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Key Stage 2 Attainment

Volume 717: debated on Tuesday 5 July 2022

The key stage 2 (KS2) national statistics released today show that the percentage of pupils meeting the expected standard in all three subjects of reading, writing and maths at age 11 was 59% in 2022. This is lower than it was before the pandemic: 65% of pupils met the standard in all three subjects in 2019. While this is disappointing, it was expected due to the impact of the pandemic. The Government recognise, and value, the work that teachers up and down the country are putting into education recovery, but also understand that there is more work to do.

We welcome the increase in reading attainment from 73% in 2019 to 74% in 2022, despite the disruption of covid, which is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of our teachers, pupils and parents. Indeed, these figures build on the research we commissioned from Renaissance Learning, published in March 2022, that showed faster recovery in English reading than in maths. Reading is, of course, fundamental: we cannot knock down barriers for children if we do not teach them to read well. Attainment in maths and in writing, however, are disappointing, but not unexpected: in 2022 71% of pupils met the expected standard in maths, compared to 79% in 2019, while in writing, 69% of pupils met the expected standard, down from 78% in 2019.

Today’s statistics summarise KS2 attainment at national level and, of course, we want to understand the detail beneath these figures. There will be a further statistical release on 6 September setting out breakdowns of the KS2 results, including by region, local authority area and pupil characteristics such as disadvantage. It is, of course, likely that some pupils, and some areas of the country, will have been impacted more than others due to the pandemic.

It is vital that we have a clear understanding of the impact of the disruption caused by covid-19 on the attainment and progress of all pupils, to support schools in their work on education recovery. That is why we decided to go ahead with primary assessments this year, without adaptations, so that we can have a consistent measure of attainment before and after the pandemic. This will enable us to be open and transparent about the impact of the pandemic on attainment at system level. As we announced in July 2021, we will not be publishing school-level KS2 data this year in performance tables because we did not make adaptations to the tests and assessments or the standards. We will share school-level data in the autumn with schools, academy trusts and local authorities to inform school improvement and support school leaders. We will ensure clear messages are placed alongside any data shared to advise caution in its interpretation.

The statistics published today underline the importance of our focus on recovery. Recovery funding is already making a difference, but we recognise that there is more still to do.

That is why we have committed nearly £5 billion to fund a comprehensive recovery package. By May 2022, 1.5 million courses had been started by children across England through the national tutoring programme; and £950 million of direct funding, through the catch-up and recovery premia, was helping schools to deliver evidence-based interventions based on pupil needs. In light of the success of this year’s school-led tutoring route through the national tutoring programme, next year we will allocate all tutoring funding directly to schools, simplifying the system and giving schools the freedom to decide how best to provide tutoring for their pupils.

As well as specific recovery investments, The schools White Paper, “Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child”, published on 28 March sets out how our education system will deliver recovery through a wider programme of ambitious reforms that truly level up outcomes and ensure we build back better from the pandemic.

On maths in particular, we continue to support and enhance the teaching of maths through our network of 40 school-led maths hubs, which are helping local schools improve the quality of their mathematics teaching based on best practice. We have also established the £100 million Teaching for Mastery programme, which is bringing mastery teaching to 11,000 schools across England by 2023. This teaching style focuses on depth of understanding and is based on best practice from East Asian jurisdictions that perform highly in international mathematics tests. Drawing on this approach, we have also published non-statutory guidance to support teachers to prioritise and sequence the maths curriculum in a way that aims to help pupils understand and progress in mathematics.

On English, we continue to support the teaching of early reading through our network of 34 English hubs, established in 2018. The English hubs programme is dedicated to improving the teaching of early reading, with a focus on supporting children making the slowest progress. In July 2021 we also published “The reading framework: teaching the foundations of literacy”, non-statutory guidance for teachers and school leaders, aimed at improving the teaching of the foundations of reading in primary schools by defining best practice. We will build on this by publishing part 2 of the reading framework next year, to provide evidence-based non-statutory guidance on teaching reading for years 2 to 9.

The ability to read fluently is also important when developing pupils’ writing skills. We are heartened that the data released today has shown an increase in reading attainment despite the disruption of covid, but we know there is more to do to ensure this translates into an improvement in writing attainment. In September 2022, we will launch the NPQ in leading literacy, which will support school literacy leaders to have a secure understanding of the importance of literacy and recognise the influence it has on pupils’ future academic achievement, wellbeing and success in life. It will support leaders to develop expertise in the teaching of reading and writing and enable them to share their expertise effectively to improve literacy outcomes for every child.

We have also invested £10 million in core skills in English and maths for the 2021-22 academic year, as part of the accelerator fund, which included funding for the English and maths hubs programmes to help pupils secure the key knowledge and understanding they need to progress—and which may have been missed due to covid-19 disruption.

The parent pledge in the schools White Paper will also make the Government’s vision clear that any child who falls behind in English or maths will receive the right evidence-based targeted support to get them back on track.

Underpinning all of these initiatives is the need to help children and young people recover from the impact of the pandemic and to achieve their full potential. The Government remain fully committed to achieving this aim.