Skip to main content

Young People: Literacy

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 13 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what estimate he has made of the number of (a) 11-year-olds, (b) 13-year-olds and (c) 16-year-olds in London who were functionally illiterate in each of the last 12 years; and if he will make a statement. (162576)

Improving standards of literacy is one of the Government’s top priorities. Since 1997 the results achieved by 11-year-olds and 14-year-olds as measured by National Curriculum tests in English have risen dramatically. Provisional data for 2007 shows that 80 per cent. of 11-year-olds in England reached the expected level or above, an increase of 17 percentage points since 1997; and 74 per cent. of 14-year-olds reached the expected level or above, an increase of 17 percentage points since 1997.

We judge children’s attainment at age 11, 14 and 16 through Key Stage tests and GCSEs. The tables show the proportion of pupils in London achieving the expected level for their age, but failing to meet the expected levels is not equivalent to functional illiteracy.

The table shows the proportion of pupils in London achieving the expected level (level 4) or above in Key Stage 2 English tests for each year since 19981.

1 Local government boundary changes mean that comparisons before 1998 are not valid.

Proportion of pupils

1998

64

1999

68

2000

73

2001

75

2002

74

2003

76

2004

77

2005

79

2006

80

2007

79

At age 11 (the end of Key Stage 2) the expected level of achievement is level 4. Provisional figures show that while 79 per cent. of 11-year-olds achieved at least level 4 in English in 2007, 93 per cent. achieved at least level 3. That means they can read a range of texts accurately and independently; and their writing is organised, legible and clear. Level 4 is a much more demanding standard—children achieving level 4 have literacy skills that mean they can access complex forms of language and complex ideas. They can use inferences and deduction and can locate and use ideas and information. Their writing in a range of forms is lively and thoughtful. Their handwriting style is fluent, joined and legible. They use full stops, capital letters and question marks accurately and can use punctuation within a sentence. Of the 7 per cent. of children who do not achieve either level 3 or level 4, many have special and in some cases severe educational needs.

The following table shows the proportion of pupils in London achieving the expected level (level 5) or above in Key Stage 3 English tests for each year since 1998:

Proportion of pupils

1998

62

1999

60

2000

61

2001

62

2002

64

2003

66

2004

70

2005

74

2006

73

2007

74

At age 14 (the end of Key Stage 3) the expected level of achievement is level 5. Pupils achieving level 5 are able to speak in ways which suit different situations. They show understanding of the different things they are reading and can explain how writers influence readers. They can write in different ways that are interesting to the reader, using different sentence structures, putting writing in paragraphs and using punctuation accurately.

The following table shows the proportion of pupils in London achieving five or more grades A*-C or equivalent, including GCSE English and mathematics for each year since 1998:

Proportion of pupils

1998

32.4

1999

33.9

2000

35.1

2001

36.7

2002

38.5

2003

39.3

2004

41.0

2005

43.0

2006

45.6

2007

47.2

The provisional figures for 2007 show that 60 per cent. of pupils in England achieved at least Grade C in GCSE English. We do not publish disaggregated figures for GCSE subjects at local authority level.