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Region's youngsters lose ground

PUBLISHED: 16:49 15 October 2009 | UPDATED: 08:41 01 August 2010

THE challenge facing our schools was laid bare last night as the performance of East Anglia's four and five-year-olds took a step backwards.

Performance slumped in the basics of reading, writing and adding up, according to the results of this year's teacher assessments of youngsters in reception classes.

THE challenge facing our schools was laid bare last night as the performance of East Anglia's four and five-year-olds took a step backwards.

Performance slumped in the basics of reading, writing and adding up, according to the results of this year's teacher assessments of youngsters in reception classes.

There was also an alarming dip in less academic measures, including emotional development, social development and dispositions and attitudes.

In Norfolk, results improved in four, remained the same in three and fell in six of the 13 areas assessed. But, with England overall making giant strides, the county is now well behind the national average, having been among the nation's leading counties only three years ago.

Suffolk also slipped back, while Cambridgeshire's results were particularly shocking, with performance deteriorating in each of the 13 areas.

The results demonstrate the broadening range of challenges facing reception class teachers, who are expected to give the region's children a headstart despite there being no let-up in the social, emotional and behavioural problems that are occurring.

And they do not bode well for the prospects of the youngsters, who could struggle to achieve the future targets for results in standard assessment tests and GCSEs.

Norfolk County Council's deputy director of children's services Fred Corbett said the mixed picture was down to “a more rigorous assessment process” in Norfolk and an increase in the numbers of overseas children who did not speak English as their first language.

The findings are revealed by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) in its annual look at the results of teacher assessments of children in their first year at primary school. Children are ranked from levels one to nine, with six the target level.

The assessments are carried out by teachers, who build up a broad picture of a child's performance

by observing their work, behaviour and interaction with other youngsters.

The percentage of children getting at least the target level six in all

13 areas fell to 43pc in Norfolk, having been 48pc in 2008 and 52pc in 2007.

Suffolk dropped from 47pc last year to 40pc, while Cambridgeshire fell from 55pc to 45pc. The national average is 47pc.

The region's performance comes despite the opening of scores of Sure Start children's centres, which are designed to tackle social deprivation and improve educational perform-ance by providing support services and help to families in need.

Mr Corbett said results in personal, social and emotional development had shown improvement on the results from two years ago.

Shelagh Hutson, the council's cabinet member for children's services, said: “What is also encouraging is that levels have improved in many of the areas of disadvantage across the county, which shows that the additional investment and support being provided, mainly delivered through children's centres, is having an impact in these communities.”

She said the expansion of the programme to all areas of Norfolk should have a “positive effect on early years attainment in the long term”.

Mrs Hutson added: “We have also strengthened our early years support to schools through our primary school support team, which should also be reflected in future results. Our support to schools this term is already making a difference to the quality of provision.

“Clearly it is disappointing to see levels drop in any area but these results will really help us to focus our efforts on the areas needing most attention.”

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