkly highlight” the Government's failings on education.

“Ministers are now set to miss their unambitious target for all schools to have half of their pupils reaching the required level in English, maths and science,” he said.

Schools Minister Jim Knight said: “The first three years in secondary school should provide pupils with a firm foundation to the rest of their academic life.

“I am impatient to see more progress made and see more pupils reach the levels expected for 14-year-olds.”

He said “innovative” new maths lesson materials will be available for schools, while the bursary for trainee maths teachers will rise to £9,000 to attract new staff.