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Pupils: Basic Skills

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 11 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps his Department is taking to improve the standard of basic skills of school leavers. (148243)

The percentage of 16-year-olds achieving five A*-C GCSE grades or equivalent has risen from 45.1 per cent. in 1997 to 58.1 per cent. In 2006.

Teaching literacy and maths at primary school is the essential foundation for every child's learning. Last year we revised the primary framework for literacy and mathematics for the first time since the national literacy and numeracy strategies were introduced. The revised document embeds best practice in systematic phonics teaching, as recommended by the Rose review, and raises expectations for pupils' progress. For example they are expected to learn their times tables a year earlier.

We have provided schools with significant funding for personalised learning: reaching £900 million this year. This can be used to support small group and one-to-one tuition for those who have fallen behind national expectations in English and maths. The Budget announced further funding sufficient to provide an average of 10 hours of one-to-one tuition in schools for over 300,000 under-attaining pupils a year in both English and mathematics by 2010-11. We have provided schools with guidance and support on how to help pupils who are at risk of falling behind in English and maths through programmes such as Study Plus, which targets pupils who are struggling with English and maths at Key Stage 4 (ages 14 to 16). Changes to the curriculum at KS3 will also, over time, support higher standards of literacy and numeracy.

We know that demonstrating basic competence and the ability to apply practically what they learn in English, maths and ICT is vital to young people's future employability. Competence in functional skills in these areas will be tested as an important part of the new diplomas for 14 to 19-year-olds which are being piloted from September 2008 and will be available nationally from 2013. For students embarking on GCSEs in English, maths and ICT from September 2010, it will also be necessary to demonstrate the appropriate level of functional skills in order to obtain a pass at grades A* to G*. Pilots of functional skills will be taking place in a range of schools and colleges across England from this September, supported by a programme of professional development for teachers to support the necessary changes in teaching and learning.