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Literacy: Standards

Volume 467: debated on Thursday 22 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment he has made of changes in reading standards in primary schools since 1977; and if he will make a statement. (166685)

In 1996, the National Foundation for Educational Research found that there had been little or no improvement in literacy standards for most of the period since the second world war. Improving standards of literacy at all stages of education has therefore been one of this Government’s top priorities. Primary literacy standards as measured by the results of national curriculum tests are now at their highest levels ever. No Government have achieved the sustained improvements in primary results that we have.

Since the introduction of national curriculum tests in 1995, results in English have improved significantly. Today, four out of five 11-year-olds are reaching the target level 4 compared with under half in 1995.

Proportion of pupils achieving level 4+ in English

Level 4+

Level 5

1995

49

7

1996

57

12

1997

63

16

1998

65

17

1999

71

22

2000

75

29

2001

75

29

2002

75

29

2003

75

27

2004

78

27

2005

79

27

2006

79

32

20071

80

33

1 Provisional data.

Results in reading were not reported separately before 1997. Since 1997, we have also seen dramatic improvements in the proportion achieving level 4 and above. In 2007, a third of 11-year-olds achieved the higher level 5 in reading, the standard expected of 14-year-olds.

Proportion of pupils achieving level 4+ in reading

Level 4

Level 5

1997

67

20

1998

71

23

1999

78

31

2000

83

42

2001

82

42

2002

80

38

2003

81

42

2004

83

39

2005

84

43

2006

83

47

20071

84

48

1 Provisional data.

Although the results achieved by 11-year-olds in 2007 are the best ever, we know that we can and must achieve more. I believe we are right to be ambitious for the system and for what individual pupils can achieve—that is why we have set such stretching national targets for improvements in standards.

We have a strong platform for securing further improvements. From this autumn, every primary school is using the renewed Primary Framework which puts phonics at the heart of the teaching of reading. This is the most significant enhancement to the Primary National Strategy since we first introduced the literacy hour in 1998. We are also rolling out nationally the Every Child A Reader (ECAR) programme. By 2011, this programme will provide 30,000 six-year-olds who have difficulty reading with intensive one-to-one tuition each year.

We are also developing a new programme of intensive support for writing in primary schools—Every Child a Writer—to ensure that every teacher uses the best teaching methods, including one-to-one coaching, in areas of writing which primary children find hardest to master.